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People Follow Characters and Not Titles

Posted by: Nika White on Friday, November 15, 2013
At least that’s what Michelle Gethers Clark believes and she was quite compelling in convincing approximately 350 others that this statement rings true. “People follow characters and not titles” is her mantra and her life story is evidence of that. The Greenville Chamber, in association with ATHENA International, has recognized and honored women who have made significant contributions to Greenville’s prosperity with the annual ATHENA Leadership Award® since 2001. The ATHENA Leadership Symposium is a unique women’s leadership event inspired by past recipients of the ATHENA Leadership Award. This second annual event featured keynote speaker Michelle Gethers-Clark, CEO and President of United Way of Greater Greensboro. An accomplished corporate executive and community leader with a professional career that spans 29 years, she has celebrated success as a senior vice president for American Express Company, as an entrepreneur with a consulting firm, and as an author. In sharing her story, Michelle spoke of how her parents moved from Walterboro, SC because they knew that education could change the cycle of hopelessness for their family. She believes that leadership is born out of character and describes her character as humble, full of integrity, and consistent. Further, Michelle explained that leadership is not what you say, but it’s who you are. She used the term “executive presence” in describing the significance of leaders leaving something behind for others. She warned the audience to anticipate struggle, but not to view it as failure, and avoid dodging challenges because it will result in missing an opportunity to develop. Michelle addressed the issue of balance by stating that there is no such thing, but there are choices that we have to make each day and the importance of choosing wisely. On the journey, she cautioned that stepping back at times is necessary in order to move forward. In Michelle’s case, she was faced with the choice of having to quit her senior executive job for American Express to care for her daughter who was diagnosed with epilepsy. She later found herself with several offers, which led to her current role as President/CEO of United Way of Greater Greensboro. She attributes her success and favor to her choice of remaining true to her “authentic self.” At one point in the presentation, to the audience’s surprise Michelle climbed an eight foot ladder while on stage in heels and a dress to illustrate the point that when you choose to step up, it’s not about the power, it’s about the view. And when you get there, you’ll see that you want to bring people with you. “The world looks different when you’re allowed to sit at the table.” To watch Michelle Gethers-Clark presentation click here. Learn more about CAPACITY, Greenville Chamber’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Follow CAPACITY on Twitter Like CAPACITY on Facebook Check out the CAPACITY YouTube Channel


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