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Jesse Cureton on Leadership & Success

African-American philanthropy has been the subject of recent Charlotte-area nonprofit programming. Over the past month, PMA featured blog content highlighting individuals influential in driving black philanthropy forward, both locally and nationally. Below is the final post in the series.​

After a successful 25-year tenure in the financial industry, Jesse Cureton joined Novant Health in 2013 as the chief consumer officer, the highest-ranking African American position in the company. Cureton was recently featured in Charlotte’s Society magazine and has received numerous leadership awards throughout his career.

At the Bethlehem Center’s “Laughs, Lunch, & Legacy” luncheon, Cureton asked the audience, “Are you more comfortable in who you are, what you know, and who you know than you are uncomfortable in what you don’t know?” From there, he urged the audience to become leaders and risk-takers by presenting his three foundational elements for success.

1. Who you are

jesse-cureton-150“Who you are is that foundational element of who we are and what we represent,” Cureton explains. A native Charlottean, Cureton grew up in Brooklyn, one of Charlotte’s south side neighborhoods now known as First Ward. He was born to a teenage mother and participated in programs at the Bethlehem Center as a child.He then moved on to become student body president of West Charlotte High School for two terms.

Cureton understands the importance of giving back to underprivileged youth, as he recognizes who he was andhow that knowledge motivated him to overcome his circumstances. He received a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a Master in Business Administration at Queens University of Charlotte. He later enjoyed a highly successful career as the regional executive managing director for U.S. Trust at Bank of America Private Wealth Management. “When you invest early in the disadvantaged children of the community,” Cureton insists, “the dividends are huge long term.”

Beyond acknowledging one’s background, Cureton describes the ‘who you are’ as a “moral compass” that each individual must assess for himself. “What is that component of you that drives you everyday?” he asks. “What is that element that lets you breathe?”

“That’s the first level of success,” emphasizes Cureton. “If you don’t know who you are and you don’t have that foundation, you have no vision.”

2. What you know

“When I talk about the ‘what you know’, I’m really talking about your ability to take risks,” Cureton says. “What are those things you’re willing to do to grow yourself personally?”

To further his banking career, Cureton completed Wharton’s executive Education Institute in Investment Management. The most meaningful change he made, though, occurred two years ago when he switched from “a promising career” at Bank of America to a healthcare position at Novant Health. “How do you do that?” he ponders. “How do you have the courage to make those shifts?” That decision stems from his desire to take leaps of faith and constantly strive to improve himself. He encourages people to “be the adults that are confident to take on risks” in their careers.

3. Who you know

“When I raise the question of ‘who you know’, it’s really about your ability; that willingness to network, your ability to create relationships, your ability to be a mentor.” Cureton says. The people one knows need not be celebrities or wealthy icons. Rather, Cureton believes that maximizing relationships with those around us provides learning experiences essential to personal and professional growth.

Cureton says making bonds with others in any capacity enables him to learn experientially. While he is a member of an extensive network of professionals at Novant Health, he also serves on the boards of Queens University of Charlotte, the Charlotte Mint Museum, and Junior Achievement of the Central Carolinas. “Every opportunity I have, whether I’m a mentor or a mentee, is an opportunity to learn,” Cureton affirms. “It is an opportunity to grow.”