The Right Place at the Right Time

by Savoy Staff

Michael C. Hyter is president and CEO of The Executive Leadership Council in Washington, DC, appointed in March 2021 to lead the 35-year-old organization with a mission to increase the number of Black corporate CEOs, C-Suite executives, and board members, and build a pipeline of the next generation of Black corporate leaders.

The Executive Leadership Council Celebrates 35 Years of Black Leadership in Corporate America With a New CEO and Renewed Focus on Black Board Diversity

When Michael C. Hyter was inducted as a member of The Executive Leadership Council (ELC) in 1994, he did not imagine that one day he would lead the organization. Yet, in March 2021 he took the reins of The ELC in its 35th year as it broadened its mission to increase the number of successful Black executives in C-Suites and on corporate boards.

“I firmly believe The ELC is positioned to aggressively help accelerate the number of Black CEOs, C-suite executives and board directors in corporate America,” said Hyter. “It’s been my sense that the representation of Black leadership at the highest levels has been relatively stagnant, while we’ve watched businesses and the economy continue to grow and thrive over the past 35 years. With my skills and resources, and the brand The ELC and its members and member companies represent, it is the right place and the right time for The ELC to be more intentional and impactful in helping to move the needle in the right direction for Black executives across all levels in corporate America.

Mike, as he prefers, will tell you that his career path prepared him for his post as president and chief executive officer as he watched the organization grow from fewer than 200 members to more than 800 today. Along the way, he gained experience as a corporate executive and entrepreneur. He also served as chairman of The ELC’s philanthropic foundation and managed the Washington, DC office of the executive search firm Korn Ferry, prior to being appointed its chief diversity officer. He was the most recent ELC CEO to be appointed to a public company board when he was named in July 2020 as an independent director on the board of Dine Brands Global, Inc., one of the world’s largest full-service dining companies.

Mike’s affinity for the work of The ELC began at his first member meeting when one of the founding members, the late Alvaro L. Martins, approached him and pledged to support and guide him. He was embraced by the organization and gave back just as much as he gained as an active member.

As the organization grew and evolved, so did Mike’s involvement. The ELC actively engages its members in developing the next generation of Black corporate leaders, conducting numerous management and executive level development programs. Recognizing the influence of corporate boards on diversity and inclusion policies and practices, The ELC began tracking the number of Black executives appointed to corporate boards and publishing a census of Blacks on boards.

By 2004, The ELC collaborated with several other organizations to form the Alliance for Board Diversity (ABD) to track and report on the appointments of women and minority board directors. After several reports measured little to no progress in board appointments for women and minorities, The ELC in 2011 launched a campaign to aggressively advocate for the appointment of more Black executives to C-Suites and the boards of publicly traded companies. It introduced an enhanced board director development program called the Corporate Board Initiative or CBI.

Paula Cholmondeley, Chair of The ELC’s Corporate Board Initiative (CBI), listens intently along with CBI cohort members during a panel discussion featuring insights from ELC members currently seated on corporate boards.

CBI was created to prepare Black executives for service on corporate boards. The program builds awareness, improves readiness and enhances the visibility of ELC members who are interested in and actively pursuing board service. Ten years later, with more than 200 ELC members being placed on corporate boards, ELC member Paula Cholmondeley is leading the charge as chair of the CBI committee and Principal of The Sorrel Group. She serves on the Boards of Directors of Terex Corporation and Bank OZK and is Independent Trustee for Nationwide Mutual Funds.

“The Executive Leadership Council has always been focused on supporting its members as they rise,” says Cholmondeley. “The continued appointment of our members and graduates of the CBI program to corporate boards is a living example of The ELC’s value in action. Even before they have completed their education program our members are being placed and expressing their appreciation for the support this program and The ELC have provided.”

Adds Cholmondeley, “We also measure our success by the numerous additional requests we receive from the same company or organization for candidates. The ELC is changing the Black director landscape.”

“Few Black executives occupied board seats in the 1980s. Today, The ELC’s advocacy, CBI, and strategic partnerships with the ABD, the Board Diversity Action Alliance, Equilar and other key organizations focused on Black board diversity have helped place many more Black board directors,” said Hyter. Another influence was last year’s murder of George Floyd. It caused many people, including corporate leaders, to reflect on the severe disparities that have existed for centuries.

“This year we have seen a significant increase in companies seeking the Black executive experience and talent that exists within and outside The ELC,” added Hyter. “More nominating committees and companies have asked for our help with identifying candidates for corporate board seats and we have an incredible pool of talent within our membership to fill them.”

In his first year as ELC CEO, he is working hard to achieve significant, sustained growth in Black representation in corporate C-Suites and boardrooms and help create generational economic wealth for the Black community. His is a legacy we will be watching.


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