Impactful leadership can mean different things to different people. At its heart, though, good leadership is the ability to inspire and push others to do their best. True leaders will inspire pride in belonging. Leaders are often serving a cause greater than themselves and can not only articulate the passion and vision behind the cause but also make others believe in it.
Here are three firm perspectives on leaders who have inspired them and made them believe in something larger than their own life.
Marnita Dickerson on Lacy Steele
I’m inspired by Lacy Steele, who was an American civil rights movement leader in the 1960s and is currently an activist in Seattle, WA. Uncle Lacy was my father’s younger brother, and I grew up watching him fight hard every single day to knock down bigotry and injustice. After moving to Seattle, he joined the local NAACP, eventually becoming president of the organization and working to desegregate public schools in the city.
What I learned from Uncle Lacy was that you must stay true to your belief system even when times get difficult. He instilled in me the importance of having a voice and using it to raise other voices. I not only use these lessons in my day-to-day life but also like to give back to my community through teaching dance to young kids. Dance is a beautiful way to express yourself, but we also talk about the importance of making a difference through the power to vote. Representation is an incredibly important tool through which kids know they have a chance to make a difference.
Marnita Dickerson is an Accounts Payable Senior Analyst in our Corporate Services group and a member of AlixPartners’ Black Professional Network employee resource group.
Lawrence Young on Charles Young
There is no straightforward way to describe my cousin Charles Young, who was in a classic sense a true Renaissance man at a time when segregation and Jim Crow laws were in full effect. He was the third to graduate from West Point Military Academy, first black senior military officer, first black to command army intelligence, first superintendent of and responsible for developing the infrastructure at Sequoia National park, and retired as a colonel. He led troops on three different continents in multiple situations. He was a poet, a musician, spoke over four languages, and was a composer of gospel music. He led by example and focused on excellence in all his endeavors. His exploits provide a glimpse into his leadership capabilities, and reading his stories alone were inspirational. As a family member, this level of commitment set the level of expectation.
Given his and his family’s relationship with the black community, several famous politicians, artists, singers, and poets would visit the house. Maya Angelou was one of the artists who visited. His entire family were intellectuals that encouraged discussion and debate. We would literally sit and talk about everything from world politics to history to the arts. The real test was if your logic was sound. From his exploits, writing and first hand from his children, I learned that leadership centers on strength of character and fortitude with the confidence to recognize and learn from good people, and then giving them the tools to develop.
Lawrence Young is a Managing Director (MD) in our Turnaround and Restructuring practice and an MD sponsor of AlixPartners’ Black Professional Network employee resource group.
Latonya Callaway on her parents
For me, leadership means giving back in whatever way feels organic to you. It doesn’t have to be anything on a large scale, but you never know how much you can truly impact others with your actions. This is a lesson that I have learned through my parents, and their life and belief system has been an example for me. It’s hard for me to put into words what my parents mean to me. They are both from a small town in Louisiana and belong to large families. I’m the first person from my family to have gone to college. Growing up, for them and then for me, what was always most important was the idea that irrespective of how much or how little you have, there’s always an opportunity to help someone else and to give back. Every morning, I start my day by going to McDonalds, and at work everyone thinks it’s because I’m still a kid at heart. But the reason I go there is so that I can buy a meal for anyone who is there from the transient community. Sometimes that’s the only meal that some of them can get that day. For me, it’s not a grand gesture, but it’s impactful. So, leadership and community work doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. This is something you can do in your daily life.
Latonya is a Vice President in our Investigations, Disputes & Risk group and member of AlixPartners’ Black Professional Network employee resource group.