The Faces of Modern Leadership series spotlights rising directors who are part of Diligent’s Modern Leadership initiative, a network of nearly 700,000 CEOs, board directors and executives. Modern Leadership aims to impact diversity, equity and inclusion at more than 16,000 organizations worldwide, dedicated to building the largest, most diverse pool of highly qualified directors and executives in the world.
Tracy R. Porter, CEO, Entrepreneur, and Board Director is a fervent advocate for diverse governance. He is currently the founder and CEO of Premiere Solutions fleet management company, chairman of the NFL Alumni Association, and charter member of the NCAA Independent Resolution Panel. Tracy is committed to meaningful board service and upholding a legacy of social justice as founder of the Blacks on Boards Committee within the Boulé (Sigma Pi Phi fraternity).
Backstory: Honing the Teachings of an American Football Career
As a student athlete playing football at Louisiana State University, Tracy learned a lot about teamwork, giving him strong transferrable skills for the business and social world. After going on to play professionally in the NFL, Tracy came to understand the true value of those skills in any real world application: “Time management, work ethic, teamwork – they’re all critical when you’re on any kind of team.”
Following the end of his NFL career, Tracy stepped into the world of diversified healthcare with sales and marketing roles at Johnson & Johnson. He then pivoted to the automotive sector, doing marketing for struggling dealerships, and was quickly recognized as a successful entrepreneur, getting the chance to buy a Mercedes Benz dealership. Tracy bought it, turned it around and was able to sell, and found that it was time to take the next step in his entrepreneurial trajectory: starting his own management business.
Tracy reflects that it wasn’t easy to go from the corporate world to running his own business as an entrepreneur, but he still managed to stay nimble and ready for change. “It’s about being able to take risks, strategically,” says Tracy.
The Secret Sauce for Success
As a leader, Tracy flexes strong talent management traits, putting teams together to complement and supplement individual skill sets. His experiences across his diverse background in sports, healthcare, and automotive also give him a solid foundation for understanding a wide range of demographics.
“I understand how to be successful on a team. Lots of boards now are talking about culture that permeates all the way down. I’ve done that. I can lead by example as to how to create the right culture at the top that goes down to the entry level of the organization.”
Thoughts on Diversity and ESG
Over the last two years, the business climate for corporate leaders has become more challenging in a variety of ways. Tracy emphasizes ESG and diversity as a major challenge facing many companies and leaders as they attempt to define where they stand.
“How do you respond to diversity? If you don’t have a diverse board, how do you respond to that? How can you go to your stakeholders and claim you understand and decide how to respond? Companies have come out with statements, but those who lack the perspective can’t do it effectively.”
Tracy stresses the value of diverse boards and the dangers of groupthink. “You won’t have the best solutions come out if everyone thinks the same way,” Tracy explains. He posits that if there is diversity in gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. amongst the people sitting around the table at the c-suite, management, entry-level and board level, better results ensue. “To the extent you can have that diversity, you bring the maximum stakeholder value.”
A Passion for Paying it Forward
When he’s not at his management company, Tracy says his passion project is, “Helping people. I want to pay it forward.” He’s established a civic organization in his community that helps at risk and underprivileged children and has adopted a school district.
“We work there after school with the kids and receive parental consent to get the kids to come out on Saturday mornings and get exposure to STEM. We also have a relationship with Yahoo! and took the kids there to meet the president.”
Tracy explains that the goal with the Yahoo! partnership is to increase the kids’ exposure to different roles and experiences to demonstrate why education is so valuable for career development. “Despite your current situation, you need to think about going to college. College is the key,” says Tracy.
Tracy’s Pick for Best Read on Leadership
In the Eye of the Storm: My Time As Chairman of Bank of America During the Country’s Worst Financial Crisis by Walter E. Massey