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Embracing the Legacy of MLK: Living a Life of Service

By Michelle Greene, EVP, Chief Information Officer, Cardinal Health

Every year, we are given the opportunity to honor Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a National Day of Service. At Cardinal Health, we will join millions of Americans commemorating Dr. King’s life with a week of volunteer activities to support our local communities beginning today, January 15.  

The very definition of servant leadership

I often speak about what service means to me as a leader and the importance of putting the growth and wellbeing of your employees first. Servant leadership means you take a genuine interest in the people you work with, giving others your full attention to understand their perspectives, aspirations, and personal passions. Every day, you commit to listening intently, approaching situations with an open mind, and demonstrating that everyone’s voice and opinion is valued.

As my dear friend and colleague, John Haynes, VP, human resources business partner, reflected in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2023, Dr. King was the very definition of servant leadership, purpose, calling and sacrifice.

Dr. King’s teachings remind us that a true servant leader not only instills the value of service in the workplace but believes being of service should be woven into the fabric of everyday life. 

His speeches and sermons captivated his audiences, moving hundreds of thousands of people to advocate for equality and to recognize our collective humanity. Not only was he speaking up for civil rights in the face of oppression and violence, but he was also teaching us how to live a fulfilled life.

What are you doing for others?”

Through his words and actions, Dr. King taught us how the values of love, compassion and selflessness are the foundation upon which we can build a more just and harmonious society. This quote, particularly, inspires me to consider the significance of being of service to our teams, our communities and all the people in our lives:

“Light has come into the world, and every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

What a powerful question – and one I ask myself often. What am I doing for others? How am I using my time, presence, and attention to give back and serve? We can honor Dr. King’s legacy by contributing to the wellbeing of our society and uplifting those who need it most, not only today, but always.  

The amazing thing is, that when we reach our hands out to others, ensuring they receive our support when our cup is full instead of empty, we feel energized, rather than depleted. For me, that energy is greatest when I am engaged in service to a cause that I deeply resonate with.

For example, I am honored to be on the Board of the Cardinal Health Foundation, which works to improve equitable physical and mental health outcomes in the communities where our employees live and work. By using an equity lens with its investments, focusing on long-term outcomes and seeding programs with partners, the Foundation strives to help build healthier communities and create sustainable change.

In addition, I am involved with the local chapter of The Links, Incorporated, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Links is a nonprofit organization for women committed to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans. Our local chapter has a longstanding partnership with two organizations that provide support services for women rebuilding their lives after trauma with an emphasis on human trafficking survivors, Grateful Girls and the Convergence Resource Center.

It’s been eye-opening and heartbreaking to learn more about the severity of the human trafficking industry, which generates $150 billion annually from what is essentially modern slavery. Since its inception in 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has identified 164,839 human trafficking victims in more than 82,000 cases. This reality motivated me to do my part to educate myself and others, as well as support victims who have escaped such terrible circumstances. Just like Dr. King advocated for the freedom of our brothers and sisters, I see this as an opportunity to do the same.

Over the holidays, Links gathered donations and basic need items for human trafficking survivors in our area. It was so special to witness women collaborating and coming together to serve and uplift other women. That’s what I love about Links – it connects business and civic leaders who work toward a common vision and are passionate about service.  

A week of service
At Cardinal Health, our week of service honoring Dr. King will include volunteer events at our headquarters in support of nonprofits in the central Ohio region, including YWCA Columbus, Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio and the Huckleberry House.

I will be taking part in virtual events this week, including collaborating with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to write letters of support to domestic violence survivors.

These are just a few ways our employees will be giving back, in addition to volunteering for local food banks, creating care kits to help those in need and supporting organizations they are already closely involved with. I know the generosity of our employees will extend far beyond this week; demonstrating their willingness to serve, our employees logged more than 54,600 hours of volunteer service in fiscal 2023.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day invites us to take a step back from our individual goals, to-do lists and schedules, and consider how we can make a more significant, positive impact on our communities.

In Dr. King’s words, An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Being of service will likely look different for everyone. For some of us, service might mean advocating for causes that continue Dr. King’s important work of awareness and civic engagement or actively volunteering at a local organization. Others may serve the people in their lives by making a meal for a neighbor, paying for a stranger’s coffee, or giving their full attention to a friend who is experiencing a challenging time.

This MLK Day, I hope that we all recognize that the true measure of a well-lived life is rooted in service. I encourage you to continue honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream by taking an active role in improving our communities and creating a world where everyone can prosper and thrive. 

Michelle Greene is chief information officer at Cardinal Health, where she leads the Digital and Commercial Technologies, Pharma and Medical Segment IT, Global Business Services and Information Security teams to harness technology and innovation to better serve customers and evolve healthcare delivery. Prior to joining Cardinal Health, Greene was vice president of information technology at Masco Corporation based in Livonia, Michigan. Earlier, she held a variety of technology roles with increasing responsibilities at companies including Johnson Controls and Sony Ericsson. She serves on the board of the Cardinal Health Foundation, Werner Enterprises, Goodwill of Southeastern Wisconsin, Goodwill Manufacturing, Inc., GreenPath Financial Wellness and Detroit Public Television. She also is an active member of the Links, Inc., ITSMF (IT Senior Management Forum), Chief and Black Women on Boards.


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