On Monday, November 6, the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government and Public Service was honored to present the 2017 McLane Leadership in Business Award to John L. Nau III, Chairman and CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors, L.P., the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products. The McLane award is presented each year for outstanding contributions to business, public service, or national community service.
The McLane Leadership in Business program began with Bush School Dean Mark Welsh welcoming the audience and Director of the Mosbacher Institute Lori Taylor introducing Nau. Among Nau’s many accomplishments and contributions, Taylor highlighted his chairmanship of the Texas Historical Commission and presidential appointment as chairman of the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation from 2001-2010.
Upon taking the stage, Nau presented “Leadership Lessons from History,” a speech outlining key lessons synthesized from a successful career in business and a lifelong interest in history. Nau’s speech emphasized remaining open-minded about opportunities wherever they may lead, finding a cause to champion, and learning from the past. Nau stressed the importance of treating employees and customers alike with respect, before describing how his interest in history inspired his leadership principles. Nau advised his audience members to follow their instincts, as America’s leaders did on the battlefield, but to remember that just as no historical figure rose to prominence alone, neither can a business leader reach the heights of success without help from others. These lessons, Nau stated, helped him become a better leader in his business, as well as a more effective servant to his community.
At the conclusion of Nau’s remarks, Taylor rejoined him onstage for a seated conversation to elaborate on his talk. In response to Taylor’s question about how he had learned leadership without any formal business school training, Nau explained that he took much of his inspiration from history, but had gained experience in the Marine Corps and on-the-job in his first management positions. The two also discussed how Nau prioritized his time between making a profit and making a difference, to which Nau replied that while he contributes his time and money to philanthropic causes, he also commits daily to serving his employees and clients at Silver Eagle Distributors with resources and services that touch their lives in a positive way.
The event concluded with Dean Welsh and Drayton McLane, Jr., the founder and namesake of the McLane Leadership in Business Award, joining Taylor and Nau onstage for the award presentation. McLane thanked Nau for his contributions to Texas and the nation, closing the event with final remarks regarding the importance of embracing leadership lessons from history to become a modern leader in business and community.