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Black Men and Women of The C-Suite: “Stretching oneself is not only safe but necessary for professional and personal growth” with Randy V. Bradley and Fotis Georgiadis

I define leadership as the ability to motivate and inspire others to do great things and achieve greater heights, and the willingness to forge ahead to demonstrate that stretching oneself is not only safe but necessary for professional and personal growth. It is important for leaders to understand that you can’t effectively lead those you […]


I define leadership as the ability to motivate and inspire others to do great things and achieve greater heights, and the willingness to forge ahead to demonstrate that stretching oneself is not only safe but necessary for professional and personal growth. It is important for leaders to understand that you can’t effectively lead those you don’t love. You have to care about people as individuals and be concerned about them and less concerned about yourself and how you look or will fare. Once your leadership displays genuine followership (a genuine interest in the goals, ideals, and interests of those who follow your lead), your followers will feel empowered to lead because they don’t want to fail you. Leading is not mandates and delegation of tasks; it’s about relationships with people. It is not possible to have the same type of relationship with all personnel so an effective leader knows what he or she needs to be to each person at different points in time.

As a part of my series about “Black Men and Women of The C-Suite”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Randy V. Bradley. Randy is an assistant professor of information systems and supply chain management at the University of Tennessee’s online Supply Chain Management program. He previously was an IT consultant in both government and commercial sectors for companies like the Computer Sciences Corporation, Camber Operations, and Southward Company where he focused on IT outsourcing transitions, large-scale systems integration projects, and supply chain transformation initiatives.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

There is no one specific decision that brought me to where I am, but rather a series of what some would consider isolated decisions that were really interwoven. I was near the end of my Masters of Management Information Systems program, and I had a conversation with one of my advisors about the possibility of returning periodically to take additional courses of interest to me. He responded with a question that took me by surprise. “Could it be you have lifelong desire for learning but an unwillingness to commit to it”, he asked. I had no idea what he meant, so I asked for clarification. He went on to talk to me about the possibility of pursuing a PhD. I had no desire to do so, as I was quite “comfortable” as a consultant. Despite my reservations, I applied as a way to appease him, and in some way see if maybe he saw more in me than I saw in myself. Low and behold, I applied and was admitted to the PhD program. Now I had to make a decision. Unwilling to go all-in initially, I asked my employer to reduce me to a part-time role so that I could “explore” this new opportunity. As you can imagine, this was not ideal, nor in line with the expectations of the PhD program I enrolled in. So I had to live and act like a full-time PhD student, while also fulfilling my obligation to my company and our clients. Suffice it to say, at the end of the first year of this dual role, it was apparent that I could not continue to do both. I ultimately elected to focus on the PhD program, with the belief that I could always go back to industry if things didn’t work. As they say, the rest is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In 2011, I served as the faculty mentor to a physician in our Physicians Executive MBA program. In this role, I oversaw and advised this physician as it pertained to his year-long project. He had a series of wonderful ideas, which I thought we be quite fruitful for him. Towards the end of his program (i.e., the last week of the program), he inquired about my interest in starting a company with him to explore some of those initiatives. This is a request I had fielded from others before, so I had a standard response to help kill the conversation. “Let’s discuss this after you finish the program”, I would say. Typically, most people forget about this overture, and I didn’t have to worry or think about this solicitation again. However, this physician was different. Approximately two weeks after he finished the program he called me to continue the conversation. He made some compelling points, and I believed in what he was trying to accomplish and that we had a unique opportunity as business partners. So, I said yes, and that lead to the formation of Q-Leap Health, Inc.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I can recall when I was on a consulting engagement in Chicago, and I came home just for the weekend. Because I had been on this project for some time, and stayed at the same hotel, I intentionally left most of my belongings at the hotel in Chicago, while I flew home with an overnight bag for the weekend. Well, on Sunday afternoon, I received a call indicating that before I could come back to Chicago I needed to go to a different client site in Santa Barbara, CA to resolve an issue. So, here I was with nothing in hand except a couple of changes of clothing, which happened to consist of shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops. So, I boarded a flight the next morning in route to Santa Barbara, and to my surprise, when I arrived at the client site, my attire was consistent with the laid-back dress code in that particular office.

