Mike Federle CEO Forbes interviews Mike Hyter CEO The ELC
MIKE FEDERLE: Mike, congratulations on becoming CEO of The Executive Leadership Council. What do you want people to know about The ELC?
MIKE HYTER: the Executive Leadership Council is about Black Excellence, primarily in the corporate space. We have more than 800 members who represent about 493 companies. We take great pride in serving the social and developmental needs of our members, who are Black executives typically within two levels of the enterprise-wide CEo. We also have a growing number of entrepreneurs and a commitment to accelerating the development of Black professionals for C-suite, CEo, and board director roles. As a nonprofit the ELC provides philanthropic support and scholarships to help build the Black leadership talent pipeline.
FEDERLE: Why do you think you were chosen as ELC CEO now, at such a critical time?
HYTER: i believe my 40-year career prepared me for this. i was a corporate executive with a major retailer in 1994 when i was inducted into the ELC. there were relatively few Black executives in corporate leadership positions then, and it was a breath of fresh air for me to be with other people like me who understood and experienced the same duality of responsibility and obligation that came with being a Black corporate executive. A few years later, i left that corporation for a small, diversity and inclusion boutique company, and eventually became its CEo. it became one of the largest privately owned diversity and inclusion consulting firms in the world and i sold it to Korn Ferry in 2012. i stayed on as an executive, coaching CEos and boards in strategic diversity and inclusion and CEo succession. the combination of familiarity with the ELC and having built a business in the diversity inclusion space through relationships with many global corporations and boards prepared me for this opportunity.
FEDERLE: Following George Floyd’s murder The ELC convened a Juneteenth gathering of CEOs to address racism and social injustice. What progress have you seen and what work still needs to be done?
HYTER: It was the first time I saw such a collective intentionality by CEos to want to be better, to want to address racial disparities. A problem that existed for 400 years seemed to be acknowledged for the first time by many, and CEos really wanted to do something about it. this reckoning caused genuine introspection and a need for meaningful and lasting change. it is my hope that this corporate sensitivity is sustained and the ELC will continue to work with organizations to help them be more intentional about the development, growth and promotion of Black executives and professionals.
FEDERLE: The ELC is celebrating its 35th anniversary. What has The ELC done to strengthen its relevance?
HYTER: We were founded in 1986 with 19 Black executives who wanted to have a social and professional development outlet at the executive level. Before then, there had never been a Black corporate CEo and a couple of years later, Cliff Wharton became the first corporate Black CEO at TIAA. Few Blacks occupied board seats in the 1980s. today, the ELC’s advocacy, Corporate Board initiative, and strategic partnerships with the Alliance for Board Diversity have helped place many more Black board directors. tens of thousands of young executives have benefited from the ELC’s programs over the last 35 years. i am thrilled that two Black women have recently become CEos at two of the 500 largest U.S. corporations, roz Brewer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, and thasunda Duckett at tiAA. ms. Duckett succeeds roger Ferguson, and both are ELC members. it is the first time in history that a Black corporate CEo has succeeded another Black executive. there has been significant progress and we expect the ELC to continue to make a difference.
FEDERLE: What does The ELC Institute for Leadership Development & Research offer?
HYTER: The Institute is a significant part of the ELC. institute programs provide Black professionals, mid-level managers, executives, and board directors with developmental opportunities and the chance to share their knowledge and experiences. institute programs are designed to support Black development throughout the career lifecycle. Last year we probably touched at least 10,000 people with the institute’s virtual events. the institute also conducts research on the state of Black executives and publishes a journal that speaks to the Black professional experience.
FEDERLE: What are some of the best practices corporate leaders embrace to get measurable results?
HYTER: robust leadership development programs that are very success profiledriven with clear behavioral competencies for selecting talent enable companies to hire talent based on a person’s true abilities. intentionally giving people an opportunity to grow across multiple areas with support, and positioning talent for profit and loss experiences early in their career, is a best practice. Another best practice are organizations that are more deliberate about executive level sponsorship of Black talent. Sponsorship is the ticket to 90% of C-suite posts, and organizations that sponsor Black professionals and provide them with direct, credible stretch assignments are the most successful.
FEDERLE: There are about five Black CEOs of the largest corporations now and there have never been more than 20. What can be done to increase Black representation in that top job?
HYTER: there clearly is a bias that appears to presume limitations for Black professionals versus white males. that imbalance puts Black professionals at a disadvantage. research that the ELC did in partnership with Korn Ferry on the Black P&L Leader identified some common headwinds including microaggressions, social exclusion and being subjected to unjust assumptions. Companies can consciously make it easier for all groups to have the opportunity to advance in a way that is supportive if they’re serious about it.
FEDERLE: Mike, thank you for your insight.
HYTER: it’s been an absolute pleasure. thank you.