Success leaves clues, often modeled by real life gladiators who inspire us to break the chains that bind. Who have your modern day gladiators been?
There are so many. In the political realm, I’m inspired by the courageousness of Congresswoman Gwen Moore, as well as the trailblazing and uplifting nature of Former U.S. Ambassador and current Congressional Candidate, Suzan Johnson Cook. In terms of career success, I admire the strategic mind of MetricStream CEO, Shellye Archambeau and the commitment to excellence of IBM Vice President, Denise Evans. In the entrepreneurial realm, I’m in awe of the groundbreaking and lasting success of Cheryl McKissack, CEO of McKissack & McKissack, the historic architectural and construction firm that’s responsible for the MLK Memorial, the new Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture, and a long list of other iconic structures. And as it relates to activism, I’m amazed by the consensus-building prowess of Melanie Campbell, Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, along with the unapologetic-ally bold actions of a wide range of young women throughout the Black Lives Matter movement.
Can you point to a crucible–a life altering event–that has helped to shape your personal leadership acumen?
I had the honor of working with civil rights and women’s right’s icon, Dr. Dorothy Height, during the final years of her life. Dr. Height was one of those larger than life figures–a leader in every sense of the word and a historic change-maker committed to crafting a better world for us all. Ascending to the position of executive director of her beloved National Council of Negro Women following her death, required me to live up to a heightened standard of leadership excellence. And it’s that standard that continues to drive me to this day.
Leading in public life can be challenging, but it comes with the territory. How do you deal with the stress from being ‘on,’ especially in our nation’s capital?
For me, it isn’t stressful at all. In fact, it comes naturally because I’m doing what I love to do. I believe when you build a career around your passion, you operate every day in the center of your brilliance. When you couple natural acumen with a commitment to excellence and the discipline of consistent action, you have no choice but to excel. Excellence becomes as natural as breathing.
Speaking from an entrepreneurial perspective, how has good decision- making impacted your ability to successfully navigate everyday challenges?
One of the most challenging aspects of business ownership is, ironically, one of its most appealing qualities–freedom. The ability to do, theoretically, whatever it is you want to do. However, greater possibilities carry with it significant responsibility. Good decision-making is all about understanding what opportunities are the right opportunities and what idea is the right idea for any particular moment in time. I’ve found that the ability to identify, focus on and commit to specific objectives helps immensely when it comes to the decision-making process. When you know what the target is, it becomes much easier to not get distracted by those things that may sound good in the moment, but will ultimately, take you off course. This approach to decision-making is applicable to every aspect of life. Know what you want. And then let those goals be your North Star. From there, any decision you make becomes as simple as determining will it get me there or not?
Your book is poised to inspire women to embrace leadership as non-negotiable professional imperative. What is the most salient takeaways that women can expect to find in the book?
The book shares why now is the optimal time for increased representation of black women within leadership positions, and what it will take for us, both individually and as a collective, to get there.
Among the key takeaways are advice on how to communicate with power without being labeled an ‘Angry Black Woman;’ how to deal with unfairness, no matter what form it takes and achieve anyway; and perspectives on how to attract key mentors and sponsors that are critical to career success. Â And because in my mind, true success requires holistic fulfillment, the book provides guidance on how to design and build a holistic life you’ll love.
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