The 10 Most Admired Women Leaders in Business, 2024

Tonya Echols: Illuminating Paths to Leadership Excellence

The 10 Most Admired Women Leaders in Business, 2024

In the field of leadership and organizational development, Tonya Echols stands as a beacon of inspiration and expertise. As the Founder and Managing Principal at Vigere®, she has garnered multiple international accolades as an Executive Coach and Leadership/Organizational Development Consultant. 

A distinguished Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF), Tonya takes on additional roles within the organization. She serves as an Officer of the Professional Coaches Board, a Director of the Global Enterprise Board, and has previously held the position of President of the ICF Georgia Chapter, showcasing her leadership both nationally and globally. 

Beyond her corporate achievements, Tonya contributes to academia as an adjunct faculty member at William & Mary for the university’s MBA program. Additionally, she is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, an Affiliate Member of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital (a Harvard Medical School Affiliate), and an Executive/Leadership Coach for the TED Fellows Coaching and Mentoring Initiative. 

Tonya’s influence expands into the realm of thought leadership, with her writing featured in esteemed publications such as Forbes and HuffPost. With almost 30 of diverse experience in corporate management, media, technology, finance, coaching, leadership development, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, she brings a holistic perspective to her practice. Her academic pursuits underscore her commitment to continuous learning, holding a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University and pursuing a doctorate in Leadership Psychology with a emphases in Neuroscience and Inclusive Leadership from William James College.  

Leading Vigere® with Purpose and Authenticity 

Tonya’s career has undergone a remarkable evolution, starting in accounting/finance and then transitioning into the world of media during the early stages of her professional journey. These diverse experiences have played a crucial role in shaping her into the leader she is today. As the Managing Principal of Vigere®, Tonya travels a path that aligns both her personal and professional aspirations. 

In her role at Vigere®, Tonya is dedicated to supporting others on their journeys to become impactful, human-centric, and purposeful leaders and organizations. Vigere® is more than a business for Tonya, it serves as a platform for continuous self-discovery, requiring her to learn more about herself each day. Tonya is committed to ensuring that her contributions to the world authentically reflect her values and beliefs, fostering a positive impact on others. 

Nurturing Transformational Leadership and Organizational Development  

Established in 2016, Vigere® is a woman-owned small business (WOSB) that specializes in delivering highly customized coaching, leadership, and organizational development consulting services. According to Tonya, the focus on leadership and organizational development extends beyond merely enhancing business performance. Vigere® believes in facilitating transformational change at a deeper level by exploring individual and organizational values and focusing on the broader vision for long-term impact.,  

Vigere® adopts a holistic approach when engaging with its partners, aiming to create impactful, innovative, and inclusive environments while aligning with an organization’s business goals. The emphasis is on helping the entire system develop in a way that supports the organization’s overall vision, considering both individual and collective values, beliefs, motivations, and operational processes. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are critical elements of Vigere’s focus. Tonya emphasizes that DEI is not just about acquiring supplemental competencies. Truly inclusive and equitable leadership requires a specific mindset and consistent commitment integrated into every aspect of leadership and organizational development. In today’s globally connected world, leaders and organizations are required to create diverse, inclusive, and reflective environments that mirror the communities and the broader world they serve to be effective. 

The name “Vigere®” was chosen because it is derived from the Latin word “vigeo,” meaning to thrive, flourish, and prosper. Reflecting this name, Vigere® embraces a holistic, humanistic approach to preparing leaders and organizations to flourish, aiming to create inclusive and thriving environments that positively impact and inspire the world. 

Empowering Leaders with Purpose and Authenticity 

Tonya expresses joy in the work she does with leaders and organizations, highlighting the opportunity to collaborate with them in achieving their goals while gaining insights into their values and desired impact on the world. In her role as an executive coach, Tonya focuses on empowering people to become leaders in both business and life, encouraging authenticity without compromising their values and priorities. 

Human-Centric Leadership 

Tonya emphasizes a people-centric approach in her work, recognizing that in the fast-paced business environment, organizations can sometimes overlook the significance of authentic connections and healthy relationships. Her philosophy centers around prioritizing the well-being of individuals, ensuring they feel valued, respected, and included, with the belief that fostering these positive human connections contributes to improved business performance. 

Sustaining Commitment to Diversity 

Tonya, as a Certified Diversity Executive (CDE)®, emphasizes the importance of a steadfast commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts within organizations. She acknowledges the challenges organizations face in dismantling deeply ingrained inequitable systems and processes can lead to fatigue and frustration. However, Tonya believes that only companies committed to facing these challenges head-on can bring about meaningful and lasting change. She highlights the need for ongoing commitment to DEI involving internal reflection, coaching, education, and cultural transformation to ensure that employees genuinely experience inclusion and belonging. Without this commitment, DEI efforts may be abandoned, rendering well-meaning strategies ineffective. 

Fostering Inclusive Growth 

Tonya emphasizes the evolving landscape of leadership development, highlighting the importance of adapting to changes brought about by global shifts, technology, and new generations entering the workforce. She identifies key areas of focus for leaders, including AI, hybrid work environments, sustainability, corporate responsibility, global competency, DEI, cultural and emotional intelligence, agile change management, well-being, and personal development. Tonya underscores the need for leadership development to embrace new learning methods, especially in a technology-enhanced, hybrid environment. While traditional approaches still hold validity, she encourages adjustments to meet the evolving needs of a transforming leadership landscape. Staying attached to traditional methods without an objective review of their current appplictins, according to Tonya, risks obsolescence and goes against the philosophy of development weencourage leaders and organizations to follow. 

Leadership Wisdom 

Tonya advises aspiring leaders and business owners to embark on their leadership journeys by understanding themselves first. She emphasizes the importance of self-awareness, including awareness of core values, goals, and beliefs. According to Tonya, starting the leadership journey from the inside and leading authentically enables individuals to engage with others more effectively. It also allows leaders to build healthy, inclusive cultures and make business decisions that align with the needs of customers, partners, stakeholders, and communities. This approach, Tonya believes, is foundational for becoming a transformational leader who positively impacts their organization.