My parents taught me early on in life that being a strong leader isn’t just about what you accomplish at work. It’s about who you are as a person and what type of leader you are in your daily life.
Volunteering is something my parents ingrained in me while I was young. They realized that having good fortune was a privilege and that it should be used to help those in need. Volunteering not only helps you give back to the community, but it also helps you sharpen your leadership skills and be a better manager and team player.
Having mentors is extremely important in work and in life. I probably have had more than 100 mentors, some who didn’t even know they were mentors. I met one of my mentors while volunteering as a board member and was amazed at how he put together so many “dots” to create a stronger, better program.
I also believe that learning is a continuing journey. Each day, I learn from the people around me, no matter what role they play in my life.
Timing is also important. One of my greatest career opportunities at WellPoint came because I was in the right place at the right time. I was the acting chief information officer and was meeting with the CEO. In the middle of the meeting, he received a phone call about a new project that would immediately require 50 people in a state more than 1,000 miles away. I volunteered on the spot to lead the project and was eventually promoted to president for the west region of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans, affiliated health plans of WellPoint Inc. I later served as president of another affiliate, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. I then saw an opportunity to take on my dream job as WellPoint’s vice president of social responsibility and president of the WellPoint Foundation.
My best advice is to always look for growth opportunities, learn from everyone you encounter, respect all persons from different backgrounds and persuasions, network, and get involved with the community. And most importantly, make a commitment to nurture other leaders so the leadership mantle is spread on many shoulders.