Thoughts and Questions On Leadership

I’ve been noticing that the topic of leadership has been trending a lot nowadays. It made me wonder about several things, but before my mind started filling up with a million questions. I wanted to know what a leader is, or rather what is leadership, and what makes a good leader?  Are some people born to be leaders  or do we all, in some capacity have a calling to be a leader. (I think we do.)

I’ve heard that leadership “is the capacity to influence others through inspiration, generated by a passion, motivated by a vision, birthed by a conviction, produced by a purpose.” Of course Wikipedia has a little something to say about it. I believe that we determine leaders on different judging scales. There are many different levels of leadership. Some leaders are placed in a position of authority while others earn their right to be there. In my opinion, a true leader earns their respect and influence.

I believe our first encounter with leadership is within our very own family units. I often hear of Mompreneurs  stay at home moms who are the CEO’s CFO’s etc. of their family brand taking their gifts and talents to another level. I have also heard that men want to feel that they are the king of their own castle after slaving away in corporate America under another man’s leadership.  We are then exposed to people of power as we get socialized in school, peers groups, religious affiliations, etc. So, where do some of us go astray? Why do we decide we’d rather settle in a life that is dictated completely by another’s whims? Why do we find ourselves in positions to do only as we’re told simply to fulfill another person’s vision whether or not it aligns with our values and ways of thinking? 

Also, if we are to simply be followers, who are we choosing to follow and why? What makes a good leader?

Well, being the kind of woman that I am, I usually learn what I like by getting a feel for what I don’t like, that’s just how I operate.  I feel more confident in saying that a good leader is a leader who doesn’t display the traits of a bad leader.

My final thoughts wondered over to why leadership is important. Is it because when times are hard and morale is low people desire someone to tell them what to do? Are we socialized into wanting others to direct our lives?  Personally, I think the world would be a scary place without good leadership, what about you?

First Social Networking Event

Photo by: M. Abanye

A while back I stumbled across this article on face to face networking. It was truly by coincidence that my spiritual leaders had a vision to start up a business professionals networking group. Out of that vision birthed the Victorious Business Professionals (V.B.P.) “Helping today’s business leaders to experience victory in their professional lives.” After reading the mission statement of this networking group I knew this would be a great place to get my feet wet in social networking offline.

Once I discovered that the first event would be a breakfast gathering, I immediately connected with the coordinator to volunteer in anyway she deemed useful. Volunteering gave me a first hand look at the business leaders who were going to attend the event and I couldn’t believe that my church housed all of these awesome people. The impressive list of entrepreneurs ranged from inventors and software designers to bakers and shoe designers. I became ecstatic as the days drew closer to the event. On the day of, I was ready to venture and network like a mad woman. I went speeding down the highway yelling “Hi-Ho Silver!” to my silver/gray (when cleaned) car. My very extroverted friend was running behind and so I would be solo to start. As soon as I walked into the event, took a look at all the people socializing, I immediately felt the urge to coward back to my car and wait for my friend. After all of the excitement and confidence building too!  As I turned to make a dash for my car I agonized over the fact that I recognized some of the faces, yet felt so imitated around so many people. Luckily I recognized what I was doing; (not valuing my own worth by assumptions and comparing) sucked it up and took a brave small step that I could handle. I walked back into the event and noticed a vendor that looked interesting, made my way to the table and listened to the presentation of the representative.

Letting her do the speaking, and watching her professionalism was just what I needed to ease into the networking mindset. Turns out she wanted mentors, sponsors, and businesses to partner with her as she empowers young women desiring to live in their purpose and calling. She thought I would be a great fit as an internet marketer for my gift basket business and surprisingly a social media consultant, (Things I’m still learning how to do productively.)Needless to say, we are now connected Facebook friends. Soon after listening to her business pitch, I found myself with small groups of people answering questions about my products and services making sure to engage with them about their businesses taking mental notes on who I needed to follow up with afterwards. My friend eventually showed up but we never networked together throughout the entire event. I confidently found my groove by starting small and working my way around to various groups of people and vendors.

By the end of the event, I had plenty of business cards with permission to send emails (very important to build a legitimate mailing list.) I found a local computer technician, honed a relationship with a nonprofit startup that I have already begun volunteer work for, and found two awesome nonprofits that I will have to do separate blogs about because they provide local resources I’m sure somebody will seriously find useful (Free entrepreneurship training including computer classes!)  So that sums up my first social networking event. I would love to hear your social event stories. Did you shy up like I did? Did you brand yourself and make awesome connections?

5 Ways to Be Productive While Unemployed

Whether unemployed or underemployed it is not too hard to get discouraged and frustrated from time to time while job hunting. When I went through my own stages of a job search, I learned more and more that traditional job hunting techniques are becoming a thing of the past. It is essential to inherit some new millennial techniques to survive this economy. So I’ve gathered a list of a few ways to stay productive and not go crazy when you’ve become unemployed.

