The Thomas File Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2009

Born: Clarksdale, Miss.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, University of Illinois

First job: I’m the son of sharecroppers, so my first job was down on the farm in my preteen years, working with my parents to build the farm, chopping and picking cotton.

What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?

Collaboration and teamwork — with a liberal dose of gratitude and appreciation for your co-workers’ efforts — are absolutely crucial to optimizing results.

What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?

Honesty, integrity, effective communication and coaching skills are all absolutely essential. If you combine those skills with passion for the mission of your company, the result is without equal.

What are some universal truths you’ve learned about leadership?

If you would lead, you must also be a good follower. You must follow those who are guiding you, you must follow the corporate charter, you must have a moral correctness. There is also a time-honored principle in business that you must value the stakeholder, the consumer, the customer and to treat others the way you would want to be treated.

What is your definition of success?

A lesson I learned years ago is that success is the realization of a worthy ideal. So a company leader must ensure that the company progresses and prospers while fulfilling a worthwhile, if not noble, purpose. In other words, success is progress and prosperity with a purpose in both professional and personal pursuits.