Charles W. Bernard

Charles W. Bernard
COVP/Group VP, Pharmacy & Retail Ops – (Southern US, Puerto Rico, and the USVI), Walgreens

What do you consider your greatest strength, and how do you think it benefits your business?

I believe that one of my greatest strengths is the ability to examine a particular problem or challenge from many different angles to arrive at an appropriate solution. Looking at an opportunity from multiple viewpoints allows me to ask probing questions that potentially reveal a better path forward. Given that a significant part of my role involves providing strategic leadership, I find the ability to ask “the right questions” is absolutely critical to success.

Who inspires you? What did they motivate you to achieve or accomplish?

My grandmother was a great inspiration to me. She was definitely a hard-working woman, and made her living as a domestic worker in the homes of more well off families in the Deep South. It was tough work with long hours, but she approached it every single day with great passion. She insisted, or should I say demanded, that I do my best at whatever job or task that was at hand. She encouraged and exhorted me to excel in school and in life. Her words, her actions, and her love gave me great comfort and built my confidence tremendously. Lessons she taught me, like being humble in all things great and small, are at the core of my approach at work and at home.

How do you motivate others?

I believe that our best leaders are always great teachers at heart. My passion is developing new leaders. I show others that I am willing to go above and beyond to help grow and build their careers. I am very open and honest, and like to share my experiences—both good and not so good. I find that people respond in a powerful and positive way when you show them that kind of investment.

What do you think is the greatest issue or dilemma facing the African American community today?

I believe the future of our youth is one of the greatest challenges facing our community today. They need to be inspired and challenged to reach to new heights, but that is only part of the equation. We must also be diligent in setting their expectations for what is required to get to the prize. There is often a tendency to expect “microwave” success. That type of success proves to be false, unrealistic, and oftentimes isn’t sustainable. The ability to delay gratification is key to long-term success. According to the dictionary, to defer gratification is “the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward.”

How do you give back to the African American community?

I enjoy acting as an official and unofficial mentor to several bright, up-and-coming minority professionals who are relatively young—in life or in their careers. I have had a handful of mentors, and I believe they made a huge positive impact on my path to where I am today and where I will be tomorrow. I find that many African Americans are “firsts” in their family—first to leave their hometown, first to go to college, first to graduate, first to get a masters degree, first to work in a corporate environment, and so on. Mentors are able to act as guides for those of us who are experiencing these situations for the first time. Being a mentor is how many of us can and do give back, and make an impact in a powerful way.

What’s the most important lesson you have learned in the course of your career?

Most people tend to choose the easiest, or less difficult, tasks or assignments. To be more successful than most, take the road less traveled by always looking to tackle the most difficult problems or opportunities first. In my experience, they usually prove to be the most important, the most valuable, and the most rewarding.     

What advice would you give to someone just beginning his or her career?

Remember that your career is a marathon and not a sprint. Take the time to hone your skills. No one knows your strengths and weaknesses better than you. You definitely want to highlight your talents; however, do not neglect learning and growing to eventually turn your weaknesses into strengths. As you move up the ladder, never rest on your laurels and do not shortcut your own development. True leaders are never finished products; they continually evolve, reinvent, and reemerge. Stay hungry and hopeful for bigger and better challenges, and remember to stay humble throughout it all.

What is your favorite quote, and why?

“Your life doesn’t just happen. Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.” – Stephen R. Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Those words remind me that I have a choice in all things, and that I am instrumental in deciding my own destiny, rather than my destiny being defined for me.