From this situation, I learned to never take for granted that you’ll immediately go back to the same client site, and to always carry an extra set of acceptable clothing. To this day, I always pack one to two days of extra attire…just in case.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?

Innovation — This is the byproduct of diversity of thought and experiences. Diverse leadership teams prevent organizations from acquiescing to the perilous position of “this is how we’ve always done things”.

Creativity — A lack of diversity leads to unidirectional thinking or pigeon-holing, whereas diversity brings to bear different vantage points, perspectives, and interpretations of the corporate, industry, and organizational landscape.

Relatability — Organizations want to do business with organizations whose workforce resembles their own and their clientele. They find it difficult to believe that an organization without diverse leadership and workforce can relate to their issues, concerns, or organizational dynamics.

More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture? 
 
 
Given that culture is a shared system of values and beliefs, organizations that don’t have a diverse leadership team are likely perpetuating a culture that is not likely to be embraced by the vast majority of its employee-base. Further, that culture is likely to become stale and out of touch because leadership lacks a vital trigger to cultural and organizational inertia — diversity.

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?

Stop trying to quantify its impact. Some things require an ROI and some things require a decision. Understand that diversity is not an initiative; it’s a necessity.

Embrace people’s differences by understanding their individual value and collective contribution to all facets of your organization. Each group of individuals in your organization has unique skillsets, work habits, insights, and hang-ups, that must be embraced to realize their synergistic effects.

Leverage — Once we embrace these differing aspects, and not attempt to make one group conform to the profile and norms of another group, we can more effectively leverage their abilities and know-how. It’s the collective leveraging of differences that make the difference between organizations that continue to talk about the need for diversity (but do little about it), those that have diversity initiatives (in an attempt to bridge the diversity chasm), and those that are unapologetically diverse, thriving, and feel no need to justify or defend their organizational diversity.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I define leadership as the ability to motivate and inspire others to do great things and achieve greater heights, and the willingness to forge ahead to demonstrate that stretching oneself is not only safe but necessary for professional and personal growth. It is important for leaders to understand that you can’t effectively lead those you don’t love. You have to care about people as individuals and be concerned about them and less concerned about yourself and how you look or will fare. Once your leadership displays genuine followership (a genuine interest in the goals, ideals, and interests of those who follow your lead), your followers will feel empowered to lead because they don’t want to fail you. Leading is not mandates and delegation of tasks; it’s about relationships with people. It is not possible to have the same type of relationship with all personnel so an effective leader knows what he or she needs to be to each person at different points in time.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Excellence (your best effort) trumps perfection

Failure is not the absence of success it is moving one step closer to the next best idea

Your character will always precede and overshadow your talent

People don’t care about how hard you work; they care about what you produce

Your success is also the shared success of those whom have poured into you at different times in your life

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“The Pursuit of Excellence” The pursuit of excellence is the best demonstration of an ideal work ethic. I want to instill the notion that things don’t happen to you, they happen for you…when you’re prepared and take advantage of the right opportunities as they present. In business, we’re often striving for perfection (whether we admit it or not) when in reality your best self and work is what’s desired — excellence. A means to get that from personnel is to love and value the person in front of you, not the person you want them to be. Also, help them understand their strengths and how to accentuate those while also working to mitigate and improve upon their weaknesses. Along these lines, success shouldn’t be viewed what you attain or achieve, but rather how you go about attaining and achieving.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This is a quote that originated with me, “be for someone what you wish someone had been for you”. I see every day as an opportunity to fill someone else’s cup, be a facilitator in architecting someone’s, and help someone see and be a better version themselves. Having grown up in an impoverished environment, I’ve witness in my own life that people are more a product of their decisions than they are a product of their environment.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have a private session with our current President, President Trump. My intent would be to help him understand why the burden of communication is on the speaker and not the listeners. I believe certain messages he delivers get lost because of the “packaging”. Additionally, I would like to share my thoughts with him about how we might improve race relations rather than continually attempting to diffuse tensions.

How can our readers follow you on social media?
 
 
LinkedIn — linkedin.com/in/randyvbradley

Twitter — @randyvbradley

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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