Valerie Simon’s Leadership Passion

February 4, 2019

Valerie M. Simon Highlights

Current Job Title: Chief Marketing Officer, Atlantic Health System

Previous Executive Roles: Chief of Strategic Marketing, Plymouth Rock Assurance New Jersey; Senior Vice President, BurrellesLuce


What leadership principles have guided your career?

Leadership results from behavior, not role. During the first week of my first job as a customer-service representative, I went into my boss’s office and enthusiastically shared that I had some great ideas to improve our marketing and should be marketing manager for the office. I can still see the somewhat amused look in his eyes as he explained that while the ideas were great, the title was something to be earned. He helped me see that I could lead with or without a formal title. He was right: I was able to execute my ideas and went on to become a senior vice president of the organization’s parent company.

Leadership requires self-awareness. Every day, I reflect on what I could have done better. I listen closely to feedback and look for clues into what’s not being said outright. I’m fortunate to have team members I trust and respect and who are not afraid to criticize or challenge.

What are your tips for aspiring leaders?

  • Never get comfortable. Earn the role you have been given (AND the role you aspire to) every day. Treat each interaction with your executives, clients and peers with the same respect and preparation that you would if interviewing for the opportunity.
  • Treat reality as a starting point. It’s easy to get into the habit of doing things the way they were done yesterday, especially if yesterday seemed to go well. Don’t be intimidated by the charge to “disrupt” and “innovate.” Reach back to the days when you let your imagination run free.
  • Realize that credibility matters. The importance of maintaining your reputation as a leader cannot be overemphasized. This means doing the right thing, even if it’s not always the easy thing. 
  • Build a career. Strive for one that is emotionally, financially and intellectually rewarding. You’re worth it.

How do you lead teams that come from disciplines different from your own?

I surround myself with people who have subject-matter expertise and business acumen, and I’m not afraid to ask a LOT of questions and to learn from them. My team members are talented and passionate about their disciplines and they educate me every day.

It’s important for me to acknowledge that there will always be others in the room who have expertise I lack. As a health care executive, I find myself in meetings not only with my own team members, but also with our administrative and physician leadership. Organizational success is a team sport, and leaders value all roles on the team.

Study the leaders you admire most. You will quickly realize that there is not one single pathway to success. Be aware of leadership behaviors you would like to emulate, but most important, know your own strengths.

What must the PR profession do to foster great communicators and leaders?

Don’t settle for simply telling stories of your organization as it exists today; drive the organizational change needed to be successful tomorrow. We talk a lot about the importance of listening, and as PR professionals we have the ability to listen closely to our customers, communities and publics every day.

It is not only your job but also your responsibility to take action based on your learnings and to work with other team members who may bring the operational, financial, technical or legal expertise needed to drive change.

Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs is principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. Visit his website ( and contact him by email ( or Twitter (@KensViews).


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