Photography by Sergio Plecas / Dakasha Winton

Dakasha Winton, senior vice president and chief government relations officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, leads the company's state and federal government relations efforts and oversees analysis of proposed legislative and regulatory changes. She also serves as liaison to federal and state industry associations and advocacy groups.

Before joining BlueCross, Winton was chief counsel for the Insurance, Securities and TennCare oversight divisions of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. She was also a staff attorney for the department. She graduated cum laude from Tennessee State University and earned her law degree from the University of Memphis.

A member of the Nashville and Tennessee Bar Associations, the Tennessee Lobbyists Association, and the American Health Lawyers Association, Winton was named a fellow of America's Health Insurance Plans in 2010.


What books have you read that have influenced your career and your approach to leadership?

There are four books that come to mind. The first is Alice Walker's "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens." It's a combination of poems and essays, and it's probably atypical as a "leadership" book. However, this book shaped my leadership and personal style as a Black woman born and raised in Tennessee.

The next two books I received as gifts from two women who were mentors to me when I was promoted to chief counsel at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance at 29 years old. One was "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes that Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers" by Lois P. Frankel, and the other was "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman. These books were truly game-changers for me. I still use lessons from both of those books in every facet of my life.

These books helped me navigate situations by ensuring that I am conscious of how my words and actions impact those around me, while remaining true to the needs of the organization, other leaders, team members and myself. Further, they helped me develop a keen awareness of the perspective that I bring in every situation as a woman in leadership.

And, finally, "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell. I am the oldest of four children, a bit of a workaholic and a reformed control freak. This book really helped me home in on the one thing I can control — my responses to situations as they arise.


What books have you recently read for pleasure that you're recommending to others?

I am pretty sure the last book I read for fun was some romance novel — keep your judgment to yourself! I love anything by Nora Roberts, Alisha Rai, and Jasmine Guillory.

And as a big advocate for voting, I can't let this opportunity pass without suggesting that everyone read up on their choices for the November elections. We all have a chance to help make Tennessee stronger by being informed participants in civic life.


What books are up next on your reading list?

I am looking forward to borrowing "Caste" by Isabel Wilkerson and "City of Girls" by Elizabeth Gilbert from my mother when she finishes them.