Jacopo Leonardi’s 2016 Honorable Mentor speech

Good afternoon to all of you Super Sheroes out there! To Jennifer Cook, our inspiring Woman of the Year, to our Rising Stars and Luminaries, and all other incredible women leaders, this is your day!

I am truly humbled to be recognized by the HBA as the Honorable Mentor. Humbled because all of my life, I have been inspired and shaped by remarkable Super Sheroes. I couldn’t possibly give back in 1000 lifetimes all of the joy and lessons I have learned from the many remarkable women in my life. I’ve kind of won the woman leadership lottery. As a coach and mentor there is no greater joy than to see others shine, and I have used this joyful sense of purpose to energize and give to others as much as I can.

I may have learned this lesson in life a little earlier than most…the hard way. When I was 17, my brother Daniel and I were in a horrific car accident…car flipped over, Dan was thrown out of the hatch back window…hit a tree. I was knocked unconscious and pinned between a car and the curb…they had to use the Jaws of Life to get me out. We were lucky to survive. The universe had spoken. It wasn’t our time.

Many times since that day, I’ve had the same burning existential thought…if that would have been my time, would I have left this world any better off than when I came in…would I have made a meaningful difference. So, now, any time I’m faced with a challenge and need to dig deep, I ask myself two simple questions…If not me then who?

…and if not now, then when? The truth is, being a dedicated mentor of women is not enough. We can dream bigger. We can do even more. I have a dream.

A dream that I share with the incredible leaders of the HBA that someday in the very near future, our board rooms and executive offices will truly reflect the diversity of the communities we serve and that at least half of CEOs, executive officers, and board members will be women and diverse leaders.

So, if we really want to change the world, we must spark and accelerate a diversity and inclusion revolution, inspiring people of all kinds to be their best, true selves, to dream big and be bold and to work together in a high performing, inclusive manner so that they can make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.

When I look out into this room, I see a ballroom filled with such talented leaders.

If not us then who, and if not now, then when?

So, how are we going to do it!

Well, if we want to accelerate diverse leadership at the top, we must move from just mentoring to sponsoring and championing. You see, because with sponsorship and championship, we have more skin in the game.

Sponsorship is saying that I want to take a bet on someone who I see greatness in before they see it in themselves and championship is saying that I am going to fight for her to take on that greater leadership role, someone who I know with a little caring, coaching and support will unleash her Shero Superpowers and be the legacy leaving leader we know she can be.

The good news is there are shining examples of sponsorship and championship happening right now. I want to recognize two of my great heroes: Ludwig Hantson, our brilliant Baxalta leader and Brian Goff, the 2014 Honorable Mentor.

You two have role modeled what it means to serve, inspire, and champion women leaders to be their very best selves: You and our many fine leaders at Baxalta have proven that sponsoring and championing women and diverse leaders is a competitive advantage leading to a more meaningful impact on healthcare and on a healthy and sustainable business. Ludwig and Brian, thank you.

I also want to recognize a few personal heroes and super heroes who taught me sponsorship and championship along the way. The dynamic duo, my parents Luigi and Linda. Pop, thanks for showing me what it means to be all in each and every day, and live life with passion and enthusiasm and to champion the best in others. And, Mom, so insightful and always having a deep understanding of others and how to inspire the best in people. Mom, from the time I was a little boy you had the superpower of making me feel like the superhero I always wanted to be… even if I really was just Clark Kent…or some goofy kid running around a Queens apartment complex in Batman Underoos and a towel for a cape.

Mom and Dad, thank you for always making me feel like I was more than enough for this world.

And my beautiful and loving wife, Leslie. The incredible rock and foundation of our family…..you are so talented, intelligent, caring, supportive, and wise…better than me in every imaginable way. In the wise words of Amanda Morgan…how the heck did I end up with her?! Thanks honey for taking a bet on me and for being the best mother a husband could want to our four wonderful children.

So, now, I would like to tell you about a few trailblazers, my original Healthcare Super Sheroes. Denice Torres and Christi Shaw…you might know Denice as the 2015 Woman of the Year and Christi as a legacy-leaving leader profiled on magazine covers. But, to me, they were my first true Super Sheroes in Healthcare! And, they taught me a very important lesson that the real you is the most powerful you. Thank you, Denice and Christi.

My last and perhaps most important story highlights the true power of sponsorship and championship and how a truly diverse and inclusive team inspired by a common meaningful purpose, can spark a healthcare community to dream big and live life to the fullest.

Shannon Resetich, our Baxalta Rising Star is no ordinary Super Shero. I met Shannon a little over 7 years ago. I was struck by how different Shannon was….she had presence…and she was so present…She is an amazing and powerful listener…so good at  inspiring the best in her team, recognizing their achievements, and giving them the opportunity to shine.  Shannon is a true servant leader. But, I also noticed something else…that Shannon was holding back, that there was more that she could offer. Sometimes all we need is a little encouragement, a little push, someone to be a mirror to show us the real us and the real brilliance inside. So, I encouraged Shannon to be bold! You are an inspiring and superstar leader…go do what you do…I got your back!

And she did. Oh she did!!…and that mild mannered, servant leader Shannon Resetich, mother of six, transformed into the velvet hammer….able to caringly connect and win the hearts of the rare and inherited bleeding conditions community and her Baxalta team with authentic grace and insight combined with the inner toughness of justice and perseverance.

And, together, with a team of diverse Sheroes and Heroes at Baxalta they sparked a movement in the bleeding conditions community to not accept bleeding as part of their condition…to imagine a life without bleeds, and, helped prevent tens of thousands of bleeding episodes over the past few years which is incredibly meaningful because when you’re not bleeding, you’re living.

Our Super Sheroes at Baxalta (and I have six tables of ‘em right here!!) aren’t just leaders, they are true sparks…Not only did this great team at Baxalta help improve healthcare in rare disease communities but they also helped drive a highly sustainable and successful business…consistently exceeding Wall Street expectations and beating the long range forecast by almost one billion dollars.

So there it is….and, it is because of Shannon’s story of sponsorship and championship and so many others like her that I ask you…that I implore you to act. Without advocates and champions, Shannon may not have had the platform to do what she did. How many other Super SHeroes are out there…I see a ballroom filled with thousands of ‘em!

My daughter Emma and I were enjoying a daddy-daughter trip to Boston University where she will be a freshman in the fall and we were discussing the acceleration of women in leadership. I was describing some of the incredible women that have inspired me over the years and I said…so and so is an incredible woman leader. And, she just looked at me with a pensive look far beyond her 18 years and said, “Dad, I can’t wait for the day when we as a society can just drop the word woman from that statement.” Me too sweetheart.

So, to all of you…both men and women, before you walk out that door, I want you to pause and reflect and think of at least one outstanding leader that you will sponsor…that you will champion…to help unleash her boldest, best self…because by unleashing the superpowers of so many incredible women leaders, so many Super Sheroes, I know that, together as men and women, we can and we will spark a healthcare revolution….so, who’s with me!?



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