Black Leadership Matters – Guest blog by Juana Bordas
Black History Month is a time to reflect, learn, and celebrate the countless contributions African Americans have made to our country – a time to recommit to the work of Civil Rights and Community Engagement. We must remember that Black History month is necessary because their journeys and contributions were excluded from the “American story”. Respecting and integrating the history of African Americans, however, should be continuous and not limited to one month!
One crucial step is incorporating Black Leadership principles into our organizations and society. We begin by acknowledging the last year of the first Black president who served our country with dignity, integrity, and high ideals. “We need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how much we share: common hope, common dreams, a bond that will not break.” President Barack Obama
These four principles illustrate how much Black Leadership Matters!
Leadership is about TRANSFORMATION
- Slavery was rationalized in part by the erroneous belief that Black people did not have souls. In fact our Constitution designated Black men as three-fifths of a person. Soul, which some attempted to deny Black people, blossomed into a distinct cultural feature. Soul sister, soul food, soul music – SOUL represents a deep understanding on how a spiritual foundation could sustain people. The Black church became a social, intellectual, and political anchor. By transforming oppression into strength and hope, Black people created a community bonded by common hardship, forged a shared identity, and cultivated the power for change.
Leaders transform negative experiences by finding new directions and healing the past. Recognize your power to transform obstacles and the most difficult situations into opportunities to grow and become stronger.
- Leaders Learn from the PAST
Lift Every Voice which is considered the Black National Anthem begins: “Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us.”
Black people do not forget the past for in that is power, determination, and the engine for change. The past is a pathway to understanding the present and creating a stronger future. By Learning from the past, mistakes are not repeated and progress is made.
Leaders build on past achievements and learn from past mistakes while looking to a better future. Reflect on a past mistake or failure – what did you learn? How has this made you a better person and leader?
- Leaders set an inspiring example – WALK YOUR TALK
Traditionally Black leaders remained part of and served their communities. They set the example so people identified with them, and believed they too could lead – an essential in a community where leadership is based on collective efforts.
This may sound simple, but mainstream leaders often set themselves above others and take more than their share. This is obvious in politics today – we have the best government money can buy! In contrast, attaining the moral authority to lead requires Black leaders to earn community trust. No matter how “important” a leader becomes she must be accessible, work side-by-side with people, and “walk the talk” – modeling good character, honesty, humility, generosity and keeping one’s word.
What steps can you take today to increase your credibility as a leader by emulating these qualities?
- Leaders work for the Common Good
Martin Luther King Jr. believed, “The religious aspect of our quest for justice is a struggle to make our society whole.” Black leadership integrates spirituality with social responsibility. This brings us to a profound question: What is the purpose of leadership?
Traditionally Black leadership focused on building community, the public welfare, and addressing barriers that hindered people. This entailed cultivating people’s capacities and nurturing a community of leaders. The purpose of Black leadership – promoting justice, equality, community, and citizen engagement – are needed today to address the racism, homophobia, sexism and corporate greed that was touted in the last election. We must rededicate ourselves to build the inclusive and just society- to address the many challenges facing our society.
Reflect on the purpose of leadership in society today. What would our society be like if leaders saw their role as working for the common good?
BLACK LEADERSHIP MATTERS because it provides a road map to create a more viable and sustainable future that works for all the people. Let us IGNITE our commitment to a new activism that fulfills the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.
To learn more about Black Leadership Principles – Order Juana’s Book –
Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age
“It’s empowerment time in America – empowerment means closing the racial divide and opening the doors of leadership at all levels…Salsa, Soul, and Spirit can guide us on that journey inviting us to work together to create an America that benefits from the potential of all its people.”
Marc H. Morial – President, National Urban League
Juana Bordas, President
Mestiza Leadership International
Author, Activist, Diversity Aficionada