Position: Senior Vice President and General Manager — Geismar site
Family: Married with two daughters
Hometown: Mechanicsburg, PA
Education: B.S. in Electrical Engineering, Master of Science in Mathematics from Ohio University
In the news:
BASF announced in August it had appointed Jerry Lebold to serve as Senior Vice President and General Manager for the company’s largest North American manufacturing site in Geismar. In his new role, Lebold leads operations of 27 plants at the Geismar facility that manufacture a range of products, including urethanes used in foam insulation, shoes and furniture; chemical intermediates used in adhesives, coatings, plastics, water and gas treatment; and surfactants used in detergents.
What was your very first job, how old were you and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
I started young working odd jobs in the neighborhood, from cutting grass and shoveling snow to painting houses. I was willing to work any job that resulted in earning some money to support my hobbies.
What time do you typically get up on a workday, and what’s your ideal morning routine to get it off to a great start?
My day starts at 5 a.m. with a morning workout, which gives me time to think and plan out my day. I follow that up with four or five cups of strong coffee before heading into work.
For those who are not familiar with BASF at Geismar, tell us a little bit about the company and your role.
The best way I can describe BASF to people not familiar with us is that we don’t make the products you use every day—we make them better. We are a leading global company that has been creating chemistry in Louisiana for more than 60 years. We are a trusted partner, a top employer and an active member in the communities in which we operate. We are a company that values people—our employees, our customers and our community.
As the new senior Vice President and general manager at BASF’s Geismar site, what are your top priorities in your first year on the job?
My top priorities start with listening….and then listening some more. In that process, I’m learning more about our Geismar team, our employees and the local community. We have a long history in Louisiana, and our goal is for BASF to be here for 60 more years.
Throughout your career, you’ve worked in various locations throughout the U.S. and the world before returning to Louisiana. What have you learned from working in other states and countries that you can bring back and apply here?
What I’ve learned through my global experience is the best operational performance is achieved by enabled teams led by humble leaders who act more like coaches dedicated to the success of the team and are not driven by their personal aspirations. For me, this was true globally, regardless if it was in Europe, Asia or North America.
Is automation, or robots, something your company has incorporated into your manufacturing process, and if not, do you anticipate incorporating such technology in the future?
At BASF, we strive to foster an environment of continuous improvement in everything we do, which includes digitalization, big data analytics and automation that support safer and more efficient operations delivering on customer needs. We have active efforts globally to help BASF continue to be in an industry leader in this regard.
What’s a leadership skill you’ve learned the hard way?
The toughest lesson about leadership I have learned the hard way (especially early in my career) is that I don’t need to have all the answers. There are plenty of smart and dedicated team members just waiting to be asked to help with those answers—that’s why we asked them to join our team. I need to swallow my ego, ask, listen and then give credit where credit is due.
What’s something about your job or company that might surprise people?
BASF’s chemistry can be found in products we use every day, and they improve our quality of life, from our laundry detergents, to the clothing we wear, to the medicine we need, to the food we eat, to the vehicles we drive and to the furniture we sit on. You won’t see our company name on the label, but we all use BASF products every day.
What are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do in your free time?
I love to restore old cars and motorcycles. My father got me hooked at a very early age when we worked on restoring a 1940 Hudson. We would walk through car flea markets and salvage yards to find parts. That started my passion not only for restoring old cars and motorcycles, but my passion for old Hudsons.
What are some of your best productivity hacks?
My best productivity hack is to consciously take the time to get out from behind the desk to walk around and get out in the plant. This helps me focus on the important key topics, connect with our employees and not get bogged down in the mundane tactical items, like email (which is necessary, but isn’t always the biggest enabler for optimal team performance).
What’s one of the smartest purchases you’ve ever made?
Probably the smartest purchase I ever made was the engagement ring for my wife…maybe the smartest decision I ever made, followed with the proposal.
What is your strategy for maintaining a healthy work-life balance?
When on vacation, be on vacation. Work will be there when you get back! Also, make time for the small things, like going for a walk at night with the family, having dinner together, putting the devices down and finding at least one thing to do each week as a family.
What’s one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to you?
When my wife said yes!
Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?
I would have to say that my grandfather and my father have greatly influenced my life as a leader. I grew up spending summers with my grandfather, who worked in a steel mill as a part of the United Steel Workers union, and he taught valuable lessons about respecting everyone on the team regardless of their job title or position. My father taught me to be true to your core values and to credibly connect with your team because true success in business is team success.
What is something you are absolutely determined to do in life?
I am determined that when my time comes to leave this life, I want to be remembered with a smile, as someone who cared about his family, friends and co-workers, and as someone who helped others achieve their goals and be their best.