By: Elizabeth Murray , Jeffrey Kyles

Lewis Leadership in Action Spotlight: Vice President of Finance Jeff Kyles

Lewis Leader shines a light on “the human side of finance” and the importance of being fully present

Three minutes before his team took the field for the biggest game of their lives, 
Al Pacino’s character in “Any Given Sunday” stood before his players in the locker room and delivered a passionate speech that is still quoted today: “Life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game—life or football—the margin for error is so small. One half step too late or too early—and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast—you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game. Every minute. Every second. On this team, we fight for that inch.”

This iconic monologue is inspiring not only to those who have spent time on the grassy gridiron fighting for each inch—but to anyone who has ever felt the heady rush of teamwork, the gritty thrill of competition, or the powerful drive of collaboration.

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Life is tough: you can do it through discipline or disappointment. You choose.

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Jeff Kyles, Vice President of Finance for Lewis Services, understands Pacino’s locker room speech better than most. As a former college football player, professional football official, and successful financial executive with more than 25 years of business leadership experience, Kyles has successfully led teams—on and off the field— with that same compelling combination of teamwork, drive, and collaboration. He knows the importance of being fully present and engaged with one’s team, and what it’s like to work hard for every inch, which is why Kyles’ favorite Lewis Leadership in Action principle is “Must be present to win.”

As a finance executive, Kyles can relate to Pacino’s caveat that “the margin for error is so small,” especially as it relates to the complexities of an employee-owned business with 4000+ staff providing vegetation management services to more than half of the United States.  The fiscal oversight and guidance required for an organization like Lewis is a significant responsibility that relies on many moving parts and purposeful presence.

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The Human Side of Finance

While Kyles is highly regarded as a business strategist focused on profitability, he is also greatly respected for sharing the story behind the numbers—what he calls “the human side of finance” that makes the numbers accessible, understandable, and relatable. He believes his team is successful because everyone has a voice and is strongly encouraged to share their perspectives and experiences.  “If we don’t have that open dialogue, then an individual can feel excluded and we lose diversity of thought and opinion, and the ability to make a well-informed decision,” he explains. 

Jeff Kyles VP Finance

Jeff Kyles, VP of Finance

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As I have achieved success through hard work, discipline, and determination, I am creating new pathways for tomorrow’s diverse leaders.

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Committing to a culture of collaboration requires an investment of time, but that’s part of what attracted Kyles to Lewis Services, a leader in the vegetation management industry. 

Thinking back to his interview with the company, he recalls a refreshingly unique focus on the future. “Going through the interview process, I learned a couple of things. One: Lewis has a long-term vision. In my previous positions with publicly-traded companies, you’re only as good as your last quarter.  Lewis has a long-term vision of what the company is trying to achieve.”  He continues, “The second aspect is that Lewis truly helps people. At Lewis, we’re serving our utility customers to help keep the infrastructure of the electric grid going. And when people are in need, such as during storm response, we move quickly to get the power back on.”

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Raised by Role Models

That strong commitment to helping others was instilled in Kyles many years ago.  Born in Cleveland, OH and raised in Horseheads, NY, Kyles proudly considers his parents, Roy and Ernestine, to be the epitome of Leadership in Action. Kyles learned many profound lessons from his parents about overcoming challenges, having internal discipline, giving back to the community, and “being present to win”—lessons that have remained with him throughout his life.

Jeff Kyles Parents leader

Jeff's parents, Roy and Ernestine Kyles

Kyles’ mother, whom he describes as a real-life “Wonder Woman”, received a master’s degree in education and dedicated her career to teaching. His father had an aptitude for mathematics and earned a degree in electrical engineering.  He worked for Westinghouse for 22 years before becoming owner, President, and CEO of a technology company that employed more than 700 people.  He led that company for 16 years.

Staunch advocates for education, Kyles’ parents emphasized the importance of hard work and discipline to their only child. Mr. Kyles advised his son, “Life is tough: you can do it through discipline or disappointment. You choose.” The younger Kyles has never forgotten that sage advice and continues to choose “discipline” as his guiding force.

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Working Hard for Every Inch

Both Pacino and Kyles’ parents were champions of hard work, determination, and grit.  In “Any Given Sunday,” Pacino’s rousing words sought to heal a divided team as it faced its greatest challenge.  For Kyles’ parents, who regularly faced challenges as African Americans in a predominantly White community in the 1970s and ‘80s, working hard “for every inch” was a way of life.