1.)Get reacquainted with yourself-I cannot begin to tell you how many people I’ve come across who define who they are by what they do, (I used to be one of them). I would like to think that we are more than just our occupation. Take some a self-inventory; journal, take some personality assessments, (re)discover what your spiritual gifts and natural talents are, find a life coach or get some counseling if starting over again scares you half to death. By getting to know the real you, a new drive and ambition forms and you become motivated, striving to live and work with purpose. A mentally and spiritually happy you produces a much more productive you.

2.)Go back to school-If you find that you lack some of the skills required by hiring companies maybe it’s time to take some refresher courses at a local community college or online. They even offer free online courses if you look hard enough for them. Perhaps now is the time to finally go for that college degree or advanced degree you kept putting off due to working your full-time job.

3.)Volunteer- There are many ways to volunteer your time and talent including helping out your local community, church, or even virtual volunteer work to help organizations with office tasks or marketing from home. Volunteering is a great way to network and build on skills while working towards the greater good.

4.)Become involved in social media- Like I’ve mentioned, traditional job hunting is becoming a thing of the past. There are so many online communities and resources out there that are created to help people find jobs, mentors, volunteer work, conferences and other network events. I didn’t start getting interviews until I started blogging, using twitter and facebook as methods for job hunting. I’m learning that personal branding with these social media outlets is going to be key for greater career success.

5.)Become your own boss- We’ve all heard stories of great business starting during a bad economy. Well why not start your own business too? If you’ve been working in an industry for many years and built a great reputation for yourself you’re already on your way. If you’re not ready to take such a big risk and make such large investment, contract or freelance work may be the road to travel. As for me, I knew that I had not quite gained enough industry experience to branch off on my own so I decided to try out a work from home business opportunity to teach myself entrepreneurship skills so it won’t be entirely new to me when I pursue other business opportunities.

Feel free to add to this list and tell me what you think.

Black History Now

I decided to blog about Black Entrepreneurship, (and yes I will also blog about other topics this month just in case anyone is wondering). This will be a segment of Q & A’s on black entrepreneurs who are working hard at being awesome, while leaving their mark and building their legacies. I know I could quote some famous and historical black figures since it is Black History Month, but I also wanted to shed some light on the progression and success of everyday black people- dreaming, believing, and achieving in 2011. I know this isn’t history, but it is history in the making and that counts for something. I like to read about the everyday unsung heroes; the firefighter, the caretaker for the elderly, the advocate for the youth, etc. I want to share a fresh perspective from the people we know and grew up with; the ones who are taking risks to own that dream business, or build that personal brand. Many small town or inner city raised blacks are at the forefront of community development. They step to the plate as leaders and mentors to students and troubled youth. They bring employment opportunities to the jobless and donate to charitable causes. I want to acknowledge the blacks who bring about positive reinforcement against the negative stereotypes that deter hopes and ambition. Some of my “interviewees” are going to be small business owners, while others will simply be working towards becoming their own boss. One thing they all have in common is that they are defining success on their own terms, and that is definitely something worth celebrating.

Workplace Discrimination

It still amazes me that in 2011 using the word “discrimination” can really get people riled up. When used in regards to holding someone back from accomplishing equal housing, better schooling, or climbing the financial freedom ladder people get very defensive, offended, and downright in denial mode. I noticed this especially when it comes to anything regarding racially motivated workplace discrimination. I could go on and on about the stats and news reports on this topic. However, I want to incorporate the element of workplace bias in this particular case of discrimination.

 I was very bothered when a good friend of mine informed me that she was passed up for promotion for the third time. When I asked her if she knew the reason, she responded that her supervisor told her she was too young for a Director position compared to the woman they decided to offer the prestigious position to. At that moment, I naturally went into “are you freakin kidding me” mode. I had heard of age discrimination in the workplace but it was due to being “too old”, usually around retirement age. My dear friend had graced past her mid-twenties and wasn’t the “new kid on the block” in her field of work. So I decided to make sense of the whole thing. I looked at the facts as well as the complaints she expressed to me about previous problems she had when it came to her getting promotions. My friend has her Bachelor’s degree and plans to get her Masters. She has been in her field for a few years, she is respected by her clientele as well as her co-workers. When she asked for feedback regarding her job performance from supervisors they could not deny that she went above and beyond the call of duty.

 Despite these facts, the woman who received the promotion only had her associates degree (nothing wrong with an associates don’t get me wrong), had slightly less years of experience in the field, and also worked for the company less years than my friend. I was also informed that this woman did not even complete her work assignments, as my friend and other co-workers complained to each other about picking up her slack.  What the woman did have on my friend was that she was 10 years older and the supervisor was friends with her outside the workplace, while the supervisor disrespected my friend by speaking to her like a child calling her “little girl” in front of co-workers who worked under my friends’ supervision. (lots of hierarchy at this company) My friend is one of the youngest and most credentialed employees of this company. She has to work extra hard to gain respect from her subordinates who witnesses the belittling treatment she receives from her supervisors. This not only sounds like age discrimination to me but supervisor jealously and insecurity.  I told my friend she should fight for her much deserved respect. She thinks it is not worth the battle. What should she do?