As a director with AXA Advisors’ South Florida Branch, Gerald C. Grant tries to lead by example in his company and community. He serves as an informal mentor in the company’s diversity and inclusion program and guides employees in learning effective networking practices and pursuing professional growth.
In the community, it’s a family affair. Grant, his wife and their two adult children are involved with the United Way of Miami-Dade County, one of the county’s largest philanthropic organizations, are strong supporters of the work of FIU in providing educational opportunities for our diverse community, and faithfully serve a number of smaller groups to help maximize their impact.
What compels leaders such as Grant to give back so much?
Grant arrived in Miami from his native Jamaica at age 11. Picked on by grade-school classmates for his island accent, he spent a summer watching TV and practicing to soften his enunciation. A self-starter, Grant developed a strong work ethic from an early age. He put himself through college and later graduate school, earning an appreciation for the role academics had in his life, career, and success. “My education made a big impact on me,” he told us, “and if there is any way I can give back, I want to get involved.”
Q: As a director in your organization, how do you view your place as a leadership champion?
GG: You have to lead by example and create high standards; then your team will rise to great heights. In my career I have always tried to emulate those who have done well and as a result, I’ve tried to become a role model for others. You don’t want to ask people to do what you are not willing to do. I seek to always do the best that I can and hold others to that same expectation.
My role model was a vice president who I met when I was at Burdines (Miami’s signature department store). He took me under his wing and gave me the opportunity to excel. Given such opportunities, you rise to the occasion and do what people expect of you. As you get involved deeper and deeper, you see that you can then help to make your workplace better than what it was before.
Q: How do you feel your role of leader in your organization, your alma mater, and the community sets an example for others?
GG: There’s a time when your emphasis in improving an organization goes a much longer way than just writing a check. You not only write the check, but you work with them to make the organization—and our community—better. As a result, not only do you get a stronger sense of satisfaction, the impact you have on the organization can be much greater. As individuals we are all a part of this community and we have to work together to solve our common problems. FIU gave me the opportunity to polish my skills. As a result, I can take care of my family and be in a position to give back to the community.
There is much more to life than just working for money. The feeling of satisfaction of helping others is priceless. It’s ironic. The more I did in the community, the more visibility and greater responsibility they gave me at work, and the greater the responsibility I got at work, the more exposure I got in the community. So, what came first, the chicken or the egg? I think each helped in my personal and professional development.
I would strongly encourage every young person to get involved in some form of community service. When they’re in school, they should get involved in various organizations. Invest in others, because you never know, the relationships you’re going to make could last a lifetime and yield great opportunities.
Q: How do you celebrate leadership champions?
GG: I try to emulate them. At AXA, there was the Darwin Davis Award, it was a person-of-the-year award for the whole person. One indidvidual that received the award was not only the highest-ranking African American within the company, but was totally engaged in helping others become better people, improving every community in which the company was involved. I saw him as “Mr. Make a Difference.” He mentored me. Now I’m trying to become that guy.
Q: How do you start your day?
GG: I start every day around four o’clock in the morning. I start by reading the Bible. It gives me focus for the day. It’s amazing. You read something, and then it manifests itself in front of you during the day. I also start my day with a sense of purpose and function, and as a result, most days are great days.
CFL: Complete this sentence. Good leadership is...
GG: Good leadership is...
making a difference in the lives of others.
About “In the Know…”
“In the Know...” is a recurring feature of Leadership Insights, published by the Florida International University Center for Leadership. The award-winning FIU Center for Leadership explores leadership thought and practice through continuous research; assists in the development of keen self-insight; teaches leadership competencies through open-enrollment and custom, company-specific leadership seminars and programs. The Center equips corporate partners and executives meaningfully transform their organizations and their societies by equipping better leaders for a better world.
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