Winner: Catherine Blades, Aflac’s Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications
For 20+ years, Catherine Blades has demonstrated leadership by optimizing operations, driving revenues, decreasing expenses and building high-performing, diverse teams.
An acknowledged change agent, Blades spent the last dozen years building organizations from the ground up, orchestrating and implementing large-scale turnarounds in highly regulated industries for international Fortune 500 public companies.
In her role at Aflac, a Fortune 130 company, since January 2014 Blades’ efforts in reorganizing the internal communications organization have demonstrated superior leadership and a deep understanding of both public relations and organizational leadership.
Blades is an exemplary PR team champion who sets high standards of performance for herself and others. She is deeply committed to creating opportunities for, and enhancing the skills development of, each team member through actionable steps such as stretch assignments and training opportunities. Finally, Blades makes a meaningful industry impact through leadership positions with numerous charitable organizations.
Blades created and implemented “All Aflac” to further drive cultural cohesion between U.S. and Japan operations. This initiative has enhanced collaboration and adoption of values-based leadership practices. All Aflac has been acknowledged by the U.S. State Department as a best practice for doing business overseas. Additionally, as a result of a reinvigorated social media approach, Blades’ team achieved a 2,000 percent engagement increase in 2014.
Blades’ employee engagement and communication initiatives earned Aflac the #58 spot in the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, up nine places from 2014, and a 15 percent increase in average portal story viewership. A diversity champion, Blades helped Aflac secure its place among Black Enterprise magazine’s “40 Best Companies for Diversity” and Latina Style magazine’s “50 Best Companies for Latinas to Work for in the United States” lists.
• Tim Johnson, St. Lawrence University