Eric Wynstin Walton is an expert on agile leadership. As CEO of LEAD360, his organization helps black leaders succeed in complex corporate environments where high-level leadership acumen is a must.
Compiling his insights from some of the world’s most prominent Fortune 500 companies, including AstraZeneca, Wyeth, and Johnson & Johnson, Walton discovered why so many black executives struggle with success while navigating the sinuous terrain often encountered on the trek up the “corporate ladder.” In making this discovery, Walton developed his own compelling philosophy on agile leadership development. His philosophy-turned-leadership acumen is now used to teach leaders everywhere how to confront seemingly insurmountable business challenges and “WYN anyway.”
Black Enterprise: Tell me about your passion for leadership development and the evolution of LEAD360?
Walton: Over the past 20 years, I’ve had the good fortune of working in middle management and senior leadership positions within influential global organizations. During this time, I’ve developed a network of high performing black leaders—colleagues—who have reinvented departments, groups, and even entire corporations. Yet, these leaders have some incredibly shocking stories of what they’ve encountered while investing their excellence into the companies they work for. These stories speak to the undeniable truth that our roadmap for success incorporates: mastery of business competency, emotional intelligence, and an accessible and courageous community of peers and sponsors. It was these stories, coupled with deep insights from my own experiences that inspired me to explore leadership development as a strategic business model and thus, develop LEAD360.
What is agile leadership and how is it relevant to your programming at LEAD360?
Leadership agility is the master skill needed for sustained success in today’s complex, fast-paced competitive business environment. It is a single component of effective leadership that illuminates the unavoidable sea-changes within the workplace environment: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Agile leaders are those who not only understand the dynamics of these sea-changes but are also able to confront them and solve related challenges in context.
LEAD360 places considerable attention on helping its leadership community to anticipate and create changes that result in nimbly navigating crises, transforming company culture and achieving competitive advantage. Darryl Smith, a senior partner at Korn Ferry, notes that “Markets are experiencing rapid change fueled by artificial intelligence, generational dynamics, alternative currencies, and a more diverse customer base.” And there’s no indication that such trends will be changing anytime soon. That said, black business leaders must accept, understand, and leverage these new realities advantageously.
How did you develop the “WYN anyway” concept? How do you implement it as a strategic process for transforming experiences for blacks in the corporate workspace?
The WYN ANYWAY concept is inspired by my admiration for three athletes; Kobe Bryant, Simone Manuel, and Magic Johnson, who win because of their absolute refusal to lose; who win because they are willing to put in the work, invest in themselves and never offer excuses simply because many say that they can’t. It is the spirit that drives me, and thus LEAD360. Appropriately, my father Matthew Walton, gave me the middle name, “Wynstin,” in part because he knew I’d face significant challenges as a black man and despite those challenges, he taught me to persevere and “WYN anyway.”
WYNNING is as much an approach/mentality as it is a strategy. We simply identify what it takes for black leaders to WYN, establish the plan to accomplish it, and execute.
WYN is also in the how. We feel that after playing such a huge role in building the US business infrastructure, operating as the “computer” before computers, engineering and designing items such as cell phones and leading business development for many companies, we deserve the best executive development available. And that’s exactly what we provide.
What’s your best advice for corporate middle managers and senior leaders who are seeking to WYN in today’s changing business dynamic?
Here’s where the strategy becomes incredibly simple. Yet, it’s very new for our community. Firstly, invest heavily in your own leadership development. Whether you have the corporate resources or not is not the deciding factor. Those who are most interested in this interview average a quarter million dollars a year in compensation.
However, we are just now beginning to realize that we are worth the personal investment so that we will be as ready for the next level as the ones with whom we compete.
Secondly, expand your community of peers. Organizations like ELC, The Consortium, and LEAD360 increase your exposure to others who are experiencing similar business challenges, as well as to those who are doing what you aspire to do next. Lastly, build a legacy of leaders. Have the courage to actively hire those who follow you. You will help sustain them in their journey, and during the challenging times in your career, they will (more than likely be the ones to) sustain you.