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7 Questions with Kevin Byrd
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7 Questions with Kevin Byrd
Name: Kevin Byrd
Current title: President and Founder
Current organisation: Brown Byrd Foundation
KEVIN BYRD, 40, is a God Fearing, Multiple Award Winning Entertainer and Global Prostate Cancer Health Advocate, who's celebrating his 32nd year in entertainment. Kevin Byrd, is a Prostate Cancer Health Advocate and CEO of his own non-for- profit foundation called the Brown Byrd Foundation, located on 30 Wall Street, Manhattan, New York. He is the former Health and Wellness Chairman of the 100 Black Men of Long Island, Inc. and is currently the Health and Wellness Chairman of the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce, Inc. (New York State’s largest African American Chamber). Kevin Byrd is also the youngest male prostate cancer health advocate in the United States. He was inspired to start the foundation at the age of 23 when his grandfather, C. J Thomas, died of Prostate Cancer.
On April 24, 2021, Kevin Byrd was inducted into the Oneida County History Center Museum in Utica, NY. A special exhibit is on display showcasing the Brown Byrd Foundation’s work.
Kevin Byrd's work has received National and International Media attention in over one hundred publications circulating to thousands of people worldwide such as Better Mag, AM Metro New York, Epoch International Times, USA Today Network, Newsday, Amsterdam Newspaper, Vibe Magazine, IFlow Magazine, King Magazine, Essence, Hush Magazine, Rolling Out, Urban Buzz Magazine, Parle Magazine, New York Beacon, Caribbean Life, World Journal Chinese Newspaper, Hempstead Times and Blackstar News.
The Utica City Common Council Legislation passed a Law/Resolution and designated an Honorary Street in Kevin Byrd’s honor called the BROWN BYRD LANE on Tuesday June 5, 2012 in Utica, New York. It was televised live to over 100,000 Utica citizens. Kevin Byrd is one of the youngest African American male to have an Honorary Street in New York State.
Niagara Falls illuminated it’s waterfall in blue on February 2, 2013 , 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 honoring the Brown Byrd Prostate Cancer Observance Day established by Kevin Byrd.
On February 2, 2012, Kevin Byrd's work was honored and entered into the Congressional Record (Library of Congress) for Black History Month by the House of Representatives Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, who recognized his annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Observance Day globally on February 2nd. Kevin Byrd has been honored by over 100 International Mayors, Government officials across the world, Nancy Pelosi, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the former United States President Barack Obama and even Queen Elizabeth of Buckingham Palace. He has earned more than 160 proclamation awards, the city state highest awards.
Kevin Byrd's home town in Utica, New York, designated a KEVIN BYRD’S DAY that is honored every year on October 1st and a KEVIN BYRD’S DAY was declared in DeKalb County, Georgia on November 2nd.
Kevin Byrd is nationally known for his portrayal as Lieutenant John R. Fox in the 2006 History/HBO movie "Honor Deferred" produced by Al Roker, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac. Lieutenant John R. Fox, a World War II hero, who killed 100 German soldiers in the War, died in action, and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor five decades after his heroic acts by President Clinton. The documentary picked up a NAMIC Vision Award Nomination and garnered great reviews. The likeness of Lieutenant John R. Fox was transformed into a G.I Joe Action Figure by Hasbro the summer of 2008.
Byrd wrote and starred in his own One Man Show called "RELEASE" and DVD Recording of the show was released on April 15, 2012 at the Legendary Nuyorian Poets Cafe Hosted by BET Comic View's Comedian Ardie Fuqua. The show depicts the six stages of development of men from the ages of 18 to 65 years old.
BLACKSTAR NEWS, states, "Kevin Byrd gives an Oscar Award Worthy Performance of "RELEASE-- A MUST SEE SHOW."
Kevin co-authored an Amazon bestselling book called "Black Men Speak their Truth". It was released on February 17, 2020. Kevin lives in Manhattan, NY with his wife Karen Byrd.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The Brown Byrd Foundation is dedicated to spreading the awareness of Health across the Country through hands on community service. We take part in many health fairs working in conjunction with other health not for profit foundations, where we all share the same goal of informing the masses about health awareness across the country. The foundation works with Educational institutes and provides friendly health forums for students of all ages in classroom settings. The Brown Byrd Foundation works with local hospitals offering free health screening annually such as prostate cancer screenings.
