Senior Vice President, Customer Account Management, AmeriChoice

Who in your family had the most impact on your success? I would have to say that my mother was the most impactful person in determining my success and who I am as a person. Growing up in rural Missouri on Medicaid and welfare, one of 12 children, the odds were against my succeeding. But my mother, a single black female, demonstrated day-in and day-out that if you have the ‘will,’ you can break away from the cycle of poverty. She made sure that we were in school daily, studied, and got a good night’s sleep. I often wondered how many meals she missed so that we might eat. She remains my hero and source of inspiration.

What is your definition of leadership? Leadership encompasses various aspects. Leadership is the ability to influence an outcome in a positive manner. Leadership demands that the destination is always in clear view and the leader must possess the necessary skills to motivate and encourage those under her leadership toward that end result. True leadership is displayed in the ‘bad’ times, when all odds are against you and the outlook appears bleak. Leadership is also the ability to bring out the best in those around you, to lead them to the optimal result given the present circumstances.

Headquarters: Minnetonka, Minnesota
Web site:
Primary Business: Diversified health and well-being
Employees: 75,000

What’s the worst fault a leader can have? To be too far removed from the team and its customers. Good leaders keep a close pulse, and make decisions affecting their team, with full knowledge of the impact on both the team and the customer. When a leader totally removes herself from the daily operations of the team, it is impossible to lead that team effectively and meet the needs of the customer.

What advice can you provide for young leaders? Knowledge is the key to your success. Never think you have all the answers. Appreciate and take advantage of the knowledge that others bring. You have to know your business, your environment and your team. You might have the general leadership skills, but knowledge is one thing that turns an average leader into a great leader. Take the time to learn as much as you can about your business. Before making decisions, take the time to learn as much as possible about the issue. Know your team, their strengths, weaknesses and the value they bring.

What are the personal and/or professional sacrifices to being leader? The biggest personal sacrifice for most leaders is their time. Time is often divided unevenly in favor of one’s profession. In addition to the hours leaders are required to put in during the day, time away from work is often spent in study, preparation, planning, and consideration of the daily demands of their career. The casualty in this is often the family and friends of leaders who do not find the balance between work and life.