In the Nation's Interest

2017 Awards Dinner Spotlight: Deanna Mulligan

by CED August 03, 2017

Deanna Mulligan is the President and CEO of Guardian. You can view her bio here. She is the recipient of CED's 2017 Excellence in Public Policy Award. 

What advice do you have for those who aspire to careers in leadership, or have just started to serve in a leadership capacity?

I always tell people, no matter what stage they are at in their careers, that trusting your instincts and doing something that ignites your passion are better than only following the route others expect of you. Real leadership and real success is going to come from within when you devote your time to something you are passionate about. My advice to new leaders is to always be yourself. People want to follow authentic leaders.

What has been the best career advice that you’ve received?

The one piece of advice that I pass on most to other people is something that I actually learned through trial and error myself – and that is to trust your own judgement. When I look back at some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made, I realize I knew in my gut all along that it wasn’t going to work well and wonder why I didn’t just trust my judgement in the first place.

Among past and present business executives, is there one in particular whose leadership you especially admire?

I’m very inspired by Melinda Gates, someone who could spend her time doing anything and who chooses to spend her time in service of other people.

Has your company spearheaded a particular philanthropic or societal initiative that you would like to share?

At Guardian we are committed to securing futures. It is especially important to do that for young people.  We partner with community colleges to provide a course which gives students with a practical, real-world financial education that will enable them to make sound money management decisions throughout their lives, starting with investing in their education. The fully-funded, credit-bearing personal finance course provides essential skills and knowledge, and offers paid summer internships to help students gain valuable experience in the work world.

Which aspect of your company’s culture has made the biggest contribution to its success?

Our values at Guardian are a big contributor to our success today. They are: 1) People Count, 2) We Do the Right Thing and 3) We Hold Ourselves to Very High Standards. In addition to keeping our promises, our values guide our decisions – big and small. They are a reason that our clients and partners do business with us and give us their trust because they know at Guardian our values guide the service we provide them. These values have been the core of the company for over 150 years and will keep Guardian strong for the next 150 years.

Is there a particular public policy that you believe business leaders are especially well-positioned to make a difference in?

Yes, I think business leaders in partnership with policymakers and educators are well positioned to address the new wave of automation and artificial intelligence that we’ll experience within the next decade. An automated economy is no longer the concern of futurists, but of the current generation of business leaders. While much of the media is focused on the jobs that may disappear, the opportunity is in the jobs that will be created, as we refocus work to jobs that require more “human” skills versus administrative. Business leaders have the opportunity to become chief learning officers to create an environment where employees are life-long learners.

As a leader, which accomplishment are you most proud of?

A branding firm did a research study for Guardian recently and found that we had an incredibly values-based culture. We don’t have diversity of thought when it comes down to doing the right thing. I can’t take the credit for building this culture on my own but I am very proud of the role my team and the organization has played. The culture is more visible now and people value it. I appreciated the challenge of taking a culture and making it stronger, making it last and ensuring it was embedded in everything we do.