Dynamic Black History Month Leaders

African American women featured at the Freedom’s Sisters Exhibit hosted by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Service are great examples to honor as we celebrate during Black History Month.

After being a guest lecturer during the stop at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, it seemed important to me to further highlight the leaders of some extraordinary women. As a patron who cherished the interactive scope on the dynamic creativity of African American women, this is where their leadership was further revealed to me.

Attending the exhibit was not just a walk through experience. On the contrary, it was opportunity to look at the contributions of those who emerged as leaders. Also, it was a chance to see those who have brought their innovative thinking, cutting-edge ideas, and sometime outrageous dreams to the table. It is where we have seen time and again those African American leaders who have challenged the system to do more and be more.

To understand those who have taken steps to do more and bring their creative ideas, we can look to the examples of these leaders within the context of dynamic creativity principles outlined in my book Leadership Building Blocks: An Insider’s Guide to Success.

Here are five core principles of creativity that African American leaders have brought to the table for decades:

1. Daring to dream movement
2. Suiting up for the game
3. Speaking to the issues
4. Implementing savvy sound bites
5. Maintaining social etiquette

We can just take a closer look at the examples of famous African Americans who have done so much. For example, there is noted poet Sonia Sanchez who has written extensively about the struggles of African Americans. We can also look at the contributions of Mary Church Terrell who was among the first African Americans to be appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education. She successfully advocated for integration of Washington, DC eating establishments and theaters. She even launched an unprecedented campaign to reinstate anti-discrimination laws.

When we take pause and examine the legacy of Terrell and Sanchez, at the end of the day there are so many ways that they dared to dream. For instance, they were always on their guard with a word to say and often spoke directly to the issues. They sometimes had savvy sound bites, just the right thing to say at a time when others were at a loss for the way to express it.

Thank goodness we have the opportunity to reflect on their legacy that leaves us all with a blueprint for successful creativity in our leadership paths.

-Dawn McCoy, author of Leadership Building Blocks: An Insider’s Guide to Success

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