What Brian Roberts taught him about leadership

George W. Gephart Jr., President & CEO of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, shown here at the museum, in Philadelphia. JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

The chief executive of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is a leader himself, but he learned his biggest lessons in leadership from two people: His father, for one, and a former frat brother, Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp.

"My father taught me to treat everybody with friendship and respect," George W. Gephart Jr. said. "I’m almost getting teary.  Everybody, remarkable.  He knew everybody’s name.   He made a point of using the first name.  He might not have remembered the last name, but he used the first name. 

"He was an executive with the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, in public affairs.  He taught me the importance of:  `I meet everybody and I assume everybody is going to be my friend.'  That’s naïve I know, but still. 

"Then the other person is my friend Brian Roberts.  I’ve known Brian since Brian was 19 and I was 25, because we lived together when he was an undergrad at Penn.  We were in a fraternity and I, as a grad student, was living next door to him. 

"When Brian became President of Comcast, I can remember sitting with him and really sort of ribbing him and saying, `Oh, my God. You’re 12-years-old.  What are you going to do?  How are you going to do this?'

He said, and I think he probably learned this from his father,  `I manage as a partnership.  I’m the general partner.  I don’t have the financial expertise that my CFO does.  I don’t have the cable expertise that the head of cable does.  My job is to help lean on them.  Set vision, strategy, and rely on my partners, break ties when I have to.'

"I thought, `My gosh, that’s the most mature thing I’ve ever heard from somebody.'  So, that’s what I’ve tried to do.  Those two: my dad and Brian Roberts."

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