Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer
Headquarters: New York City
Web site: www.newyorklife.com
Primary Business: The largest mutual life insurance company in the United States
Employees: 8,830 (domestic) as of January 1, 2009
Who in your family had the most impact on your success?
One of the biggest influences in my life, and a major contributor to my success is my father. As long as I can remember, he has always tried to instill in me qualities that are essential for good leadership. My father grew up the son of a sharecropper in rural Louisiana, and ultimately became a family court judge after a 23-year career in the military. He always stressed to me the importance of having a goal and a vision, as well as the importance of hard work and dedication toward the achievement of those goals.
What is your definition of leadership?
The interesting thing about leadership, is that it can manifest itself in so many different ways. Oftentimes, great leadership is situational, where a particular style is required for a given situation. I do believe, though, that universally, good leaders must be decisive but not autocratic, confident but not arrogant, and have the courage of their convictions.
What’s the worst fault a leader can have?
One of the most dangerous qualities in a leader is hubris. To be a leader, people must be willing to follow you. In order to generate “followership,” a good leader must have the ability to engage those he or she seeks to lead, and provide a vision and direction that they can support.
What advice can you provide for young leaders?
Leadership starts very early in one’s life, and isn’t simply defined by running large organizations or enterprises. Each of us has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the way we conduct and direct our own affairs, and over time, the scope of whom and what we lead will grow. An additional hallmark of great leadership is good judgment, and good judgment is developed over time. If one recognizes early on that we have an opportunity to lead ourselves and lead others, we can actively work to develop sound judgment that positions us for future leadership opportunities.
What was the defining moment in your life in which you understood your leadership?
I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead numerous projects and teams—some very successfully, others not so. Each of those experiences has taught me something and has helped shape and define my style. In looking back over all those experiences, that thing that has brought the most satisfaction is the fact that many of the people with whom I have worked have gone on to experience their own levels of personal and professional success. For me, that is a mark of true leadership.