Profile in Brief Monumental Effort

By Kathryne Gilbride

Detroit Legal News

Detroit native and leader in corporate compliance and diversity strategies Rod Gillum recently joined Jackson Lewis LLP after 30 years at GM. The attorney hopes to synthesize his experiences in law, business and senior leadership positions at GM to further the success of Jackson Lewis; a firm that specializes exclusively in labor and employment law.

"It's been a good blend of business and law," says Gillum of his career thus far. "I think it has called on all aspects of my education and training along with measured personal risk in order to stretch and grow; all driven by a desire to accomplish more. So that aspect of my career has been one I can look back on with some degree of satisfaction and a sense of pride."

Gillum especially looks forward to continuing his work on diversity initiatives as part of the Corporate Diversity Counseling practice at Jackson Lewis, one of the largest employment law firms in the U.S, with 650 lawyers in 46 offices nationwide. The Detroit office opened in 2008.

"All of us bring our own experiences and backgrounds to whatever position we take," says Gillum, "In my case, I've been very actively involved in increasing opportunities for minorities and women, and so within GM it was natural for me to become more deeply engaged. I've found that you do your best work when you are passionate about a subject and are pleased with your contribution and ability to make a difference."

According to Gillum, one of the most critical elements to enhancing diversity within an organization is leadership.

"You want to have a leadership team that not only believes in it, but is also willing to demonstrate and practice it themselves," says Gillum. "Beyond that, it also helps to develop practical strategies that are sensitive to the company's culture and business objectives."

Gillum demonstrates a great deal of leadership, easily detectable in his membership in the Detroit chapter of the 100 Black Men of America, an organization that includes a number of prominent business and community leaders in the metropolitan area. The organization is committed to helping African American youth achieve success.

"It places a strong emphasis on mentoring which is much needed in the development of young people today," says Gillum. "The motto of the organization is 'What they see is what they'll be.' As we put forth the right images to young people, our presence in and of itself provides guidance. But it is also about investing quality time and demonstrating that there are African American males who are willing to step up, be visible, and spend time with young men during a critical period in their lives."

In fact, 100 Black Men of America Inc. recently presented Gillum with the prestigious national lifetime achievement award.

"The award is as much a compliment to GM and its willingness to contribute and embrace the work of the 100, as it is to the organization itself and its ability to make a meaningful difference in the lives of thousands of young people. We picked organizations that were demonstrating a high degree of success, The 100 Black Men of America and its Detroit chapter do just that, and they do it well."

Gillum -- the philanthropist -- also chairs The Washington DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., whose mission is to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through the establishment of a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C to honor his contributions to peace, justice, and equality through non-violent change. According to Gillum, construction of the memorial will be halfway complete before the end of this year and will be open to the public in the fall of 2011.

"I think it's a comfortable blend of my personal interests and very consistent with my core values and what I believe in," says Gillum of being chair of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. "As a young man I was actually in the march in Detroit when he first delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech. To go from that experience in 1963 to where we are today has been a very personal journey. I'm pleased that Jackson Lewis understands the significance of the memorial and has been very supportive of my participation in this historic undertaking."

Gillum guides his philanthropic life by the words of poet Maya Angelou, "You shouldn't go through life wearing a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back."

"I've always tried to maintain a strong sense of community and civic involvement in both my work and in my daily life," says Gillum of the quote, "So that has guided me, as well as my wife Linda, and hopefully will serve as an example for our son and daughter in their professional careers."

Published: Wed, Jul 28, 2010

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