10 years ago, I was elected Project Chair of my 2011 Leadership Dallas class leading a team to raise the funds to refurbish a rehabilitation facility in Dallas. At our class graduation, I was voted most likely to unseat a certain Congressman who has since been unseated by Congressman Colin Allred. It feels like a lifetime ago.
At the time I was a program specialist at FEMA responding to requests for information from the public using canned, approved language. At night and on weekends, I was leading almost 30 chapters of the Southern Region of the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP) and sitting on the Mayor’s Community Task Force. I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to be elected as National President of NULYP leading 60+ chapters that summer in Boston.
I paid for my fees for the Leadership Dallas program myself although I applied for grant funding. When I interviewed for the grant to cover my fees, the kind ladies said my resume and bio simply didn’t capture the experiences I shared during the interview. They were impressed but not enough to have me as their scholarship recipient for that year.
I was undeterred because I knew I had some thing in me that allowed me to sit with the mayor or the congressman or CEOs or a disaster applicant and hold my own. Although my position at work did not illustrate my leadership expertise, I was a leader.
10 years later, and five years after completing my service as the first two-time president of NULYP in the organization’s history (with data-based receipts to show for it), I find that having to restate and repackage my credentials sometimes makes me forget who I am. Looking at me, people often underestimate not only my ability, but the sacrifice and sheer force of will required to get here; and each of their no’s, denials of my talent, or suspicion about whether it really exists take a toll.
What I have learned about all of the people and teams that I have led is that your credentials are not the only indicator of success. In fact, sometimes they shield us from knowing whether we have the instincts, heart and tenacity to get the job done. They sometimes keep us from knowing whether or not we love the people we serve and whether we can serve each of them with an understanding of his or her differences, which informs how we help them achieve their personal best.
These are just a few reasons why I coach, why I create classes for black women and why I am elated when they succeed.
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