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Alumni Spotlight: James Nixon

For our 35th anniversary, we’ll be sharing the stories of 35 alumni showcasing the leaders they are today and how 21st Century Leaders inspired and impacted their journey. Alumni will represent the 3.5 decades since our founding in 1989 – the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Take a read and be inspired!

35th Anniversary Alumni Spotlight

2000’s Decade
: James Nixon
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 2000
High School: Tift County High School
College: Mercer University/ University of Alabama at Birmingham
Current Role: VP of Programs, Strategy and External Affairs, Ten North Group

How has your career unfolded and how did participating in 21CL help prepare you for your next steps going to college, taking on a new leadership role in community/college and after?

After participating in the program in high school, I later interned with 21CL in the summers during college and served as the assistant director of the Summer Leadership Institutes during that time as well.  21CL has had an unquantifiable impact on my professional life.  During my internship, I learned how to present to corporate boards, learned about and worked on fund development and it allowed me to ‘cut my teeth’ as a formal leader and as a mentor.  Prior to my internship with 21CL, my exposure from the program gave me the opportunity to intern with Georgia Power.  My training and relationship from 21CL poised me to intern in a pilot program at the local office.

Since my involvement with 21CL, I have worked in and led in corporate and small business settings, led and been involved in community, statewide and national boards and volunteerism efforts. 

What’s your memorable or ‘aha’ moment during your time at 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peer, speaking in public for the first time, etc.)

The biggest “aha” moment in connecting the dots with 21CL is how I forged true friendships, some of which I STILL keep in touch with personally and professionally.  The degrees of separation in the business world and throughout the State are very small.  The worlds of business and industry intersect on many levels. 

A cohort of us, after the first program, intentionally attended the same 21CL camps each summer.  Over 25 years later, while in different parts of the State and country, we’ve learned that we run in the same circles, reach out when we are in each other’s areas and can sponsor each other when needed.  Sponsorship is a key value in building meaningful relationships.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so, how? 

21st Century Leaders was the foundation of my formal business and leadership training.  These skills followed me through my internships, college work and even now.  I still use principles learned from team building modules from our courses. 

One of my favorite lessons learned in high school with 21CL that I still apply personally and professionally is from the FISH philosophy.  I learned, “even if we disagree, don’t make me wrong.”  This means that there are always different perspectives and often not just one right answer or means to get something accomplished.  

Share the inspiration!