Seven of St. Louis' newest CEOs, including leaders of St. Louis City SC, McBride Homes and First Bank, describe the hardest thing about starting a new job

You can imagine the anxiety that comes with moving into a leadership role, taking the reins of your company or of a different company. All eyes are cast in your direction, awaiting your next move. There’s no one above you in the coroporate hierarchy to rely upon. The safety net is gone.

No pressure, right?

This year, with the launch of the St. Louis Business Journal Executive Network, we’ve come to realize just how valuable it is for people in that position to meet and connect with others in the same circumstance.

The Executive Network is a once-per-quarter private dinner, held at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, in Clayton, in which we connect CEOs, presidents, executive directors or managing directors, most of whom were appointed in the prior quarter, to gather to engage with each other. We also invite a small group of veteran St. Louis CEOs to share their insights and mentorship.

The first two such dinners were a resounding success, and featured the new CEOs of St. Louis companies such as Lion’s Choice, Cass Information Systems, Copeland, Wugen, 39 North, Belden, Polsinelli and HOK. The next class of invitees, including those featured here, only add to the prestige of this program.

In the following, you’ll hear more from these new CEOs about how they lead, about the challenges they encounter when taking on a new leadership role, and a little bit about their personal lives.

Kate Dougherty

Kate Dougherty on April 1 began her tenure as president of Office Essentials, a St. Louis-area furniture dealer.

Office Essentials


President, Office Essentials

Start date in your new position: April 1

The organization: Based in Vinita Park, the company is one of the St. Louis region’s largest office furniture dealers and a provider of office supplies, educational materials, technology products, and break room and cleaning supplies. It has 150 employees across five locations and last year reported $60 million in revenue. 

How do you describe your leadership style? I take a visionary and inspirational approach to leadership. I believe in empowering and collaborating with my team to foster a culture of innovation and open communication. We celebrate the wins and the “waterloos” in order to keep growing and evolving.

Hardest thing about starting a new job? As David Bowie once sang: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strange).” One of the key challenges of assuming the role as company president is navigating and managing change effectively while ensuring employee buy-in and support. This complex undertaking involves skillfully guiding the organization through transformations, addressing resistance and fostering a sense of alignment and engagement among employees throughout the change process.

Biggest current challenge? The biggest global challenge is the understandable paralysis that customers face while navigating a tricky game of “will there or won’t there be a recession?” and subsequently, where to rethink costs and reimagine investment.

On the weekends, you can find me … : Attempting to keep our outdoor plants alive, playing a spirited game of H-O-R-S-E with my 3 kids, or enjoying coffee with my wife before the house awakens. And if you can’t find me engaged in one of these activities you can bet, I’m doing laundry or tackling the removal of a toy from its packaging. 


Elizabeth Brown is the senior executive director, Missouri area, for the American Cancer Society.

Elizabeth Brown


Senior executive director, Missouri area, American Cancer Society of Missouri

Start date in your new position: May

The organization: Brown oversees the Missouri operations of the national nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of people with cancer and their families. 

How do you describe your leadership style? In my leadership style I’m drawn daily to inspire and motivate my team to strive for a common goal. Creating a shared vision and prioritizing a culture of trust and collaboration through respect for others is key. I value creating a positive work culture with transparency that promotes collaboration, inclusivity, and accountability for achieving our collective goals.

Hardest thing about starting a new job? The biggest challenge in starting a new job is knowing when to say “no.” With so many new challenges, tasks, goals in front of you remembering to prioritize the time needed to build trust with your team can be challenging. Prioritizing the people over the production can be hard so knowing your priorities from the start is key. 

Biggest current challenge? Setting a clear vision for growth across all of our markets in Missouri that every single member of our team can fully see their value in and how they play an integral role in our success moving forward as a team. 

On the weekends, you can find me … : Cheering on one of my 5 daughters in something they love, hitting the dog park then grabbing a drink by the fire with amazing friends! 

2023.04 Photo Diego vs

Diego Gigliani is president and general manager of St. Louis City SC.

St. Louis City SC


President and general manager, St. Louis City SC

Start date in your new position: July 5

The organization: St. Louis City SC is the newest team in Major League Soccer. Gigliani oversees day-to-day operations, including its sporting, revenue, marketing, experience, operations, administration and community departments. He arrived in St. Louis after a decade with England-based City Football Group, which owns Manchester City FC of the English Premier League.

How do you describe your leadership style? At the simplest level, I believe in leading by example and as part of a team. I like to think big and be ambitious, set high standards, drive relentlessly in pursuit of growth and results, and create a sense of a family where we can all count on each other.

