Thoughts on Effective Leadership From “Professor X”

Organizations can win with modest talent, but talent--even extraordinary talent--cannot excel without a winning organization.

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The unique talent I bring to Black Enterprise, and every publication I’ve ever led (including my first, the Black Voice/Carta Boricua, a periodical for black and Latino students at Rutgers, back in 1981), is not writing ability, or editing skill, or a background in web media or great intelligence. It’s this: the ability to look beyond credentials, formal training and job history, to find the people with “IT”–that unique mix of talent, desire, character, attitude and potential (it’s hard to describe but I know it when I see it), organize these special people into a team (not just a staff or a group) and motivate them to accomplish amazing things. When it comes down to it, that’s what I was really hired to do when I took the position of editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com; to build a winning organization.

I’ve had a passion for this specific kind of challenge long before I was aware of it, and I believe it is a gift from God (one of the talents the Master entrusted to me to manage, develop and invest until He returns). For example, I’ve always been a mediocre basketball player, even though I like to play. When I played pick-up basketball as a teen at my neighborhood playground in Long Branch, N.J., I developed a knack for choosing teammates who could compensate for my lack of skill–instinctively taking into consideration attitude as well as talent and ability. My teams could hold the court all day, despite a significant liability–namely me. I now remember that if I was on a losing team that was not of my choosing, I’d feel bad (I don’t like to lose). But if a team I personally selected lost, I’d be furious, more at myself than at my teammates. I did not recognize that pattern until I grew older, but I now recognize that I’ve always instinctively known that a team is far more than the sum of its members, and that if you could put the right people together and motivate them properly, they could do amazing things, despite apparent or perceived disadvantages.

Similarly, my lifelong love of pro football has never been about individual athletes. I’ve always been obsessed with the question of why, in a league of teams with the same access to talent, money and resources–with parity–certain teams consistently win (Giants, Patriots, Cowboys, Steelers), certain teams consistently lose (Lions, Raiders, Falcons, Cardinals, Saints), and certain teams are consistently inconsistent, winning a respectable number of games (Chargers, Browns, Bills, Chiefs), but rarely championships. It’s why I have few favorite players, but I am

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  • Alfred,

    Another dear friend of mine calls what you described above “the umpf factor”.

    You’ve made a great point…taking time to develop organizational culture is vital for business. While some businesses focus solely on product development and branding, you’ve developed a way to intimately understand your talent pool- solidifying your business ethos in the process.

    Great to hear!!


    Coretta Jackson, MBA
    PhD Student, Organization and Management- Management Education



  • Alfred,

    This was an excellent post. I agree with the earlier comment by Coretta, but I will also add that the reason the information you shared is so vital is because it goes to the heart of how business will be conducted in the future.

    Learning how to leverage what talents and resources you have with the talents and resources of otheres is the how business models of the future will survive.

    The old rugged individualism that has allowed some business to survive and thrive is no longer effective. All one has to do is look at how the old business models that do not focus on piecing together comlimentary talents to build whole organization are failing.

    Once again great post. Something every entrepreneur should take note of.

    Bro. Bedford

  • The basketball metaphor really brought home your point. I have picked teams that could and did win. That has also been the case in other settings.

    Globalization, powered by the Internet, has created a new platform in which cyber teams/networks have a significant influence on offline behavior and activities.

  • Hi nice post, i have come across your site once before when searching for something so i was just wondering something. I love your theme, would it happen to be a free one i can download, or is it a custom one you had made? In a few weeks i will be launching my own site, i’m not great with designs but i really like the style of your site so it would be cool if i could find (or pay for) something with a similar look. 🙂 Thanks!

  • Sonja Brown

    Hi George. Send an e-mail to Alfred at edmonda@blackenterprise.com.