Sage Advice

Strategy & Leadership

“Great leadership usually starts with a willing heart, a positive attitude, and a desire to make a difference.”
– Mac Anderson


Words of Wisdom from Local Leaders

Individuals at all stages of their careers often seek advice from a trusted colleague or mentor when seeking personal development, hoping to better serve clients or customers, or trying to overcome a difficult situation. Here, local business leaders share advice that has remained with them throughout their careers, and passed down words of wisdom they return to when faced with a challenge.


Jim McKenzie

Tennessee Market President, FirstBank

I worked with my dad for seven years, and he gave me some great advice that could apply to anyone working in any field. It’s applicable to your boss or your customers. When presented with a request, realizing that some requests require time, try to always do three things:

1. Respond with immediate follow-up. Even when you don’t have an answer to the request, acknowledge receipt of the request and that you will be back with a reply shortly.

2. Provide attention to detail. It can take time to get the facts, but supervisors and customers want accurate information that provides sufficient detail.

3. Lastly, show some enthusiasm with your response. Maintaining a positive attitude when dealing with others is so important. Even if the request may not be very important in your eyes, it is to your supervisor or customer. Enthusiasm and a can-do spirit never go out of style.

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Becky Farmer, MBA

CEO, Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics

One of my personal rules in business is to always hire people who are better than you – then learn from the expertise they bring to your organization. Surrounding yourself with subject matter experts is key to success regardless of your industry. If you let them, it could be easy to allow insecurities to keep you from fully leaning on and trusting your team. When you empower people to do their very best work, everyone wins.



Abby Medley

Regional Vice President of Operations, Morning Pointe Senior Living

Surround yourself with those who are smarter than you. They will help to push you and guide you in ways you could never expect. Do not be afraid that someone knows more than you or is more experienced. Connect and learn from them.

I work in the senior living industry and am surrounded by residents who have had wonderful careers. I seek them out and listen to their stories and advice. There is so much knowledge in experience.

Do not be afraid to ask questions. Lean on your team, trust your gut, and power through the difficult times; you learn who you can be through those times.

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Mark A. Cunningham

President and Managing Shareholder, Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C.

Strive to find a mentor in your profession who is invested in you and your long-term success. During your career, you will encounter pressures that are both expected and unexpected. Developing a deep relationship with a successful leader in your organization or industry will provide you a sense of direction when you have lost the path. And you will lose the path. Often, I see younger professionals hesitate to pursue these relationships for any number of reasons or mistakenly expect that mentorship is something that should be given and not earned. Like all relationships, it cannot be a one-way street. You need to be invested in your mentor’s success as well. However, if you can establish that meaningful relationship, your mentor will likely value it as much as you do. If that occurs, you can be assured that you will have a strong advocate invested in you and your success.

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Jensen Hyde, MD, MPH

Chief Medical Officer, Erlanger

To any young person aiming for success in their field – it’s not something that is going to happen overnight. Do everything you can to absorb and digest the information around you and most importantly, keep showing up! So much of learning how systems work and developing skills around leadership, business, and medicine can happen if you keep taking a seat at the table. Never turn down any opportunities where you can be of assistance because the growth and knowledge gained from everyday experiences are immeasurable. It may be a difficult road ahead, but nonetheless rewarding. Every person is capable of bettering themselves and in turn, making a difference around them.

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Shevonda Sherrow, MD, FACOG

Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Innovative Women’s Health Specialists

My career has been dynamic. There have been highs and lows. There have been tears and belly laughs. What has been constant is my desire to improve the lives of everyone I have come in contact with. My advice is: Do what you can; the best you can. Remember who you are, which is not just your career and has nothing to do with fleeting opinions of others. Serve others. Love yourself. Remember and embrace all aspects of yourself. You are more than your career.

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Mark Walker, PhD

President, Lee University

Remain teachable.

The Key to Everything, a book by Matt Keller, was an inspiring read for me several years ago. The title immediately caught my attention, for who doesn’t want to know the key to everything? Keller’s key is “teachability,” which he defines as “desire to learn times willingness to change.”

Throughout my life and career, remaining teachable has been an important, yet sometimes elusive element to my success. I’ve attempted to avoid an attitude of “having arrived” while also attempting to cultivate an attitude of being open to new ideas and opportunities. It’s required me to regularly ask myself what is my desire to learn and what is my willingness to change? These aren’t easy questions at times, but they’re necessary for continued growth and development.

For me, teachability has often led to encountering fascinating people and engaging in life-changing experiences.

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