Are You Ready for Leadership?

I think just about everyone has sat up on the edge of their bed and thought it was their time to lead, it was their time to run for office, time to change the trajectory of their community, knock doors, hold community clean-ups—all in the name of effective leadership. Unfortunately, I don’t think that people think about the sacrifices that come with standing in the front.  Or even how to handle the pressure when being the overseer becomes the obligation. I think it is safe to assume some really don’t understand the true definition of leadership. What comes with the capacity of leading? Is it publicity? What really is leadership? Quite frankly, it is understanding that leadership is not about an individual person, it’s about the people of which the collective serves.

I had my “Aha” moment on December 28th, 2015—I decided one late night that I was going to lead. I didn’t have the resources, education or the support group to be able to make that a reality. Or so I thought. But, what I quickly found out was that I didn’t need a Ph.D. from Stanford to be an effective leader. I just needed to commit myself to the call of service. My personal Motto has been from the very beginning “All good leaders serve”. I couldn’t tell you whose quote that is but what I can guarantee is that it is true.  Since that dreary night in December of 2015, I have dedicated myself to the betterment of others. In particular, black and brown people and the underserved. I helped at food kitchens, painted walls at the YMCA and read books to the women’s children at the YWCA. I drove from Columbus, Ohio for six months off my own dime to serve the people of Flint, Michigan, biweekly. Primarily, because service meant that much to me. A hierarchy or degree didn’t give me that level of commitment–helping the residents of Flint, Michigan did.

I find it astonishing how many people think that being in the front means TV appearances. Well, ok,  maybe sometimes it does. But, leadership is not all about publicity or acknowledgments. It’s being the referee during team disagreements, late nights and early mornings, it means people publicly ridiculing you. In addition to putting your ordination before your own personal desires. So, I think it is pertinent to think about the eagerness of one’s urgency to lead? Is that eagerness the desire of validity? That is something to check before hopping in the driver’s seat.  Leadership is not entirely about preparedness, but it is about being readily prepared in situations of turmoil.

Service for me led to becoming the first female President of the Central Ohio Young Black Democrats, an organization chartered underneath the Ohio Democratic Party. It led to me speaking at Columbia University with only an Associate’s Degree, led to travelling across the country to sit in rooms with our nation’s leaders,  being featured in various media sources, being requested to commentate on debates in New York City and travelling across the country providing my insight of politics and leadership. I don’t mention those things to gloat, but I mention that to provide the blueprint for effective directorship.

Before I close I think it is imperative to mention to the readers of color, that you have a firm responsibility to serve your community. Leadership is great, being in front is wonderful. Tough times may arise as most times they do. But, understand you ALWAYS have an obligation to your community. No matter how “Famous” you become. Understand you have an obligatory commitment to the people who look up, elect, and work for you. If you’ve served to get in the space you now stand it is vital not to forget to retain the same servant’s heart you began with.

As always, If serving is below you, then leadership is certainly beyond you.

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Latyna M. Humphrey

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