Learning to live a purpose-driven life

Tom Linebarger ’86 speaking at the Ath.

Photo Courtesy of the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum

Alumni in Action

For many people, finding purpose isn’t simply found in a single experience or moment. Tom Linebarger '86, executive chairman of Cummins, Inc.—a global power technology company that pioneers new technologies to sustainably meet the world’s growing power needs—knows this all too well. At a recent talk at the Athenaeum, Linebarger shared that working for an employer whose values aligned with his was the key to developing his passion.

“Nobody wants to work for a perfect person,” he said. “They all want to work for a human. So, weirdly enough, when I tell somebody that I'm scared or worried, they actually think I'm a better leader, not worse, which was, of course, not intuitive to me. But when I started doing that, I found out that it all worked better.”

In his talk “Living a Life of Purpose,” he also detailed his personal background, including his childhood, growing up in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Los Altos with a single mother who earned an education by taking night classes at San Jose State University.

His time at CMC helped him transition to adulthood. “I took some amazing courses here at Claremont, and I learned a ton. But I grew up while I was here, and that was the most important part for me,” he said.

Linebarger earned joint undergraduate degrees in management engineering from CMC and mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He went on to pursue a master’s degree in manufacturing systems from Stanford’s School of Engineering and a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Business.

Linebarger was initially attracted to Cummins’ purpose-driven approach to business reinforced during a summer internship at the Cummins MidRange Engine plant in Walesboro, Indiana. Before Cummins, he was an investment analyst and investment manager at Prudential Investment Corporation, working in both Singapore and Hong Kong.

Before his current role, Linebarger served as Cummins’ chairman and CEO for 10 years.

Speaker quote: “Part of living a purpose-driven life is figuring out what you're going to do beyond your work and beyond your family, beyond doing something that benefits you, to do what benefits others. Maybe that is your work, but if it isn't, you need to find another outlet for it.”

From the audience: A CMC student asked if there were any life lessons that Linebarger learned as a student.

Linebarger: “I was head RA and I learned that it's very difficult to be the leader and the friend at the same time, because inevitably you're going to have to make decisions about what's best for the organization that may not benefit each of them.”


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