Grace Huang, President, Manheim

The automotive industry is changing, and we have a chance to use our amazing brands to shape the way it will look in the future. Innovation plays a major role in making that

happen. But where does innovation come from? It’s not one person with a lightbulb snapping on over their head—it’s a charge borne in the minds of the many. Cox has recognized that diversity is a key driver of innovation, and that’s why I was so honored to speak on a panel of remarkable women leaders, both in and outside the Enterprise, at the 5th annual HERStory event on International Women’s Day.

My dad always encouraged me to “Be out in front and lead by example.” Really, I had no other choice—as one of the only Asian families in our community, my sister and I shared the burden that many have carried before and since: representing an entire minority group. You must lead by example when you are the first one. As women in the automotive industry, sometimes we’re also called to lead in this way—whether we’re walking into a client’s dealership or sitting in a boardroom.

When I think about innovation, I think about diversity. Throughout my career, I’ve been the only woman in the room countless times. And nearly two decades into the 21st century, we still have far to go: this photo was taken not 10 years ago, not five years ago, but in 2017.

But still, diversity in and of itself won’t matter if you don’t also have bold leadership. If you are out in front, you have to make bold decisions and take bold steps. I shared a quote at HERstory that’s all the more apropos coming from a woman leader, Ginni Rometty of IBM:

“The only way you survive is you continuously transform into something else.
It’s the idea of continuous transformation that makes you an innovation company.”

I’d venture to say that it makes you an incredible leader as well.

My advice to innovative leaders of all stripes:

Grace performs as Cher at an event

Grace performs as Cher at an event

  • Speak the truth. When you take risks and act with courage, the results will follow. The first steps are simple, if not always easy: show up, be present, don’t quit.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of viewing vulnerability as a weakness. Show your vulnerability, then you really connect. Win a team’s hearts, and they will run through walls.
  • Make a little music. It’s part of “How We Work at Cox” for good reason! Show your personality, have fun, and be all-in, wherever you are.

Diversity is a journey, one that by definition takes a village. This means there’s a personal charge for us as well. I’ve met and worked with some amazing people, mentors, and sponsors. A bit of serendipity and hard work got me to where I am today. I’m grateful for that journey and committed to, as we say here at Manheim, “paving the way” for my team and for our clients.

I love this business because the people we have work so hard every day. Being inclusive, building a diverse team that brings out the best in us, and leading by example are the pillars of making innovation more than just a buzzword, but a daily reality.