Q&A With Henry Vicary

40 Leaders Alumnus of the Year

Born and raised in Peoria, Henry Vicary is a second-generation Caterpillar employee who strives tirelessly to better his community. Since being named a 40 Leader Under Forty in 1997, he has risen up the ranks at Caterpillar Inc. to become guest and community relations director. In this role, he is responsible for fostering critical relationships and representing the company in strategic initiatives throughout Greater Peoria.

A graduate of Bradley University and Drake University Law School, Vicary joined Caterpillar in 2002, serving in a variety of management and corporate legal counsel positions over the next decade. He was named Caterpillar's corporate community relations manager in 2014, working closely with the executive office on strategies ranging from economic development to local and regional governmental issues. The following year, he became guest and community relations director, overseeing Caterpillar's Corporate Community Relations Division as well as the Caterpillar Visitors Center, Corporate Customer Services and Corporate Archives.

Through his employer and in his personal endeavors, Vicary dedicates much of his time to local economic development efforts, serving in leadership positions with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce and CEO Council.

He has previously served on the boards of the Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria, Business PAC of Central Illinois, Heartland Development Corporation and Morton Public Library, and has supported the Children's Miracle Network Telethon, The Salvation Army, Easterseals and American Heart Association through his volunteer efforts. Peoria Magazines is proud to name Henry Vicary as the 2018 40 Leaders Under Forty Alumnus of the Year.

What was it like to receive the 40 Leaders Under Forty Award in 1997?
It was very humbling… and life-changing! It was humbling to be recognized alongside so many high-achieving individuals truly making a difference in their areas of expertise, as well as in our community through their servant leadership. It was life-changing because the night of our ceremony in 1997, when they lined everyone up for our group photo, I met a very special person indeed. Jill Scherer was also receiving a 40 Leaders Under Forty Award that night. We met and struck a beautiful relationship—we were married nearly three years later. Jill and I have been married now for 19 years and have two amazing children, Connor and Olivia—and it’s all thanks to 40 Leaders Under Forty.

A lot has changed in your life since then. How are you different today?
Well, for starters, I am now a husband and father, as I mentioned. Being a father changes everything about you, from your personal goals to your view of the world. Professionally, I left private practice in 2002 and joined Caterpillar as an attorney and U.S. workers’ compensation manager. I’ve held a number of leadership roles through a variety of great opportunities with Caterpillar in recent years. Each role and each circumstance have helped me grow into the leader I am today. 

How did your background as an attorney prepare you for your current position?
I have been very privileged to learn from some of the best trial attorneys in the country. I have tried many civil and workers compensation cases throughout my career in Illinois, and I have also traveled throughout the U.S. in defense of Caterpillar products. During my career, I have met and worked alongside some of the best litigation attorneys in the United States, and I have learned so much from their brilliance and expertise. I have been truly blessed in this regard. My experience helped me develop as a professional, and with people and professional relationships. I have the best job in the world, thanks to a great company. 

Describe some of your duties in your role keeping Caterpillar connected to the Peoria community. 
Caterpillar takes an active role in communities around the world where we do business, including Peoria. We want to partner with communities and leaders because it’s important for current and future employees. I serve on a number of key boards that help both Caterpillar and our community continue to move in the right direction, including the Economic Development Council, the CEO Council and the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as a number of charitable commitments. 

Caterpillar has gone through many changes since you joined the organization. What have you learned from working with different leaders? 
I learn something new from our outstanding leadership every day. While each leader is different and has their own style, they all have the same goal: to focus on solutions to help our customers build a better world, while continuing to position ourselves for profitable growth. We do this every day with a keen focus on our values. When every single leader is operating with that same mission, it becomes easy to identify great leadership styles you can add to your own toolbox. Caterpillar has a long history of hiring the top corporate leaders in the world—the best of the best—and you’d be hard-pressed not to learn a whole lot from them.

What characteristics do you believe make for great leaders?
For me, there are three key qualities that make a great leader. The first is trust. Just like any important relationship in your life, if there isn’t trust, it’s hard to get past the surface and into the things that really matter—the things that can really move the needle. Second, you have to be willing to make tough decisions. This is probably the hardest part of leadership for someone like me, but something I have learned so much about from our current and past executive leadership. To be able to make tough decisions with integrity is so important. And finally, the ability to bring people together to work toward a common goal. If you can master the first two, the last is much more attainable. I’ve had the privilege of working in an environment where I see these qualities demonstrated on a daily basis, and I work hard to lead with these qualities as well.

How important is it for young leaders to be engaged in their community?
Every young professional should be engaged in their community—I can’t stress this enough. Not only is it a valuable tool for networking and meeting other goal-oriented individuals, but your service also leads to the potential for growth that can impact all areas of your life. You can learn new ways of thinking, different points of view and even new tools for the job that you can bring to your workplace. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do, and it feels really good to give back.

How do you balance work, community and family?
We are all busy these days, but nothing should ever step ahead of faith and family in your list of priorities. Over the years I have learned to be extremely intentional about scheduling everything—from work to family, and everything in between. If you aren’t intentional, something is bound to fall through the cracks.

Anything else you wish to add?
I just want to thank the entire team at Peoria Magazines for this amazing honor. 40 Leaders Under Forty represents the best of the best in up-and-coming leaders for our area over the last quarter-century. It was a great privilege to be honored as part of the class of 1997, and an even greater honor and incredibly humbling to be selected for this year’s alumni award. iBi

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