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February 28, 2018

Empowering Black Urban Leaders

Helping Black leaders is crucial.

Relative to the general population, there’s a distinct shortage of Black leadership in business.

The Black population makes up just over 13% of the US population, yet as of today there are currently only three Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companiesthat’s less than 1%.

(That means there are more CEOs named “John” than there are Black CEOs.)

In the process of Black leadership growth and training, it’s important to include a diverse set of voices, backgrounds, and opinions.

This is why for the third year in a row, I’m honored to have delivered the keynote address at the Urban Leadership Foundation Connect Retreat.

This year’s topic (Building Social Capital) builds on my last two speeches.

Let me walk you through my messages.

New Games in Other Fields

Year 1 – In 2016, I spoke about games being played that most of us haven’t even heard of.

Something I’ve learned in life is that every time I feel like I’ve reached the heights of my game, I learn that there’s an entirely new game being played.

Ever feel like that too?

To use a baseball analogy, it’s as if you’re knocking balls out of the park and one day, you step off the field and find out there’s a whole other field of pros playing!

A Game for the Wealthy in the Know

An example of this is the phenomenon of the “Accredited Investor,” a form of perfectly legal discrimination. The only way to become an Accredited Investor is to have over $1 million in net worth (excluding your primary residence) or to make over $200K as an individual, or $300K joint, annually for the last two years. Once you qualify (which I do, so I’ve been on both sides of this), I’m here to tell you there is a completely different game.

Accredited Investors get access to deals with 20-25% returns, instead of the 7% that’s available to everyone else in public markets. And almost no one gets to play this game.

You don’t get to play if you don’t meet the qualifications. An Accredited Investor can be just as uneducated about investments as a non-AI. They will both hire an investment advisor, yet it’s implied that AIs are endowed with some magical ability to make good financial decisions because they’ve got this net worth.

You can argue with me about how people with less net worth or income aren’t educated enough to make these decisions. I’m here to tell you as someone who managed money for the wealthy for 10 years, you’re wrong.

If there are games being played that you don’t even know exist yet, what do you need to do? My goal was to open attendees eyes as leaders and help them sit up and see that even if you think you’re close to where you want to be, you haven’t even started. So keep going, and keep your eyes open!

Find the Value in Your “B Side”

Year 2, 2017, was about B sides, a lesson I learned when I used to spin as a DJ.

When I bought record singles for the song on the A side, I discovered that on the B side, there were often songs that were, one, just as good or better than the A sides. And two, there were often break beats and tracks within the B songs that I could use in order to create new beats, new samples, and to underlay vocals. There was a whole lot of value on that B side that most buyers hadn’t considered. By utilizing the B sides, I created a very distinct sound as a DJ and also I got a whole lot more value out of my $5 record purchase.

The lesson I shared with the leaders was that you need to focus on your B side. The A side is based on how people perceive you: the school you went to, the company you work for, the title you earned. It doesn’t really matter until you’ve got something of substance. That’s what’s on the B side… that’s the hot track! Don’t worry about the A side yet. Focus on who you are and what you need to be in order to actually have the character that makes a great leader. Focus on the B side.

Manage Your “A Side”: Build Your Juice

This year, 2018, my third year, I’m going in with the A side. Now that you know these other games are being played and you need to get over to those new fields, you need to work on yourself and you need to know how to market yourself, so we’re going to talk about Juice. Juice is a way for leaders to build social capital and use their influence to grow their companies and make a positive social change.

A common question people ask me when I speak to minority populations is: “Andy, how did you overcome the challenges of race?” I understand how much you want to be authentically you, and how that “you” isn’t accepted. How you’re caught between wanting to keep it real but feeling the pull to be someone else to advance yourself. That’s the paradox of authenticity: we want to stay true to who we are, but that can anchor us from evolving for the future. So what do you need to do to overcome that?

My answer is always the same: evolve, get respect, be better, and win, every time.

This is backed by research published in the Harvard Business Review in an article called “The Authenticity Paradox.”Black History Month isn’t just about learning the history of Blacks. It also means that by understanding that history, you know as a leader that a whole lot of work needs to be put into that community for them to have a piece of the American Dream, which they’re rightfully entitled to but have not been allowed access to because of oppression and systemic racism.

We need to celebrate the history and teach for the future of Black leadership.

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