As part of our ongoing series of conversations with leaders in sustainability, we asked BSR Conference 2015 plenary speaker Tom Linebarger, chairman and CEO of Cummins Inc., how he incorporates resilience into his company, and what he thinks is the role of resilience in leadership.

Cummins is the world’s largest independent maker of diesel engines and related products, and Linebarger has worked there since 1993.

Eva Dienel: How do you focus on resilience at Cummins Inc.?

Tom Linebarger: Cummins was started in a small barn in 1919 in Columbus, Indiana. During our nearly 100 years of operation, we have gone through enormous growth and transformation. We are now operating in more than 190 companies and have more than 55,000 people around the world serving a wide range of customers and markets. 

The one constant throughout our history, and the glue that holds our people together, is our values. Our six values—integrity, innovation, diversity, delivering superior results, global involvement, and community—influence our decisions at all levels, determine who we hire and who we promote, and impact how we do our day-to-day work.

Even on our toughest days as a company, the values remind us why we are here.

Dienel: What kind of leadership is required today to create a resilient future?

Linebarger: Leaders have to be self-aware and willing to be vulnerable to create a resilient future. To live the values is not always easy, and sometimes we don’t get it perfectly right. And we don’t always have all the right answers. To be resilient, leaders have to be willing to admit mistakes, be transparent about their concerns and fears, and build confidence in our ability to figure it out through teamwork and commitment.