Drew Ward is confident that “no one is born a leader,” but his career shows that he continually strives to become and grow as one. What is the impetus behind Ward’s path to leadership, which has led him from rough-necking offshore for Nabors Industries to high-responsibility roles with Kinder Morgan and, now, partnership in Pinnacle Midstream II?
The answer is clear: having led teams to overcome challenges on battlefields where, as he puts it, “the ditches and road maps aren’t established.”
While at Kinder Morgan, Ward marked some of those ditches himself as he negotiated deals during the surge of production in the Eagle Ford, rejuvenation of the Permian Basin, LNG export growth and the naissance of Mexico’s deregulated pipeline environment.
As commerical director for the Southern Midstream Region, which included all Texas and Mexico G&P and Intrastate transmission assets, Ward worked with international parties to navigate the unprecedented industry possibilities in Mexico, which moved to open its energy sector to foreign direct investment in 2013. He developed multiple long-term transportation contracts, including an over half a million dekatherms per day deal with Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) and other deals with SK E&S LNG and Cheniere Corpus Christi LNG.
Through deals such as these, Ward’s efforts supported substantial capital investments, growth and EBITDA expansion across the Kinder Morgan Intrastate assets, such that in his role, he helped invest more than $500 million of midstream growth capital and create over 1 billion cubic feet of incremental capacity.
“I worked on offshore rigs every summer in college and as a field level pumper during the school year, and these experiences help me relate to the complexities of what’s going on in a deal from the field level to the boardroom.”
The first principle: For Ward, however, learning to lead a team through the complexity of a new business environment began somewhere quite different—namely, on Nabors’ rigs, where he once rode out a hurricane 100 miles offshore.
Ward says that “all of us at Pinnacle II have worked in the field at some point … I worked on offshore rigs every summer in college and as a field level pumper during the school year, and these experiences help me relate to the complexities of what’s going on in a deal all the way from the field level to the boardroom.”
Ward’s recognition that there is a “domino effect” from the office to the drill floor has led him to the first principle of his own leadership style and of Pinnacle II: trust.
He recalls that, “A wise person once told me that trust is earned and not given.” Having added multiple customers to Pinnacle I’s portfolio in under a year of joining the company, Ward quickly earned a reputation for reliability, but he always recognizes that trust is a two-way street. In his words, “having a ‘me’ mentality will never work.”
Trust, Ward says, is a significant aspect of what drove the Pinnacle I team, after the company was successfully monetized to Eagleclaw Midstream in 2018, to stick together and found Pinnacle II. He notes that “it’s very rare for a team to stay together after a monetization … [and that] his team had the trust in each other to continue to execute” as a new company.
People first, then everything else: Ward’s valuation of trust shows in Pinnacle II’s prioritization of safety at all levels of business and operation. As Ward insists, he and his team share a mentality of “people first, then everything else.” People’s “lives and livelihoods” depend on the decisions that executives make in a boardroom, and that means “safety and quality and work product can never be a second thought.”
With a family that has “worked in some sector of the business for over 100 years,” Ward has plenty of role models that help him guard his integrity and reputation, because in the end, he insists, that’s all you have as a person and a businessman. Ward says that “many people have influenced and taught me things that are invaluable,” but he looks to his father first—“my father has always been my main mentor and role model in my personal and professional life.