Bearing witness to his parents’ incredible work ethic and unflappable determination in spite of systemic barriers, Kyles chooses discipline to overcome every challenge.  As a Black man in a leadership role, he has often found himself to be one of a select few or the only Person of Color on various executive teams.  He is not a fan of the word “token” and recognizes that even today, it often goes unsaid in some circles.  Kyles acknowledges that progress has been made, but he believes that there is more each of us can do to increase diversity representation in leadership— because it is good for business.

This is not just Kyles’ opinion.  Heather Steranka, Lewis’ Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, points to research that further illustrates how diverse leadership provides many benefits for businesses. “McKinsey & Company have compiled and analyzed compelling data over several years that shows—without a doubt—companies with higher gender, racial, and ethnic diversity on their executive teams are more than 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies that don’t.”

Kyles is grateful that his parents continue to serve as amazing role models and he is determined to be a role model for others. “As I have achieved success through hard work, discipline, and determination, I am creating new pathways for tomorrow’s diverse leaders.”

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For the Love of Football

Lewis Leadership In Action Jeff Kyles

Jeff Kyles as a professional football official

The combination of Kyles’ strong work ethic and supportive upbringing has resulted in great success on many fronts—and fields. As a lifelong athlete and longtime football official, Kyles sees many parallels between sports teams and corporate collaborations.

As a youth, Kyles played baseball, football, basketball, and lacrosse, and continued his football career at the collegiate level at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York.  It was during his time as a college athlete that he began officiating.  

A friend’s father was a high school official and asked Kyles if he’d like to make a hundred dollars on Sundays officiating football games for kids.  Like any college student strapped for cash, Kyles enthusiastically replied, “Sure! Why not?!” . . . and a 27-year career as an official began. First officiating for high school teams and then college, Kyles advanced from Division III to Division II before rising to Division 1AA.   

Kyles appreciates the correlations between his officiating team and Lewis team—the preparation, dedication to learning, and diversity of perspectives that are critical for each call and decision.  As a Lewis leader, he respects the culture of continuous improvement and takes his responsibilities very seriously.  “One of my most important roles as a leader is to develop the people on my teams by understanding what is important to them, what motivates them, what they want to achieve in their career—and removing the obstacles so that they can be successful.”  

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Giving Back

Kyles’ passion for supporting others extends past his Lewis teams to the community. Following the lead of his parents—who continue to be involved  in their community by serving on boards and committees, volunteering at church, and donating to scholarships for Students of Color—Kyles serves as the Vice Chair of the Board for the Greater Rochester Chapter of the American Red Cross.  Several years ago, Kyles wanted to give back to his community by volunteering with an organization that had diverse impact across the region, and was impressed with the Red Cross’ array of programs that support Veterans, work with youth, deliver meals, provide disaster relief, and facilitate blood donations.

Kyles’ desire to give back to the community is present at Lewis, too, where he serves as the Executive Sponsor for the Giving Tree Committee, the philanthropic arm of Lewis that annually supports approximately 40 local charities through gifts of time, funding, and collection of items. Throughout the year, the Giving Tree Committee coordinates volunteering events, such as the Day of Caring and Feed the Funnel (which assembled more than 35,000 meals in 2023), and spearheads the collection of items such as food, clothing, toys, and household supplies.

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The Road to Success

As a leader who strives to help others realize their potential, Kyles advises those around him to take advantage of learning opportunities as they present themselves—even if the experiences don’t always lead to the expected results.  “No experience is bad, it’s just a diverse experience. When you take the good from a variety of different experiences and make it your own—you will continuously build the skill sets, attributes, and motivation needed to be successful as you move up into the leadership ranks.”

Thanks to his upbringing and unstoppable work ethic, Kyles didn’t need to be present in Pacino’s locker room to find his motivation. His presence in the home of Roy and Ernestine Kyles and in leadership at Lewis is what’s driving him, his team, and Lewis to win.


One of my most important roles as a leader is to develop the people on my teams by understanding what is important to them, understanding what motivates them, understanding what they want to achieve in their career—and removing the obstacles so that they can be successful.