Getting to the top of the corporate ladder takes hard work and dedication. If you are African American, however, the work you have to put in is even greater. That said, people like Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox and Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor, both African-American and both master and mistress of their respective operations, have shown the world it can be done. So what are the challenges put in the path of African Americans, and how can getting a coach or mentor overcome this?
- Lack of Mentors
Generally speaking, people can climb the corporate ladder because they are mentored by someone above them. While an increasing number of leaders and managers are African American, there are still very few overall. Women find this a particular barrier, as black women are even more underrepresented in the corporate world. You can overcome this, however, by finding an outside mentor.
- Flaunting Your Worth
For years, only those who were failing would get a mentor or coach. This is changing nowadays. A coach is a signal of plans being made for you. Tell the world, therefore, that you have plans for yourself as well. When you find a good coach or mentor, you will learn what your strengths are and how you can build on those. They will help you to execute your plan.
- Eye on the Prize
Because of the color of their skin, African American leaders are distracted on a daily basis. There is an implied lack of trust, insensitive comments, discriminatory policies, and so on. Because of this, it is quite common for black people to underperform, like their job less, and feel unconnected to the organization. By having a coach, you can stay focused on the end results: taking over the company. And they can help you manage the distractions as well.
- A Leader Is Never Done Learning
You do not wake up one morning as a leader, and the road stops there. You have to be committed to continuously developing yourself, taking on more challenges and opportunities. You have to stay up to date with trends, work on your emotional intelligence, and achieve the career you want. By having a mentor or coach, you can get the perspective you need. They are there to help, in other words.
- Stay Relevant
African American leaders have to always remain visible, relevant, and politically savvy. You must make sure that you think outside of the box and that you always continue to build on your relationships. You have to make sure that you have a plan of action to ensure you never stand still.
Clearly, as an African American leader or aspiring leader, what you need is a mentor or coach. These can show you how they got to where you want to be. Follow their example and you should be able to get exactly where you want to be. That said, getting to the top, regardless of skin color or gender, is always a long and hard battle.