“Most admired CEO,” John Hope Bryant on the art of leadership

June 9, 2022

“Most admired CEO,” John Hope Bryant on the art of leadership

John Hope Bryant

Entrepreneur, Founder, Chairman, & CEO of Operation Hope

On June 9, 2022, Willy Walker met with John Hope Bryant, CEO and founder of the nonprofit Operation HOPE.

John Hope Bryant is in the business of reinvention. As CEO of Operation HOPE, his mission is to equip people in underserved communities with financial tools to take ownership of their lives. On this episode of the Walker Webcast, John and Willy discuss the importance of resilience, secrets to success, creating a lasting legacy, and so much more! You won’t want to miss this inspirational discussion.


At the start of the episode, John shares his favorable initial impression of Willy when discussing the tendency for money and power to amplify a person's best or worst qualities. John then discussed his experiences growing up in an underserved community, Compton. Raised facing social obstacles, John credits his mother's unconditional love as the key to his success.

Despite having a genius IQ, which went unrecognized and forgotten due to Compton's deficient record-keeping, his mother's support inspired him to work tirelessly. John's dedication to achievement inspired him to pursue numerous ventures early in life, including running a candy store and entertainment performance. Unfortunately, when John turned 18, he found himself homeless and living out of a Jeep. However, the emphasis on tenacity and grit that his family taught him at a young age helped John recognize the power of resilience, guiding him to a career in banking.

Having had an upbringing in a community that provided insufficient financial education to the majority of its residents, John acknowledges that banking and finance have the power to grow communities and offer transformational change. Nevertheless, Black communities often do not receive this memo. Therefore, most Black-owned businesses in the United States do not have employees, books and records, infrastructure, and access to credit, among other things.

When John decided to break out of the poverty cycle, he became determined to bring his loved ones with him. Successes throughout his life have changed his mindset and boosted his self-esteem and confidence, which he says aided in healing his relationship with white America. Although John has achieved outstanding success, he has come to realize that money is penultimate to improving the lives of others. John , a modern-day activist, feels that it is his calling to take civil rights endeavors out of the streets and into the world of economics and finance.

John secured opportunities to advance fiscal change nationally after receiving an appointment from George W. Bush to the U.S. Community Advisory Board and Barack Obama to his Advisory Council on Financial Capability. His relationship with these two presidents from different political parties helped bridge the gap between democrats and republicans, demonstrating his versatility and ability to advance non-biased agendas. John, a proponent of possessing a democratic heart and republican mind, believes that poor Americans should receive lessons on long-term investments rather than simply giving them money without support. 

When reflecting on the approach of offering disadvantaged individuals financial education, John shares that, with the great resignation running rampant and the largest group of small business creators being Black, this moment may be the most critical time in modern history to promote economic lessons and initiatives. For progress to unfold gracefully, we must recognize that poverty is not the fault of the impoverished while developing an educated workforce that can navigate a technology-centric world. Considering the financial education of underprivileged communities, John feels that venture capital is an industry in which diversity endeavors are overdue and will be an excellent field for these individuals to enter. John also emphasizes the importance of networking and continued relationship-building. John points out that relationships are far more valuable than transactions, for they have the potential to lead to opportunities. 

As John continues his role as a financial coach, he stresses the need to design ways to ensure that a homeownership society does not lead to a repeat mortgage crisis. John indicates that capitalism, which many blame for the 2008 recession, is not inherently wrong, but rather greed is to blame, further supporting the necessity of financial literacy for all. 

As the episode ends, John underscores that an individual's reaction to failure ultimately defines oneself. John urges listeners to talk without being offensive, listen without being defensive, and always leave adversaries with dignity, for it is beneficial to do well while being good.

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