Michelle Tucker is president and CEO of United Way of Greater St. Louis. She spoke to Olin students in January in Defining Moments: Lessons in Leadership and Character from the Top, a class the Bauer Leadership Center offers.
Here, Lael Bialek, MBA ’20, shares her thoughts on Tucker’s talk:
Philosophy on leadership
Michelle Tucker attributed her professional achievement to her choice to follow her passion and be her authentic self. The president and CEO role at the United Way of St. Louis was not a position Tucker pursued. Rather, her reputation as a leader who genuinely cared about the community and had followed her passion out of the corporate world made her the standout choice for the job.
Tucker acknowledged that following your passion often requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. In an effort to contribute to her community in more impactful ways, Tucker left behind the comforts and luxuries she had enjoyed at Bank of America for almost 20 years.
She described how she stepped out of her comfort zone to step forward and lead an organization with a mission she was passionate about. Taking that step required Tucker to be brave and become comfortable in being uncomfortable.
Trajectory of career
Tucker’s commitment to the St. Louis community has been the driving force in her career. During her time at Bank of America, Tucker worked to expand and define her roles such that she was in a position to develop and implement strategies that enabled Bank of America to support the St. Louis community.
Although Tucker had the opportunity to engage with the community through her work at Bank of America, she knew her passion, experience and skills could make a huge difference in a mission-driven nonprofit organization. Tucker followed her heart to Epworth Children & Family Services. Likewise, her decision to leave Epworth after two years to lead the United Way of St. Louis stemmed from her passion for contributing to the community.
Having spent seven years working with nonprofits before pursuing my MBA, it was incredibly exciting and powerful for me to have the opportunity to learn from a successful and respected nonprofit leader in the St. Louis community. Tucker’s story and poise radiated curiosity, tenacity and courage—characteristics I will strive to emulate as I continue work to develop and refine my leadership style.
Tucker has only been able to live out her passions through tremendous bravery. She has continually pushed the boundaries of her comfort and put herself in the best possible position to affect positive change. Her courageousness had taken many forms—from working at Bank of American at a time when African-American females in the banking industry were few and far between to stepping away from the luxuries of the corporate world to lead a nonprofit organization.
Tucker understands the value of her intellectual capital and has never let fear keep her from utilizing it in meaningful and impactful ways. Her career is inspirational. I had never considered that acting on your passion could be an act of bravery. Tucker has inspired me not to let my fears and insecurities hold me back. I hope to someday give as much of myself as I can to my community and model courageousness as Tucker does.