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Twin Cities CEO Profile: Xcel Energy’s Ben Fowke

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – All week, the WCCO Morning Show is taking a look at some of the people in the Twin Cities who’ve made it to the top. On Monday, Jason DeRusha kicked off our CEO Profiles with the man in charge of Minnesota’s largest electricity provider: Xcel Energy.

When Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke meets with a handful of employees in the lobby of the Minneapolis headquarters, he knows that 50 percent of his team will be retiring in 10 years. Huge turnover presents both opportunity and challenge.

“When something goes wrong with a consumer product, the company suffers. When something goes wrong with what we produce, society suffers.”

Ben grew up in Annapolis, Md. He’s an accountant by training, who says he’s still learning about energy. He says he didn’t ever expect as a child he would one day head up a major company.

“I really had a pretty modest background. I put myself through college, worked a couple of jobs. One was at UPS at night,” he said. “I never dreamed I could be CEO of Fortune 500 company like Xcel Energy, or leading a company that’s so important to our communities.”

With 11,000 employees in 8 states, Ben spends about 100 to 150 days on the road, listening.

“Leadership to me is to take time to look around the corner, see what the future may hold. Take that vision back to your team, back to your organization, and inspire them to follow you in that vision,” he said.

Part of his job now is identifying the next generation of leaders. His advice: “You have to trust and invest in yourself. You have to be willing to commit to yourself,” he said. “Opportunity’s only going to knock on your door a few times, you’ve got to open the door, even if it’s a little bit scary. You have to take the challenge.”

Ben said for aspiring leaders, it’s important to be a contributing member of a team at work, not seeing your work as solely your own work but as your group’s output.

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