By Liam McGee
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, The Hartford

The child of immigrants and an immigrant myself, I was brought up to view America as the land of opportunity, where hard work and determination pay off. I was taught that it is not where you come from or what schools you attended that matters in getting ahead. Instead, brains, energy, character, and determination are what count most, as well as the leadership to see opportunity in adversity and go when others are reluctant to.

I came to this view through the example my parents set. They were models of courage, determination, and optimism who inspired me to go further than I thought possible. My dad worked for the local transit district, starting at the bottom and working his way up to management. He and my mother instilled the workhorse mentality of our ancestors, exemplified the value of sacrifice and deferred gratification, and communicated their passion for learning.

Growing up, my idols were Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Hall of Fame pitchers with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and I played college baseball at the University of San Diego. My original American Dream was to be a professional baseball player. Over time, however, as I came to know myself better, I really wanted to lead people—to inspire and motivate them to achieve more than they thought possible.

My dream evolved to be the CEO of a significant company. After decades of leading large organizations, I got my chance when I was named chairman, president, and CEO of The Hartford, a 202-year-old American insurance company whose brand stands for trustworthiness, stability, and integrity—values that are important to me.

I achieved this dream with a great deal of help from so many people, including my wife, parents, siblings, and others who served as mentors at every stage of my journey. I took charge of my learning, becoming a student of effective communication, reflecting on the leadership styles and journeys of other CEOs, and developing an appreciation for diversity and inclusion I witnessed working in one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities, Los Angeles.

I came to see how differences in background, perspective, and expertise help organizations connect with their customers and fellow teammates, spur innovation, and drive growth. Everyone in an organization matters and has the potential for greatness. That is why I want The Hartford to be a place where people can succeed because of their differences, not in spite of them.