Recognizing True Leadership

the most consistently excellent business leaders of our generation. In fact, Winfrey hardly sees herself that way. Yet the results speak for themselves, as Harpo continues to spin gold from nearly every media venture and partnership it undertakes, from O: The Oprah Magazine to the Oprah & Friends XM satellite radio channel to the television juggernaut that is The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Yet, the $345 million in revenues generated by Harpo last year is almost beside the point. As counterintuitive as it may seem to commonly held notions of leadership in business, Winfrey is far better known for enriching others — giving away automobiles to her studio audience, building schools for girls in South Africa — than she is for achieving wealth for herself. To say that she excels in the business of empowering others is no exaggeration.

Ed Corley Sr., the CEO and patriarch of family-owned and -operated Corley Automotive Group in Grants, New Mexico, our 2008 Auto Dealer of the Year, represents the kind of leadership that shines during times of great adversity. The last several years have been difficult — even devastating — for black auto dealers, especially those most reliant on sales of domestic vehicles, which have declined as import car sales continue to thrive. Against this backdrop, Corley Automotive has flourished, with a total of eight dealerships selling a diversified portfolio of domestic and import nameplates. The leadership trait of understanding what is important to people is amply demonstrated by the fact that Corley’s sales and service personnel have tailored their operation to serve a customer base that is largely Latino and Native American — hiring from those populations and even learning Spanish and Navajo to better understand the needs of the customer. An even more impressive indication of Corley’s leadership is that he has successfully developed, groomed, and empowered all eight of his children to run his dealerships. The result is a dealership that generated $107 million in revenues in 2007 — a 16% increase over 2006 — in a year that saw many BE 100S auto dealers exiting the business.

Our 2008 Financial Company of the Year, Atlanta Life Financial Group, knows that the value of great leadership can be most keenly felt when it is lost. On April 29, as this issue was going to press, Atlanta Life lost its CEO, Ronald D. Brown, due to complications after surgery. Thanks largely to Brown, Atlanta Life Financial Group (a holding company for Atlanta Life Insurance, Jackson Securities, and Atlanta Life Investment Advisors, one of the nation’s largest black-owned asset management companies) has emerged as a modern-day financial company by building on the legacies of some of the greatest black business leaders of the 20th century, including the late Maynard Jackson, former Atlanta mayor and founder of Jackson Securities, and the legendary Jesse Hill, former Atlanta Life Insurance Co. CEO. Atlanta Life has come a long way from selling insurance policies door-to-door to emerge as a diversified financial services company. Yet, true to its leadership legacy, the company continues its mission of providing

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