For Dwayne Hughes, senior vice-president, supply chain, Downers Grove, Ill.-based Hearthside Food Solutions, manufacturing is all about safely creating quality products efficiently. However, operational excellence goes beyond his All-American high school and college football background, although “there are a lot of similarities between organized sports and business,” said Mr. Hughes, Baking & Snack’s 2018 Operations Executive of the Year.

Being the best in manufacturing involves coaching, mentoring, teaching and listening — together a philosophy of leadership that reflects the life of an organization. It involves breaking down barriers and making life easier for the 10,000 employees in Hearthside’s 38 plants. Mr. Hughes, however, has taken his leadership philosophy to the next level.

An extensive list on that topic includes “satisfaction is the beginning of failure.” That’s when an organization becomes “complacent with its performance and creates the moment it plateaus that eventually leads to extinction,” he said.

Another formula is “P=A+E.” At a previous company, Mr. Hughes remembered how he had to fire someone just after becoming a burgeoning supervisor, and his boss at the time offered some worldly advice. Simply put: “Performance equals ability plus effort.” Management provides the ability to succeed. Employees provide the effort.

And to top it off, Mr. Hughes observed, “It’s okay to be impatient with poor performance.” Those lessons — extremely tough ones that Mr. Hughes learned — fuel thriving companies. Comfort is not in Mr. Hughes’ zone. To drive success, he believes in creating a sense of urgency, being a catalyst, hiring people who “think, concentrate and dream,” and demonstrating confidence with one’s feet on the floor. That’s the foundation for leadership on any level.