In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, Terry Turner, president of North American Retail at JDA, writes about the most impactful woman in his life and what that has meant for his own career and journey.
The best example I have on women in leadership is my wife, Sharon. We have co-led and co-labored in our marriage for 43 years. We met at 13, married at 18 and 19, and today she is still my best friend.
Together we completed my education degree at Pepperdine University; I was already working full-time in the Computer Industry and going to school full time and would not have graduated without her help. We built businesses together. We raised a very special and gifted daughter, Kelly and wise leader and creative son, Kevin. We then inherited a wonderful son-in-law, Hesston, and daughter-in-law Cori. We are now pouring energy into 7 special grandkids – Dakota, Kaleb, Seth, Leyton, Shiloh, Aubrey, and Logan. For the past 17 years, we have enjoyed teaching, counseling, mentoring, encouraging and pouring energy into married couples in all seasons of life, from newlyweds to empty nesters, through our church and through JH Ranch Husband/Wife Ministries in Northern California.
I have learned much from Sharon over our decades together, and as we recognize women all over the world this week for International Women’s Day, I’d like to share the traits she exhibits as a true leader.
Sharon is a brilliant administrator and makes sound decisions. She has exhibited this profoundly in the homes we have built together through the years. We would walk onto the property during construction phases and the workers all wanted to talk to Sharon, walking past me like I did not exist! They knew who was making the decisions and moving these projects along.
She has great instincts and the gift of connecting. I can share about my day at work with customers, partners, and associates and she has an intuition about the dynamics of my relationships with them without meeting them. She has impeccable character and maintains relationships from childhood, through college, and all our years of marriage. At company functions, I may be all over the room meeting everyone, connecting with as many people as I can. Sharon will be spending her time with just one or two women, getting to know all about them. When we get home, I could not tell you two things about anyone I met, but Sharon could tell me the life story, family, career, hobbies, accomplishments, and fears of the individuals she spent the evening getting to know. She connects, she reads, she empathizes.
She imparts wisdom and guidance. Young women – single and married – seek her wisdom and guidance, as do our children. In all cases, she offers it freely. She builds relationships that extend beyond the good times to get them through the tough spots that life can throw at us. She is a true loyal friend! She is a peacemaker and literally has no enemies. She is my partner and my best friend and she believed in me in my darkest hours. She NEVER speaks evil of anyone and has the patience of Job.
Sharon has taught me the value of people and thoughtful decision-making. Sharon loves life and values people. When I want to make a snap decision, she will slow me down to ensure I have considered all the facts and have all the details. I would hire Sharon in a minute to lead any team or deal. When she worked at Xerox she excelled for these reasons.
She shows me what a woman in leadership can do. Sharon’s approach to leadership starts with respecting and valuing all people. She is a great listener. She has empathy. She sees the whole person, not just a moment in time or a certain situation. I am fully aware of the challenge women face as they work toward not just equal footing in the workplace, but career advancement. Anyone who questions women in leadership and advancement has simply not met Sharon. She has taught me that women can be stellar leaders – and that you don’t have to have a title to be one!
I recently became the Executive Sponsor of JDA’s Women’s Interest Network (WIN) and believe strongly in what this group stands for, and what JDA stands for when it comes to diversity and inclusion. This week, as International Women’s Day commences, we are reminded of the importance of inviting women onto the world’s stage and to trust them in positions of prominence and leadership. In many ways, they are more prepared to lead with less insecurities and abilities to see through things than men are. As a leader, I have an opportunity – and an obligation – to push for a more gender-balanced world, celebrating women and diversity today, and every day. Thankfully, I’ve got the perfect role model in my wife, Sharon. On this day to honor all women in all walks of life, I ask you – what women are you learning from? And who among them are you advocating for? Which women are your role models?