Wylecia Wiggs Harris, Humanity Changemaker
Meet Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE - CEO at AHIMA.
Wylecia Wiggs Harris’s journey to the leadership table started early in her career when she noticed that there weren’t a lot of people at the C-Suite level who looked like her—be it from an ethnic perspective, gender perspective, or even age perspective. It was that realization that spurred Harris towards a seat at that leadership table so she could expand it and make room for a more diverse assembly.
“I’m very fortunate that I had wonderful mentors and champions who saw the potential I had, even before I saw my own,” said Harris. “I took a lot of lateral moves to enhance my skills and my confidence, but once I set my sights on being a non-profit leader, I kept navigating to the seat.”
A significant hurdle that Harris felt she needed to overcome was her own introversion. In fact, while pursuing her MBA, she often felt like raising her hand to ask a question in class was a little too much for her. So what helped?
Harris credits an advisor who encouraged her to go into training and organizational development. Sharpening these skills helped her to overcome her introversion and truly develop an authentic voice.
Harris is a strong advocate for equitable access to healthcare, and her role as CEO of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has given her a unique ability to address issues related to health disparities and inequities, especially when it comes to health data and information. The notion of public health, after all, is a social issue, so Harris herself was involved in creating AHIMA’s policy statement on social determinants of health.
As a CEO, Harris has made it her mission to amplify and support people of color and women in her industry. While she uses her position as a platform to share her story with others, she also employs a more hands-on approach by mentoring women and emerging leaders of color. By providing feedback and helping women leaders to understand their values and strengths, Harris hopes to help others shine brighter through empowering others and helping them address areas of growth that might hold them back, much like an advisor once did for her.
It's her ability to empathize with others this way that’s defined her leadership and mentoring style. “I became an empathetic leader before it was popular,” said Harris, adding that other personal values and strengths —such as storytelling—help round out her particular brand of leadership. In fact, for others wanting to achieve a CEO role, Harris strongly recommends they understand their own values and strengths; staying true to your genuine self will only enhance your leadership, stating “Never lose sight of who you are and where you want to go.”
Having a strong professional network has been key for Harris, and she’s certainly embraced the ongoing nature of building and maintaining her own. She’s a member of the Chicago Economic Club, C-suite groups, faith-based groups… and we’re proud to have her as part of HTN, a private membership network of underrepresented leaders in healthcare and life sciences. Join Harris and other Changemakers by joining HTN today.
#HumanityChangemakers amplifies the work of people of color and women who are innovators and disruptors in the healthcare and life sciences industry. For more updates, follow us at Humanity Health.