The Dirt Podcast: The Ultimate Competitor

Bob De Lange wants to win. 

“The goal is always to catch the one in front of you, and once you do that you look on to the next one in front of you and try to catch him or her,” Bob says. 

De Lange is Caterpillar’s Construction Industries Group President, a top leadership position where you have to go against Caterpillar’s competitors on a daily basis. 

That’s not the only place where he wants to win. De Lange is a triathlete, regularly competing in Iron Man Triathlons, which is a grueling 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. 

“I’m not good at swimming, I’m not a very good biker and I don’t like running so if I do all three together maybe it won’t be apparent that I’m not that good at any of them,” Bob jokes. 

De Lange dishes on making time for triathlon training, how he met his wife at a Caterpillar customer event, leading by making decisions (and not just talking) and the time Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby called while Bob was driving and told him to pullover. That was the call to become a group president. 

Show highlights are listed in the program guide below. 

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Program Guide

1:10 – How Bob met his wife: “I talk about what length I’ll go to please our customers…”

3:00 – On being a triathlete: “I’m not good at swimming, I’m not a very good biker and I don’t like running so if I do all three together maybe it won’t be apparent that I’m not that good at any of them.”

4:00 – Making time to train: “I cannot imagine with the travel schedule we have how I could successfully do my job if I was not perfectly fit.”

5:30 – On being a competitor in life and in business: “The goal is always to catch the one in front of you, and once you do that you look on to the next one in front of you and try to catch him or her.”

6:50 – Bob’s early days at Caterpillar: “I think your initial experiences are so important because it grounds you in some of the confidence or knowledge you need later on.”

8:45 – On his different Caterpillar roles: “When I became a product manager or the role I have now, I don’t it see as different or more important than when I was a sales rep in the field – the responsibility is just wider, but I don’t see it as more important.”

9:40 – How diversity of thought helps decision making

11:35 – Leadership lessons: “I always wanted to make sure I took at least one leadership lesson from each supervisor I worked with.” 

13:10 – “We are paid to make decisions, not just talk.”

14:15 – Bob’s leadership style: be humble, empower your team, have a competitive spirit. 

17:00 – Why Bob has stayed at Caterpillar for his entire career

18:10 – How Bob found out he was being named a group president: “I was driving, and (Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby) asked me to stop the car.”

19:45 – On making a fast rise through the organization: “I’m not Superman, and I don’t claim to be smarter than anyone else.” 

21:45 – His top priorities as Construction Industries Group President

24:10 – Building a strategy to get to the point of having one definition of winning

27:10 – Takeaways from CONEXPO 2017

31:15 – On the opportunities and China, and the recent China Development Forum

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