TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett’s 4 ‘Leadership Gems’

Originally published on LinkedIn. TIAA ranked No. 9 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.


As part of the M. Keith Weikel Leadership Speaker Series at the Wisconsin School of Business, TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett shared four “leadership gems.”

“The more I listened, the more I fell in love,” Duckett told Paul Smirl about her role. “At TIAA, I get to further accelerate my purpose which is to inspire and make an impact. I get to think about (my parents) Rosie and Otis Brown every day. I get to be surrounded by individuals who are passionate about who we are. And I was able to break a few ceilings along the way.”

Duckett’s Leadership Gems

Duckett shared four tips to be a better leader with the Wisconsin School of Business.

1. Intellectual Curiosity Matters

You don’t have to be an expert in your subject area, but you should be curious about things you know nothing about and proximate to things that aren’t your “given.” Duckett says to move up and make an impact, you need to lean into business areas that you’re not immediately good at and be willing to take risks to learn more and grow.

2. Take Your Shot

“Tell yourself ‘What if?’” Duckett says. Don’t let the doubt and the uncertainty in your mind stop you from going after your goals and visualizing yourself in your dream role. Work hard and don’t eliminate the possibility of achieving.

3. Your Authenticity Is Where Your Magic Lies

Diversity of thought is important, but so is the diversity of perspective. For Duckett, she has the perspective of a Black woman, someone from Texas, a daughter, mother, sister and friend. She also is an individual who is first-generation full integration and a daughter of a father who didn’t go to college.

Duckett’s perspectives can’t be replicated and neither can yours. Use your unique collage of perspectives to provide insights to your team at work. Even if you aren’t a senior member of your team, trust in who you are and what experiences you bring.

“You rent your title, you own your character,” says Duckett.

4. Empathy Is Always Important

Corporate America learned through the pandemic that mental health is real, and leading during a traumatic time requires empathy as much as it does smarts. Being able to understand your coworkers and customers is key to any business’ success, and maintaining relationships amongst struggle will get you far in your career.