Karla Munden

Karla Munden
SVP, Chief Audit Executive, Lincoln Financial Group


Persistence and strategic thinking. I don’t give up. I always plan for multiple scenarios and outcomes. If Plan A does not work, I don’t panic. I have another plan. This allows me to be very rational and not react emotionally. This philosophy goes back to my college years at William & Mary. It was a very challenging academic environment, and I was surrounded by a very intelligent peer group. I learned the importance of strategic planning. Additionally, as a woman in the Navy, this lesson was reinforced.


My parents. Growing up in Hampton, Virginia, I came from very humble family. My parents did not go to college, but they had a strong work ethic, and they wanted me to have more and achieve more than they did. They constantly encouraged me to give 100 percent at everything I did and inspired me to perform at my best. They often said, “We don’t care what you do, you just be the best at it.”


I treat people fairly, give them responsibility, and help them determine their long-term goals. I also get to know my staff as people and spend time with them. Developing personal relationships with them is important. I want them to know that they matter to me; they’re not just my staff of 42 who I pass in the halls. If they know they’re important to me, they will perform better in their roles, because they know I care about them and what they do.


I serve on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations. I also take advantage of opportunities to speak with African-American students of all ages about my experience in corporate America. I like to provide guidance and share resume practices and interview skills with the older students. Additionally, my family and I donate school supplies, clothes, and other items to those in need. Giving back is important to me, because I know I am not where I am today based solely on my own merit. Many people have positively impacted my life and my career, and I hope to do that in some small way for someone else. This “pay it forward” mentality is something I try to pass down to my daughters.


As I touched on in my previous answer, people in our lives can play a major role in our success. I spend time telling people why it’s important to have mentors to give you feedback. We see ourselves though our own filters. But it’s important to find out how we’re being perceived by others, so we can improve ourselves. The biggest lesson I have learned is to surround yourself with people who will be honest with you.


My family (daughters, Kennedy, age 12, and Leyla, age 9, and husband Dean) and my faith keep me balanced. Raising healthy, well-rounded young women of faith is just as important to me as my work accomplishments.


My natural personality type is introverted, but my job requires me to talk to people constantly. I have to step outside my comfort zone and be more extroverted at work because it’s required. I’m exhausted at the end of the day, but I have learned to adapt and rise to the occasion. To be a successful leader, I’ve learned that I have to step out of my natural state.


Be dedicated to your craft. I also share the same advice my parents gave me, “No matter what you choose to do, be the best.” However, it’s important to remember that there is a price to be paid to be the best, and you must be prepared to make sacrifices.