Meet Chris Womack; he is the president and CEO of Southern Company, an Atlanta-based energy provider which generated $22.4 billion in annual revenue in 2021. What is more, the company serves some nine million customers. Womack’s role at Southern Company makes him one of the current eight Black CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies.
Prior to assuming his current role, the 65-year-old worked as chairman, president, and CEO of Georgia Power, the Southern Company’s largest subsidiary. He also previously worked as the executive vice president and president of external affairs for Southern Company.
The Greenville, Alabama native first joined Southern Company in 1988, rising through various ranks to the current position he now occupies. Before that, he worked on Capitol Hill for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington DC. He was a legislative aide to former Congressman Leon E. Panetta and he also worked as staff director for the Subcommittee on Personnel and Police for the Committee on House Administration.
Womack’s talent has seen him also being poached to sit on several boards. The boards he has chaired include the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau board and the Atlanta Sports Council. He has also been on the boards of Communities in Schools of Georgia, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Essential Utilities, Inc., Georgia Ports Authority, and Invesco Ltd., among others.
Womack grew up with his grandmother in Greenville, Alabama, about 50 miles south of Montgomery. He recently recalled spending time with his grandmother working in outdoor gardens, and hunting and fishing. They also kept a background poultry farm and grew okra, greens, corn, beans, and other vegetables.
According to him, he learned very early to value simple things in life and to appreciate the value of a strong work ethic like doing right all the time and getting along with people. “My grandmother always said that if I worked hard and played by the rules, I could accomplish whatever I set out to achieve. And my mother was a teacher, so there was a commitment in our family to the importance of education,” he told Excoleadership.
“I share some of those beliefs inside our company — that if you do a good job with the job you have, if you get along well with others, and if you prepare yourself by being a good student of the business, there’s a good chance you will get more opportunities. That’s how it’s played out for me,” he added.
A protest leader during his school days, Womack said there were not enough Black leaders he could find as role models. He noted that those he saw growing up were either preaching or teaching.
“My mother wanted me to be a teacher and I did some student teaching after college and realized it was not what I wanted to do. I did not have the patience for that and I never felt that calling to be a preacher. So I learned by watching other people’s approaches to leadership,” he said.
Womack has a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree from American University. He is also pursuing a doctoral degree in political science at Clark Atlanta University.