On the surface, leaders are measured by their performance. However, whether they succeed or fail, they are defined by moments that shaped who they are. Just ask Tynina Lucas.
Before she became a procurement leader within the healthcare industry, she started her career in manufacturing. Despite being the only female network engineer on her team—let alone its youngest—she embraced new challenges that came her way. When she got a chance to oversee IT audit activities, she led her coworkers through every step of the process like a seasoned vet.
“When I saw those leaders influencing, providing guidance, helping others understand their talents and value, I felt like that’s what I needed to do.”
Sure enough, Lucas earned her stripes. After she tapped into her leadership potential, she earned promotions to engineering, IT, and management roles over the next decade. Then she entered the healthcare space, where she laid down the operational framework for procurement and supply chain departments at a Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan and a Medicaid Health Plan.
Now, as the head of procurement at EmblemHealth, Lucas anchors the supply chain behind one of the largest nonprofit health plan providers in the US. She and her team work closely with internal stakeholders to develop vendor sourcing strategies and negotiates deals with the organization’s suppliers and vendors supporting over three million plan members.
While Lucas navigates a traditional corporate environment, she takes an “organic” approach to leadership that feels more democratic and transformational. She gives her employees the green light to come up with creative solutions to complex problems. If that means they make mistakes, she can live with it.
“You don’t tell them what to do,” Lucas says. “You tell them what you need. You tell them what ultimate goal [it] is that you want to achieve. But in order to achieve the goal, I encourage my team to create and be innovative. You have to give your team the autonomy and the flexibility to execute on the activities that allow them to reach that goal.”
On top of removing the fear of failure, Lucas empowers her team to innovate by fostering diversity of thought among her staff. Instead of letting her employees sweep conflicts under the rug, she reminds them it’s OK to disagree with one another. Even if they meet with other teams and vendors, she expects them to operate as advisors capable of difficult conversations.
“They might say, ‘This is how we’ve always done this. We just want to move forward with this approach,’” Lucas says. “But I encourage my team to challenge the approach and assess alternative approaches that can provide a more beneficial outcome. Challenge the status quo in a meaningful way, not in a way that’s combative against your business partners, or even your supply base, but more so questioning, challenging, helping them to think a little bit outside of the box while partnering with them.”
Furthermore, she encourages supplier diversity within EmblemHealth through the creation of the company’s supplier diversity program. This program commenced in 2021 and is near and dear to Lucas’s heart. It was developed to emphasize the importance of working with a diversified supply base, not only to benefit EmblemHealth and the procurement team but also to benefit the communities that EmblemHealth serves.
“Certainly, in some cases, especially being in procurement, you do have to operate with an iron fist, but you have to put on that velvet glove,” Lucas says. “So, it’s all about your delivery and acknowledging who that person is on the other side of the table.”
Meanwhile, Lucas shares her advice for young professionals aspiring to follow in her footsteps. “Don’t let fear hold you back. Fear is just an illusion you have to continue to push through.
“Make sure you understand what your role is,” she continues. “Make sure you have the data to support your decisions, and don’t be afraid to fail. Fear has held back so many people in their careers. People could have done so many different things, but because of fear, they hesitated.”