I started the Brown Byrd Foundation at the age of 23 after my grandfather died of Prostate Cancer. Fighting the impact that prostate cancer has on peoples’ lives, particularly those in the Black community has been my greatest challenge. It has long been known among medical experts for a while now that Black men are at a considerably higher risk of falling victim to prostate cancer. African American men are nearly 80% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than white men and 1 in 6 African American men will be diagnosed with the disease. As of now, Black men are 50 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men and twice as likely to die from it. According to the American Cancer Society, an African American man has an 18% chance of developing prostate cancer, compared to 13% for white men. More than 4% of African American men will ultimately die from the disease.
I have found over the course of my years as the President of the Brown Byrd Foundation that men in general are often apprehensive about going to the doctor and the issue of trust is especially serious for African-American men. The Brown Byrd Foundation has carried out free Prostate Cancer screenings to help determine a man’s risk for prostate cancer and whether treatment is necessary but getting African-American men to come out to these screenings has been quite a challenge. Sometimes we have to reach out to the wives, mothers, sisters and aunts to convince the men in their lives to come out and get tested.
While the results from our most recent Prostate Cancer screenings are encouraging, we need to redouble our efforts to educate and encourage men to get tested. We simply want to save lives.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
The Brown Byrd Foundation, established in 2008, is a Health and Wellness nonprofit organization and is a registered 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. I started the foundation to increase awareness and prevention of prostate cancer through early detection and screening. I had a heightened awareness of prostate cancer when my grandfather lost his battle to prostate cancer. I was motivated by the desire to keep my grandfather's legacy alive while at the same time save lives through advocacy by providing an even stronger voice for prostate cancer awareness.
In May of 2000, I produced and wrote a short film titled "The Last Dayz" which illustrates the life of a young man who is diagnosed with prostate cancer, and who learns how to cope with the realization of having this insidious disease. The film "The Last Dayz" is still being used as a tool to bring awareness to men about the importance of being tested for prostate cancer regularly, and even for women to urge the men that they love to be tested.
In October of 2008, I was in my kitchen listening to gospel music and was overwhelmed with a burning desire to bring more awareness to the community at large about Prostate Cancer. I was not content to rest on my laurels and knew that I needed to do more work to treat and defeat prostate cancer and other life-threatening diseases. I wanted to increase awareness and prevention of prostate cancer through early detection and screening so I started a whole new day for prostate cancer 2009. February 2nd is now designated as International Prostate Cancer Awareness Observance Day.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Wow! That is an interesting question. My work days are very diverse. I wake up around 5 am every morning and get ready for work. Meetings make up a big bulk of my day. My work day is also spent on professional development, mergers and acquisitions and operating plans. At the end of my work day, I enjoy spending personal time with my wife.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
A good leader can push through fear, assess risk and take action when action is required. However, I am learning that sometimes, the tough decisions leaders make are the ones that others cannot make. I was faced with a tough decision a few weeks ago. Rather than retreat or shy away, I took a strong stance on the important issue and pushed forward. Leadership is hard and I am learning that I will have to make decisions that other people can’t. I now understand my values and prioritize them.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Reading the Bible has impacted my leadership style and has changed my life. About a year ago, I made it a priority to read my Bible each day and I found my outlook on life was changing for the better. Bible stories are timeless because they deal with universally human themes like stress, worry, fear, love and hope. For example, the disobedience of the Israelites in the Old Testament, helped me see the weaknesses of my life--and God's mercy and grace towards me--in a new light.
The Bible had taught me how to become a better leader. For example, the bible has taught me that…
1. Leaders are servants first.
“But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20:26
Jesus taught his disciples not to emulate the rulers of the Gentiles who exercised authority over them. Instead, He taught that in order for us to be leaders, we must become servants first. We must not conform to the status quo especially if it entails ruling through coercion and unjust deeds over our subordinates.
2. Fairness is a leader’s moral obligation.
“If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever.”
A leader’s credibility is based on how he upholds truth and fairness over his organization. This verse teaches me that honest and truthful leaders are appreciated and their legacy will be known long after their reign.
3. Leaders see strength in their followers.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
Leaders are humble and do not boast. They are also encouraging of others, and do not belittle their followers just because of their lack of capacity on something. They see potential in the uniqueness of their followers.
4. Great leaders are tactful.
“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.”
Great leaders know when to open their mouths. They know when to argue and whom to argue with. They realize that no good will come from engaging in heated arguments with people, and instead express themselves calmly and thoughtfully.
