Advice 101: Former Entergy Arkansas CEO Hugh McDonald
Editor’s note: Talk Business & Politics begins a new weekend series of insights from well-known business and political leaders seeking their advice to share with peers and newcomers. Our aim with this feature is to provide you some context on this leader’s contributions to Arkansas and how advice helped shape their roles in important and influential positions. Hopefully, it will spark a good habit or offer perspective to you as you meet the challenges of policy or professional work.
Hugh McDonald, former Entergy Arkansas President and CEO, served in that capacity from 2000 until 2016 when he retired after more than three decades of service to the company. He joined Entergy in 1982 as an engineer at Waterford 3 nuclear generating plant in Louisiana and held several roles with the energy giant before his Arkansas post.
McDonald said that during the early part of his career, he learned a valuable lesson that he carried with him throughout his years with Entergy.
“At the beginning of my career, I got some advice from a gentleman who told me the higher you get in an organization, people will tell you what they think you want to hear. It’s important as a leader to establish a culture, an environment that people don’t do that. Listen. Ask a lot of questions. You’re always searching for the truth. You want the best alternatives to solve problems,” McDonald said.
In retirement, McDonald has been doing a small amount of energy advising, but mostly he spends time doing volunteer board work. He is active with the Nature Conservancy, Arkansas Department of Career Education, UAMS, and North Dakota State University, his alma mater.
McDonald and his wife, Michelle, have also tutored 3rd and 4th graders the last three years through ARKids Read, a central Arkansas nonprofit aimed at improving children’s reading proficiency. On an even more personal note, McDonald is spending time with his adult children and siblings, has taken a few Arkansas Arts Center classes, and is catching up on his travel bucket list.