“Always remember the inverted triangle. As a leader, you should listen to and bear the weight of the entire organization.”
Joseph Handy, the President, and COO of The Georgia Aquarium has been with the organization for twelve years. Moving to Atlanta to join the Georgia Aquarium team at its implementation was a risk that has been very rewarding for Joseph. He knows he’s in the right place. Joseph grew up in New York and attended The College of New Rochelle; he also has his Executive MBA from Kennesaw State.
Not only did he take risks and overcome barriers to get to where he is today, Joseph also worked his way up the leadership ladder. He shared stories about positions he previously held in the nonprofit sector including working within the visitor services department at the American Museum of Natural History. Before “drinking the Kool-Aid of the nonprofit sector” as he described it, Joseph wanted to work in politics. The desire to help others has remained consistent, his career path shifted.
Joseph credits a lot of people in being instrumental to his success; he describes them as “the bookends” of his life. He thanks the women in his life especially his mother and grandmothers for helping him stay on track and for the reminder that his life isn’t solely about him. There are also risk taking successful men in Joseph’s life who mentor him including Bernie Marcus and Michael Leven., both major influencers at The Georgia Aquarium.
Joseph first remembers leading in elementary school when everyone started to follow his direction at an event. One of his biggest challenges as a leader was when he first had to lay someone off. Joseph describes his job as a leader as humbling because tough decisions must be made. He attempts to remove any obstacles for his team because he knows everyone wants to do good work.
As a leader, Joseph believes in fostering positive relationships. He believes relationships are nurturing or toxic. He recommends encouraging and building on the nurturing and reducing the toxic. This requires taking a 360 view and examining the relationships in your life. Joseph is also motivated by the experiences of others and diversity of thought. He enjoys learning from people through conversation and hearing their point of view.
If Joseph could give his younger self advice, he would do so. Some of the words of wisdom he shared include pay attention the things around you, master the art of listening, and invest early. Subjects that Joseph wishes were taught in school include personal finances and conflict resolution.
Even Joseph who helps lead one of the largest aquariums in the World has to find time to relax. He enjoys building and customizing bikes and cars. One day he hopes to drive a car around a race track, yes he can be described as an adrenaline junkie but only with cars. Being around others makes Joseph smile. He is a positive person who enjoys positive relationships which align with his favorite word, serendipitous.
Joseph encourages future leaders to:
Always… remember the inverted triangle.
Never… assume you know everything that’s going on or that everything is great.
Follow… the pulse of the organization.
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