5. Good leaders are willing to take advice.
“Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
When leaders are ready and open to taking advice, their ideas become limitless. They can think of innovative ways to improve themselves and the company.
6. Leaders uplift others and hear their constituents’ wishes.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Leaders do not look down on people and do not think highly of themselves. They prioritize the interest of the majority above all others. The bible has also taught me that…
7. Great leaders delegate.
“A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.”
A good leader can tell when a person has potential to lead others or not. He delegates and rewards objectively based on people’s performance. Whatever I am struggling with, I let the powerful verses and stories of the Bible better clarify what I’m going through. Becoming a good leader is something that most of us strive towards, but it doesn’t come easy — we have to work hard at it. There are many great seminars and books about leadership, many from a corporate perspective, but reading the Bible has been the most helpful book to me as a leader.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Having leaders on my staff is a huge asset. When I know how to pinpoint leadership potential, I know who to engage in discussions, gather input from, and delegate authority and responsibilities, all of which benefits the Brown Byrd Foundation. I spot the leadership potential of those among my staff, and cultivate and capitalize on their skills and talents by
1. Paying Close Attention
The saying that “cream rises to the top” is generally true. Leadership potential should be obvious. The best future leaders demonstrate a willingness and desire to learn more, are often thinking ahead and are aspirational. These are the people who are willing to put in the extra effort and show that they have both high skill and high will to work for the good of the organization. They are also the people who other staff members respect and trust and can help to build critical mass for the Brown Byrd Foundation.
2. Consider Both Potential and Readiness
As I think about succession planning, I ask myself who might be able to fill my shoes in a year or two if they are supported, coached and mentored? That’s potential. These people demonstrate some ability and may have even articulated a desire or aspiration for greater responsibility.
Then I ask yourself, who could do my job today? That’s readiness. These are people who understand the role and already possess many of the skills necessary for leadership.
Understanding the current and future needs of my organization can help me better develop a support strategy for these individuals. For example, a person who is ready, might be given autonomy to lead and complete a project or task in his/her own way, while a person with potential might benefit from opportunities to be on a project team where they can work with and learn from other leaders.
3. Recruit and Retain the Right People
In some cases, the Brown Byrd Foundation has inherited staff members, but when possible, I have to be intentional and recruit and hire people who, among other skills and talents, also possess leadership potential. Instead of looking to fill a position or role that is specific to content knowledge, or that matches the performance criteria, I also look for leadership potential.
I ask myself questions about how the candidate handles conflict or overcomes challenges, and how they can work with others to solve problems. I ask about how they work best when they are part of a community of practice, and what strategies they employ when plans are derailed.
No job is completely predictable. A good leader can face challenges at work with responsiveness and confidence, rather than sticking to a routine approach no matter what comes up. I want leaders who can take on challenges as they arise and handle them appropriately.
4. Look for Passion
The employees who make the best leaders are always looking for ways to do better. They want to learn more, develop new skills, and bring fresh ideas to the table. They are motivated and determined to do better every day. They are PASSIONATE! I am passionate about my work so I would like my employees to be passionate as well.
If an employee shows a real passion and hunger to learn more about how to be better at the job, they have great leadership potential. If they’re passionate, they create a greater likelihood of bringing out the passion in others. What they say matters, but how they say it matters more, so they should be warm, friendly, and relatable, showing a high level of emotional intelligence.
As the founder and president of the Brown Byrd Foundation, I have a responsibility to foster leadership skills in all of my employees. Therefore, I share my expertise and leadership responsibility with them because I can’t and shouldn’t do it all alone.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
In 2012, I faced many challenges with the Brown Byrd Foundation. To be honest, the bottom fell out and I was doing everything possible to keep the company afloat. The challenges became overwhelming and I decided to throw in the towel. I was disheartened about my failing business and my wife (she was my girlfriend at the time) said to me, “Kevin, you are sitting on a winning lottery ticket! Now get up and cash it!” Her words that day changed my life. She was right!
Having a failing business doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. In life, you will encounter obstacles along the way, but you will also find ways to overcome those obstacles. A fundamental part of overcoming business failure is rooted in the mindset you have. It begins with a flexible and positive attitude and a willingness to change. Winston Churchill stressed this vital factor, saying, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Failure is a part of life, and that includes business failures. How we deal with failure determines whether or not it ultimately leads to success.