Mike Davis, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships at Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers in Atlanta, Georgia, enjoys, “the art and science of team building.” He earned a B.A in Business Administration from Morehouse College and a Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law. Some of the leadership philosophies he tries to follow include only asking team members to do tasks he would also do and taking ownership. He also believes every leader should have check yourself moments of self-reflection.
Coming out of college, Mike would not have pictured himself working at a nonprofit focused on “high‐quality early education, child care and comprehensive family support services.” His first job after graduating from Morehouse was as a pharmaceutical consultant. This role helped him break out of his shell. However, he realized he wasn’t passionate enough to stay in the field long term. This realization led Mike to law school to pursue becoming a sports agent.
During law school, his friend invited him to attend a panel discussion about education at Harvard. This game-changing moment disrupted Mike’s career track. A challenge issued to everyone in attendance to do something meaningful for future generations convicted Mike that day, and he has never looked back. Today, Mike is a proponent of reaching children as soon as possible, and he believes in the power of education. Taking care of his family and the impactful moments that have lasting effects on people are some of Mike’s primary motivators. Helping the most vulnerable also drives Mike, and he knows he will always do this form of work in some capacity.
Mike’s office at work gives you a quick glimpse into his leadership style and personality. Amongst the leadership books and family photos, a visitor will also find a talking bobblehead of the character Clay Davis from The Wire and a talking Yoda. On the walls, a large dry erase board contains to-do lists and large sticky notes from recent meetings. Mike feels vulnerability can help build trust amongst teams and this is one of the reasons he can be described as a relational leader. Jokingly Mike remarks that his superpower is his ability to dunk while being 5’11. His actual answer to the question is his desire and ability to relate to all people. The Rudyard Kipling poem It has a verse he strives to follow. The stanza reads, “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch.”
Hiring is one of the significant components Mike knows can help a leader succeed. He shared insight from 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene centered on the impact a good team can have. Mike said, “Napoleon had generals he could trust to execute the plan he formulated. Many of his opponents would remark on Napoleon’s ability to attack from all sides.” Mike approaches building a team in a similar manner. In his opinion, a team should have a combination of a variety of skills and talents. Then when team members are equipped with resources and have support, they can strategically execute a common goal.
If Mike could talk to his younger self, he would have some words of wisdom to share. There was a time in his life where he lacked the confidence to go after his dreams. This fear caused Mike to talk himself out of things which ultimately led to regret. He recommends not being afraid to fail and wish he went after some of the entrepreneurial ideas he had. If he could make a class mandatory in schools, it would be entrepreneurial thinking. This class would focus on the process of understanding and addressing a problem, formulating a solution, marketing and selling the product, and all of the processes in between. Mike feels the toolset gained from entrepreneurship is unmatchable.
Additional information & insight from Mike…
Mike encourages future leaders to:
Always… be action oriented and just do it.
Never… don’t do the things you want and need to.
Follow… solutions. Allow problem-solving to drive what you do.
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