This green and snow industry mentor, educator and adviser talks about how his leadership role has evolved.


Phill Sexton is one of the nation’s preeminent green and snow industry mentors, educators and sustainability advisers. He has more than four years as director of outreach and chief knowledge officer for the Snow and Ice Management Association and more than 25 years successfully developing, growing and managing businesses in the green, snow and facilities management industries.

Sexton grew up in Waterville, New York, a small snowbelt community in the central part of the state, not too far from where he raises his family and works out of his home office, just outside of Albany, New York.

Sexton shares how his leadership style has evolved, the power of teaching to develop better leadership and why embracing the principles of sustainability is so crucial in moving the green industry forward.

How would you describe your style of leadership and why does this work for you?

In one word: empowering. Like plants, I believe leadership evolves. If you ask people I led more than 20 years ago, they would likely tell you I was a “micromanager from hell.” Fortunately, I’ve changed, benefiting from the experience of many great leaders who trust and empower people with the proper tools, knowledge and autonomy.

How do you work at being better at leadership?

  1. Recognizing what’s right every day. I consistently remind myself that a majority of people wake up every day wanting to be successful in their day, job and life.
  2. Reading. I love to read about what other leaders do or have done. A Bible verse or chapter every day also helps me.
  3. Shut up and listen. My father taught me: “Sometimes what you don’t say matters most.”
  4. Prioritize you. Scheduling “me time” first every day for family, fitness and fun helps me feel better balanced.
  5. Schedule flex time. I proactively schedule at least one hour of flex time every day to handle the unknowns that always pop up.
  6. Teaching and continuing education. I’ve learned the saying “you learn more by teaching” is absolutely true. In addition to teaching our future leaders, at the age of 45 I re-enrolled in school to study sustainability and environmental management with the future vision of helping develop and lead our industry’s future best practices.

What leadership books inspire you and why?

“True North” by Bill George teaches how to lead with your moral compass; “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey teaches how to be good listeners as leaders; and “Decide” by Steve McClatchy teaches personal leadership skills for achieving balance in your life.

In a leadership capacity, where do you see yourself in five years?

Many of today’s landscape management positions are out of touch with truly sustainable best practices; therefore, I plan to continue studying sustainability and developing as a leader and educator for promoting sustainable best practices in our industry.

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