WILLOUGHBY: Micajah Sturdivant leading MMI in a meeting of the minds

One of the things that I encourage leaders to do is have a “Mastermind Mind” group of 8-12 people who meet regularly to sharpen their skills. It is said that it is “lonely at the top,” and I have found that to be true for most leaders. These small groups provide a forum for leaders to share in private about their challenges and ambitions.In my book Zoom Entrepreneur, I encourage readers to become involved in a group like this in order to have your own personal board of advisors and to create accountability for your professional goals. Over a year ago, I spoke at one of these small groups organized by some young business leaders in Jackson. I was impressed by their ambition and commitment to being their very best. Many of these young leaders were balancing the demands of career and family yet they were taking the time to grow personally and professionally.

Micajah Sturdivant

Micajah Sturdivant

One of these leaders I met in that group was Micajah Sturdivant. Sturdivant was recently named president of MMI Hotel Group, which owns and operates hotels across the Southeast serving thousands of guests daily. A native of Itta Bena, Sturdivant grew up on a family farm and earned his undergraduate degree at Ole Miss. He then went on follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. Sturdivant shared,“From an early age, a goal was to continue the tradition as the third Sturdivant generation to attend HBS. I am thankful to Chancellor Robert Khayat for recommending that I remain in-state and attend undergrad at Ole Miss. The experiences and relationships I developed there are invaluable to me today.”

Sturdivant emphasized to me a realization he had about leadership while at Harvard under the mentoring of Professor Nitin Nohria (who is now the dean of the business school). Nohria shared that every few years, the school invited several young, Fortune 100 CEOs to meet together and discuss their roles and responsibilities overseeing tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in sales. In this setting, the executives were encouraged to be “real” about their challenges. In this environment, the chiefs of their respective industries could openly admit that they didn’t know everything about everything. Their humanness was revealed and in doing so, they found that they shared many of the same concerns.

Sturdivant shared, “I was relieved when Dean Nohria told me that I didn’t have to know everything about everything. As a leader, your job is to provide the resources to allow those you have appropriately selected to excel. You just need to know enough about the subject to move them forward.” He also believes that the key responsibilities of a leader are to set the pace, remember the goals, and communicate. Sturdivant credits the strong leaders in his family as developing his leadership ability. He learned that successful leadership is a result of sincere service to others and the importance of treating each experience as an opportunity and obligation to move yourself and others forward. Sturdivant also said, “I believe it is important to model good work habits and commitment to those you lead.”

Sturdivant and his fellow colleagues I met with represent tomorrow’s leadership. I am encouraged by their passion for excellence and the investments they are making in their future. I would keep an eye on Sturdivant, as I believe he will be an impactful leader in our state for years to come.

Sturdivant said, “We, as strivers, can eventually lead; but leadership doesn’t mean that we have to be best at everything. We are all human and can rely on others. We must set the pace, remember the goal, and communicate.”

Up Close With Micajah Sturdivant

Title: President, MMI Hotel Group

First Job: ”Chopping cotton for my father… I made sure to find another job the next summer.”

Favorite Books: 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Work Place (Drs. Chapman and White); The Advantage (Patrick Lencioni)

Proudest Moment as a Leader: “I am most proud of continuing the legacy as the third generation to lead as president of MMI Hotel Group (Mississippi Management, Inc.). Mr. Earle Jones and my grandfather founded MMI on principles of family culture — not only creating jobs and paychecks, but also as a way to positively impact the lives of their employees. Today, I stand alongside our 750 associates, striving to serve in such a way that honors these admirable ‘founding fathers.’”

Hobbies/Interests: Running, architecture and design, and civic service

Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.

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