Senior Director, Coworker Services (HR)

Who is/was your most influential leadership mentor and why? Throughout my career I have had two very influential mentors who were instrumental in my leadership growth. The first would be Ms. Hayes, a high school teacher and coach, and the second Dr. Pierson, a college administrator. Ms. Hayes helped push me to excel beyond my personal limits, and recognized my ability to lead a team and inspire peers to follow. She taught me the basics of leadership through tough love and helped me direct my energy and passion into a desire to lead and achieve, accepting no excuses. On the other hand, Dr. Pierson showed me the value of focus, the importance of determination and perseverance, and the essence of professionalism and respect. Both of these people have provided me with principles paramount to my role as a leader today.

Who in your family had the most impact on your success? My father has had the most impact on my success. He was a man of few words, but had a spirit that brightened cold, dark winter days. Born in 1922, he was blessed to have achieved a fifth grade education. He worked cotton fields to support the family, fought in WWII and then traveled north to secure a job with Chrysler Automotive. Growing up, my father often said, “Boy, do right by people,” and “Be a good citizen,” and I now understand what he meant. He was teaching me how to lead, be responsible to others, and hold myself accountable for my actions. I remember one semester in college my tuition payment was short, and we had no money. Regardless, my father drove to the college and set down a mound of rolled coins in the accounting office. He always taught me to be humble. That event not only helped me remain in school, but to fully understand why my success is due in great part to his lessons.

What is your definition of leadership? Simply stated, my definition of leadership is setting a compelling course of action, and inspiring others to follow. Recently, I developed a leadership definition for teens that read, “Leadership is setting a standard by living a set of moral principles that defines your aspirations/beliefs, and challenges all fears, threats, and apprehension, inspiring others to follow.”

What was the defining moment in your life in which you understood your leadership? As a student leader in college, I often spoke to freshmen about achieving success at the university, and always shared that a student should never leave college because of the lack of money. One day, a student approached me and said “John, my grandmother always told me when people have helped you, let them know how.” She continued, “Because of your freshman lecture, I am still in school today.” This student had faced financial challenges that nearly resulted in her dropping out of school. At that moment, I realized the impact of personal leadership and the accountability that comes with it. That was a defining moment on my leadership journey.

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