Michelle Billingsley has a strong philosophy of leadership, which she says comes from being born and bred in Detroit.
Billingsley, who is vice president and chief information officer for Blue Care Network, was honored Sept. 10 as the National Management Association’s (NMA) Executive of the Year — the highest award an individual member can achieve — at the association’s annual conference.
Three key principles for effective leadership
In accepting the Executive of the Year award, Billingsley prefaced her remarks by showing the Chrysler 200 video that first aired during the 2011 Super Bowl game. The video, featuring rap star and Detroit native Eminem, told Detroit’s story of a city that fell and is rising again — a story she relates to very closely from having grown up in the “D”.
She shared her thoughts on key leadership principles for employees at all levels that were inspired from this video:
Purpose: Truly understanding — and communicating — purpose is key. Helping those you lead to understand why you want them to do what you need them to do helps to get everyone focused and productive. It gives them something they can connect to and believe in.
Grit: Billingsley defined grit as a combination of “passion and perseverance.” “Passion is having a strong connection to the why,” she noted. “Perseverance is having the patience and resilience to stay committed to the what and how.”
Billingsley’s professional decision to pursue a leadership role in the male-dominated field of IT — as both a woman AND a minority — presented challenges that required grit to stay the course. Now she pays it forward by encouraging other women and minorities to pursue their own passion in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Accountability: Billingsley pointed out that, as Detroit has done, Blue Cross grounds its own culture in accountability — accepting accountability for making things better, overcoming obstacles, dealing with setbacks and rising to new heights. She shared advice from a college professor that spoke directly to this principle of accountability: “In your career and in your life, no one owes you anything. YOU must make things happen for you.” She took those words to heart and they’ve been the basis of her drive and work ethic.
Billingsley was nominated for the Executive of the Year award by the two Blue Cross NMA chapters — Southeast Michigan and Lansing/Grand Rapids.
Tricia Keith, executive vice president, Chief of Staff and Corporate Secretary, was the recipient in 2012.