Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, I learned a lot about leadership from playing sports—everything from swimming to basketball to knock-hockey. But it was serving as captain of my high school basketball team that taught me a lesson for life: In team sports, you learn quickly that success happens when everybody works together as a unit. It was no accident that my best games always seemed to be the ones in which most of my teammates outscored me.
By the time I joined Booz Allen Hamilton, I’d had a varied career. As a teenager, I had volunteered in a hospital, which made me interested in pursuing a career in health care. In college, I focused on computer science and was president of my sorority. After college, I was a radio disc jockey and a newscaster and worked for a company that developed shopping malls. Each stop provided me a new opportunity to make things happen. I began to enjoy taking risks and building networks.
This was incredibly important because being an effective leader means building a diverse network. At Booz Allen, I realized the importance of building a health care team that broke the mold. We brought in clinicians, scientists and industry experts who thought differently but spoke the language of our clients. From them, and from all of my colleagues, I learned to appreciate and honor different styles and skills, appropriating lessons for my own use. Listening to and learning from others around you are essential skills for anyone in an organization as there is seldom one right answer to anything.
I’ve learned to reach out to everyone, not only to my peers, but also to the most junior people on my staff. I relish the opportunity to nurture all relationships and, in doing so, tap into their networks (what I call the “hub”) and expand my own. Because relationships are such a natural source of strength, women in particular need to reach out to and support one another.
I look around me and marvel at the talent of my Booz Allen colleagues. They work hard and do extraordinary work for our clients. And they’re a walking, talking billboard for the ideal of diversity—the most talented people for the task, regardless of their background or heritage. A leader can’t ask for more.