“It doesn’t matter what sector, in life and in business there are things that leaders do. They model the way, create a shared vision, enable to people to act, inspire the heart, and challenge the process.”
Reginald Mebane, EEO Officer, Director Equal Employment Opportunity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta recommends for each person to utilize all of the tools in their toolbox. He is also a member of the Senior Executive Service(SES), the highest ranking executives in the federal government. Reginald applied what he learned from growing up in the north Memphis projects to receive a scholarship to Exeter Academy, one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. He briefly attended the Air Force Academy and later received his undergraduate and Master’s degrees from the University of Memphis.
Due to his inspirational life journey, Reginald’s bio is featured in chapter five of the book, “The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention” by Pamela Mitchell. This book is on the Harvard business book recommended reading list. You may not know that Reginald worked the night shift for twenty years while working at FedEx. While working the night shift, he became a psychiatric case manager, psychotherapist and also an adjunct professor. Reginald later became a COO at FedEx Trade Networks before being recruited to come to the CDC to help modernize their $4B vaccine supply chain operations. FedEx had significant positive leadership impact on Reginald not only his management career, but in his life as well. He met his wife while working the night shift at FedEx and is grateful to have met such a great partner; As opposite as they are in personalities, he is quick to say, “I would marry her again in a heartbeat.” Choosing the right path and the right partners in your journey ultimately determine your destiny.
“Everything you do in your life ends up being connected to everything else you do, you just can’t see it at the time”, remarks Reginald. His career transformed and transcended without a grand plan. Reginald initially came to the CDC to help to bring in outside best business practices as the Chief Management Officer/COO of the $7B Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases. This is one of his most proud and reflective career milestones. His fresh perspective helps to set him apart as a leader. Reginald believes in collaboration and is always willing to share his blueprints with others. It is a core belief he carries with him from childhood. He strives to be a good coach, servant leader, and mentor as a way of life.
As a leader, Reginald believes it’s important to create a positive environment where people feel included. A lot of his leadership philosophy stems from psychology and concepts such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the innate need for people be able to contribute and be a productive part of ‘the pack’ . The leader sets the tone and builds the environment that enables the team to succeed. Growing up, Reginald watched his mom freely give to others, even when they did not have a lot to give, in essence permanently imprinting his core beliefs and leadership style.
Reginald first remembers leading with his family. He first realized the gravity of his responsibility as a leader when he was a manager at FedEx. Teaching at the prestigious FedEx Leadership Institute to people around the globe helped to solidify his leadership techniques and principles. If Reginald could add a class to school curriculums, he would create a class for African Americans about ‘the unwritten rules for survival’ in organizations and corporate America. Reginald believes that every leader should take unconscious bias training and focus on inclusive leadership. Bias is part of the human condition and good leaders must guard against making poor decisions that affect people at work and in life. We are all recovering from biases we grew up with.
Life experiences and his upbringing have led Reginald to focus on changing people’s lives in many ways. Reginald inquires, ‘if you are not paving the way for others and opening doors, what are you living for’? The Reginald we know today has been shaped and influenced by many mentors and he is very thankful for their guidance. He feels an honorable obligation to mentor others, and many depend on him for advice and guidance. One lesson Reginald teaches is, “it is an inescapable fact of life that you must overcome barriers”. It all starts with the power of your thinking. Reginald believes resilience and perseverance are the essential tools that carry you through the peaks and valleys of life's journey.
Reginald applied for his first real job as a dishwasher at age 16 at the Holiday Inn so he could buy his first car. That teenager probably could not have imagined that he would one day become a top level executive who also had a cameo in the movie Castaway, Chairman of the Health Education and Housing Finance Board, and board member for the nation's 5th largest Catholic healthcare system. Reginald is a classic movie fan and also a voracious reader. To relax Reginald explores new hiking trails, global travel and writing. He currently has two finished books ready for release at a later date. His family including his twin daughters, wife, and mother make him smile. Reginald is grateful to have both good mental and physical health. He urges everyone to “Live your bucket list!” Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Keep your eyes on the mountain top prize, but enjoy the view every day as you climb.
Reginald encourages future leaders to:
Always… remember you have a responsibility to open doors and make things better for others.
Never… pass judgment without having the full story, listen to all sides.
Follow… your heart and rational mind. Balance emotions with rational thinking.
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