Executive Vice President, Community Affairs & Economic Development

What is your definition of leadership? I believe that leaders emerge from many diverse backgrounds, sets of circumstances, and for varied purposes. The commonalities they all possess, however, include the vision to see what needs to happen to reach a goal, and the ability to recognize what success looks like when that goal is accomplished. More importantly, they can influence and rally the troops to want to follow them. Anyone can enforce rules, but it takes a special person to motivate people to truly want to help you achieve success. Much of being a leader also involves serving as a role model for those who come after you.

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
Web site: www.harrisbank.com
Primary Business: Financial services
Employees: 7,000

Who in your family had the most impact on your success? Many people have served as role models in my life in one way or another. My grandmother, uncle, and sister, though, had the greatest impact on my success. My grandmother instilled in me the basic moral principles of honesty, integrity, and the Golden Rule that continue to guide my actions even today; my uncle became a doctor during a time when discrimination prevented many minorities from pursuing higher education, and he proved that goals can be achieved through hard work; and finally, my sister, who, despite our growing up in a home where we never felt welcome, set her sights on college, graduated from law school, and is now very successful in her own right as a Boeing executive.

Their examples continue to drive me to reach my full potential, and I try to reciprocate that for others. I bear the title of “leader” not as an elite badge of honor, but rather as a reminder of the responsibility I have to those who will one day take my place in the world. It is imperative to keep the cycle going.

What is your most rewarding career accomplishment? As a leader, my most rewarding accomplishment is the creation of Harris’ Neighborhood Lending Program (NLP)—one of the first programs of its type in the country. This program became the model for other major banks to develop inner-city lending programs. Through the NLP, thousands of housing units, small businesses, and special purpose projects received critical rehabilitation funding. It’s my proudest accomplishment because it’s a win-win—it was a goal of the bank to establish the program, and it helped improve the quality of life for many citizens in our communities. Those win-win projects are what keep me energized and motivated to keep working hard to lead the next generation in achieving their most rewarding accomplishments, too.