Laurie McGraw is speaking with Inspiring Woman Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, the CEO of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Dr. Harris describes her journey to leadership as one that started with simply saying “yes” to many extra assignments. She learned in time that she did want to be at the top of an organization, and she began to strategize on how to achieve that. This path included taking many lateral moves to develop her skills and her confidence. After time and opportunity, she found that she was a unique person at the table, uniquely different by ethnicity, gender and even age. And at some point, she recognized that she was good enough – that she always had the competence, it was the confidence needed to make the leap.
Leadership skills development for Wylecia came through training but she was equally thoughtful about what she wanted to avoid. She appreciates that she has opportunities that were never available to the giants who came before her. However, if we were to go back 20 or 30 years, she expected we would be further along in terms of equity and opportunity for all. And while Wylecia does not have the answers, she is committed to sustained focus, measuring progress, and building sustainable solutions – which means DEI objectives need to be more than a side project assigned to a few people but rather a strategic focus of the full weight of an organization. As she thinks about her CEO peers, she sees a continuum in terms of focus, measurements, and sustainability.
Her leadership journey continues today. Wylecia is focused on supporting the next generation of leaders, so that similar success doesn’t need to take as long. She advises – if someone has been helpful to you, say thank you. And if you have had some success, reach back, and allow others to stand on your shoulders. The time is now to pull forward the next generation of leaders!
Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE
Hailed as an innovative leader with a vision for transformative growth, Wylecia Wiggs Harris is the Chief Executive Officer for the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the leading voice for health information management.
Harris joined AHIMA as CEO in February 2018, developing the organization’s strategic plan and advancing its mission and vision, nationally and internationally, to position AHIMA as a global leader.
Prior to AHIMA, Harris was CEO at the League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters Education Fund. She also served as Chief Operating Officer of the American Nurses Association, executive director of the Center for American Nurses, and executive director of the Maryland-based Sister to Sister Foundation. Harris also has served as senior vice president and executive director at the American Heart Association.
Harris holds a PhD in organizational development from Capella University in Minneapolis, MN; a master of management degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL; and both a bachelor and honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH. She is an ASAE-certified association executive.
Harris was nominated for the Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT by Health Data Management in 2018 and 2019. She was named one of 2021’s Top Diversity Leaders by Modern Healthcare, as well as one of the publication’s 10 Diversity Leaders to Watch. In 2022, Modern Healthcare recognized her on its Top Women Leaders list.