Gratton: A Leader of Volunteers – With Respect

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Patrick J.F. Gratton
Patrick J.F. Gratton

It can be exhausting just to review a partial list of Patrick J.F. Gratton’s AAPG-related activities over the years.

After all, this energetic past AAPG president (2004-05) has served on a total of 20 committees during his 49 years of membership in the Association and has been appointed chair of seven of these entities. Once GEO-DC was formed, he served on the Board of Governors, acting as chair in 2007-09.

Given this background, it’s only fitting that this dedicated geologist and nose-to-the-grindstone professional organizations volunteer worker will receive the Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award in New Orleans at this year’s annual confab.

There are volunteers, and there are volunteers.

Gratton, an AAPG Honorary Member and Foundation Trustee Associate, clearly is one of the committed ones who takes these gigs seriously – and recognizes that leadership qualities are essential tools to encourage volunteer groups to achieve goals.

He noted he had some good role models.

“A person who has influenced me a lot has been (former AAPG president) Bob Gunn,” Gratton said, “and the person who had a critical influence on me in college at the University of New Mexico was Sherman Wengerd who became president of AAPG in the 1950s.

“Wengerd taught the first geology class I was in and had a very substantial and continuing influence while I was in college,” he noted. “As editor at AAPG and then president, he had a lot of influence on me considering more activities in AAPG.”

Semper Paratus

Gratton emphasized he was fortunate to attend a leadership class at the Coast Guard Academy, where the instructor made it clear what kind of leader is the best.

“He said there are leaders who are effective who lead through fear, and those who lead through love,” Gratton commented. “But he noted the best form of leadership is one who leads by developing respect from followers – and I agree with that.

“It’s very important to be able to do things for people that cause them to develop respect for you and your style,” Gratton added.

He pointed out that the military is based on command and control and absolute obedience in contrast to volunteer organizations, which have a far more different leadership requirement:

  • Must persuade people to do something for no reimbursement or compensation. Persuasion presents some of the greatest difficulties in volunteer organizations, but it’s easier when people respect you.
  • Communication is vital to get your ideas across to others.
  • Vision is critical for a leader, as followers will be willing to help out because they see their leaders can help them get where they want to go.

Gratton commented that there’s a large percentage of any entity that may not have the talent for leadership, but the participants know what they want done and will help someone else do it.

“Many people don’t have the time, energy or inclination to do something,” he said, “but they don’t mind someone else being the activist.”

Unfortunately, there’s a dearth of leadership training programs for younger people coming into the business world.

“There are few classes in high school or college that work with the theme of leadership,” Gratton noted. “The educational institutions need to have that as part of their makeup.”

He emphasized AAPG has made the effort to focus on people who need to be graduated to more responsible roles as leaders. He noted also that some of the younger members who take roles as student chapter officers in universities or colleges are showing their interest in leadership by assuming these responsibilities.

A ‘Useful Time’

He was president of SIPES in 1977 and 10 years later was president of DPA during the struggle about whether to support registration of geologists. He succeeded in getting other professional geoscience associations to cooperate in generating a “model bill” to be used by state legislatures to establish state licensing of geoscientists, while exempting resource geoscientists working in the private sector.

Gratton then served as chairman of the AAPG House of Delegates prior to becoming president of the Association.

A partial list of his honors and awards that have come his way because of his leadership efforts would include:

  • An AAPG Distinguished Service Award, in 1998.
  • Three certificates of merit, in 2003 (chair, Visiting Geologists Committee), 2004 (chair, Budget Review and Finance Ad Hoc Committee) and 2006 (chair, Graduated Dues Ad Hoc Committee).
  • An Honorary Member of the AAPG House of Delegates.
  • A 15-year Certificate of Service award from the HoD.
  • Life Membership from the DPA.

“All those things built on each other,” he said, “and good relationships developed with a lot of key players in AAPG – I think it’s been a useful time with the Association.

“It’s been a helluva lot of work,” he added, chuckling.

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