The Power of Passion and Perseverance

The best leaders accept that they are not perfect, and they don’t demand perfection from those they lead. Instead, great leaders recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with people who have complementary skills, creating an effective team.

That was the message from Walter Woods, Chief Executive Officer of the Humana Foundation, at a recent Leadership Louisville conference. Walter spoke about “The Power of Passion and Perseverance” at the 2018 Leadership Summit – Leading in the New World of Work.

What leaders eventually accomplish depends more on their passion and perseverance for long-term goals than on their innate talent, Walter said. That’s important in a business environment that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).

He said the best leaders accept VUCA and lead through it with their strengths AND weaknesses. They also understand the leadership capabilities all organizations need:

• Sensemaking – interpreting developments in the business environment
• Relating – building trusting relationships
• Visioning – communicating a compelling image of the future
• Inventing – coming up with new ways of doing things

In short, leaders find and work with others who can provide the capabilities they’re missing. That takes clarity and passion, a fact Walter illustrated through his adventure travels, which have taken him to Antarctica, the North Pole and other far-off places.

Walter is a nonprofit veteran of 30 years and has served in a number of executive-level roles, with organizations ranging from the AARP Foundation, to The World Bank, to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, DC.

He leads the Humana Foundation as its strategy evolves to focus “upstream” on the root causes of illness and chronic conditions – such as social determinants of health — identifying solutions to help people lead their healthiest lives. This approach aligns with Humana’s “Bold Goal” of improving the health of the communities it serves 20 percent by 2020.

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