Hardest thing about starting a new job? Finding the right balance between wanting to quickly start delivering value while investing the time to get to know the business and the people. Plus, in my case, managing the relocation of my family from Europe to the Midwest!

Biggest current challenge? I’m fortunate to arrive at a club and an organization that is performing incredibly well, both on and off the pitch, which everyone should be incredibly proud of. The challenge lies in preparing everyone for more testing times and ensuring we’re building for long-term success. We also have a great opportunity as a league to keep growing soccer’s popularity in the U.S.

On the weekends, you can find me … : At CITYPARK! But we also plan our weekends around activities for our two sons, with the occasional “date night” with my wife to get to know a new restaurant or area of town.

Nick Akers LR 20210830 D85 8599

Nick Akers, president and CEO of STL Communications.

Jorge Restrepo Photography (C) 2021


President, STL Communications Inc.

Start date in your new position: May 5

The organization: Founded in 1989 and based in Chesterfield, STL Communications is a provider of business communications services specializing in voice, networking, storage and managed service/cloud services.

How do you describe your leadership style? I try to practice a servant-style leadership that puts employees’ needs first and empowers them to be their best selves at work.

Hardest thing about starting a new job? I purchased STL Communications so I’m joining an existing team as the new person, also occupying the highest role at the company. I viewed the most important part of this was to establish trust quickly, and my approach for this was to listen to employees and make early decisions based on their input.

Biggest current challenge? Our biggest challenge, and opportunity, is really accelerating growth to the level I am looking to accomplish. We have had some great wins recently, and I want to continue that momentum for the team both organically and through additional acquisitions.

On the weekends, you can find me … : Coaching soccer for both my son’s and daughter’s teams or being out hiking and fishing.

Mikel Williamson

Mikel William, successor to Shelley Seifert as CEO of First Bank

First Bank


CEO, First Bank

Start date in your new position: Aug. 1

The organization: Privately held First Bank ranked 10th on the list of the St. Louis area’s largest banks ranked by local deposits as of mid-2021, with $2.53 billion. Williamson was previously president and CEO of Happy State Bank & Trust, headquartered in Amarillo, Texas.

How do you describe your leadership style? I believe you lead from a place of authenticity. People need the tools to do their job in an environment that allows them to excel. Great leaders provide the tools and culture high performing people need to excel. 

Hardest thing about starting a new job? Starting from a humble place and allowing yourself to truly understand the team and culture. This is essential to helping the team come together.

Biggest current challenge? Change. Leaders tend to overlook change as a challenge all by itself. When a leader is changing roles or a new leader is entering the company, change is inevitable. We must build a team dynamic quickly so we can lead through the change curve.

On the weekends, you can find me … : Following my daughter around to sporting events or in the wilderness or at the lake. 


Dr. Hossain Marandi is president of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.



President, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital

Start date in your new position: June 26

The organization:  A nonprofit hospital staffed by the SLUCare Physician Group of Saint Louis University School of Medicine providing pediatric care to communities throughout Illinois and Missouri. SSM last week announced plans to replace the current hospital at Chouteau Avenue and Grand Boulevard with a 195-bed facility at 1465 S. Grand Blvd.

How do you describe your leadership style? My leadership style revolves around collaboration, transparency and humility, and I strive to empower and inspire my teams to deliver exceptional care and outcomes.

Hardest thing about starting a new job? The initial adjustment period which includes adapting to a new work environment, getting to know colleagues, understanding company culture and politics, as well as learning the specifics of the role and responsibilities.

Biggest current challenge? The growing labor shortage of physicians, nurses and all of the ancillary staff who care for patients, which creates decreased access, increases costs and widens the equity gap.

On the weekends, you can find me … : Watching football and playing video games with my two sons.

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Jake Eilermann, president and CEO of McBride Homes

Courtesy of McBride Homes


CEO and president, McBride Homes

Start date in your new position: Oct. 2 

The organization: McBride Homes is the St. Louis metro area’s largest homebuilder. It sold 893 homes last year, had 409 homes under construction as of the third quarter, and employs 147 full-time workers.

How do you describe your leadership style? I’m highly focused on process and talent development with constant communication and trust. Motivation and transparency is key.

Hardest thing about starting a new job? The hardest part is prioritizing new challenges and having the patience to complete your long-term goals. 

Biggest current challenge? It’s easy for someone to focus on the problem instead of the solution. I try to tailor our approach to be open minded while collecting critical feedback and perspective. 

On the weekends, you can find me … We are a few days away from having our second child, so you’ll likely find me on diaper duty.


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