I had the honor and privilege of attending an inaugural awards dinner called "YP Honors" for the Urban League of Union County (NJ) Young Professionals @ULUCYP. Although not an award recipient, the organization surprised me with an acknowledgement and gift. My heart swelled with emotion and although I said a few words, I did not articulate what I could've have in that moment...so here goes...
In 2011-2013, I served as a Eastern Region Vice President for the National Urban League Young Professionals. My responsibility included overseeing 18 chapters and most importantly, collecting community service data on monthly conference calls. This wasn't always easy. Often times chapter leaders came to the call unprepared. Month after month, I would strategize over ways to increase their preparation and participation. Overall, chapters in the region did exceptionally well, but it was the monthly calls that seemed to fall apart. One month in particular...I snapped. After hearing the 5th chapter leader in a row say "I don't have my information" I asked in a snappy way "is it you or is it me...do you need 45 days instead of 30 to prepare for a 2 minute report...how can I help?" Leader after leader said "it's me, not you." I had heard it all before. One leader in particular was the least experienced of the bunch. Her name is Kendall, she was 24 and her chapter had only been in existence for one year. She was doing everything in her power to learn, understand and participate.
After the call, I immediately called her to say my comments were not directed at her, rather the more seasoned leaders. She said "no Rahshib, I wasn't prepared...I want to be sharp so I thank you for calling me out." In that moment, I realized I was witnessing strength in action. Her authentic level of ownership was of the same caliber of an Olympic gold medal performance. I experienced her as rigorous about her own professional development...at that age. I immediately knew "she's got it!"
There are lessons to be learned from Kendall's behavior and I call it "Yes Leadership"
Yes Leadership is:
- Courage to face challenges, ask for support or stretch beyond your usual "good enough"
- Commitment to keep integrity with your word, finish what you start and do it in excellence
- Willingness to take Coaching. If someone cares enough about you to give you feedback...listen
Keeping saying YES to leadership!
Rahshib Thomas, PHR