Monday, July 22, 2013

I've Had Three Black Bosses (And An Asian One). How Many Have You Had?

Act 203:  Seek out mentors who don't always look like you.

I've had seven bosses in my lifetime.   Three of them were African-American and one was Asian (four were female).  In casual conversation earlier this week, I was telling someone about this and it occurred to me at that moment, how fortunate I was, and how my thoughts and ideology about leadership were probably framed greatly by these early professional encounters.  While I didn't necessarily seek out to find minority bosses, the experiences have quite literally moved me through my career with a framework that is significantly different from most of my college friends.  I have no preconceived notions about what someone in charge should look like.  Images of salt and pepper headed 60 year-old white males wearing ties sitting at the head of board room tables don't pop into my head when I think of words like authority and management (although one of my most influential bosses does happen to fit this profile).  Those images do however pop up when you image-Google the word "manager".  These are the images that appear in my mind when I think of leadership:  An accomplished black male attorney, a driven and compassionate foreign-born Taiwanese non-profit manager, a charismatic black male faith leader and community organizer, a black female career state government administrator.  Every single one of these individuals served as an extraordinary mentor to me - but perhaps their most unexpected and unintended impact was that they made it possible for me to believe that one day I might actually have enough to contribute to be seated at the head of that table.  Thank you William, Stephanie, Eddie, and Maggie for showing me that people who lead also come in all kinds of brilliant and beautiful shades of brown.

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