Be the First, But Not the Only

I recently attended a conference, and I overheard one of the ladies attending sharing with a group that she was part of an exclusive club among women having reached some of the highest positions within their organizations. She went on to say that the members of this club were among the extremely small percentage of African American women “Power Players” within Corporate America.

At first,  I thought WOW! That’s very exciting. What a great accomplishment for her.

Then, I thought….

Wow, that’s actually very sad. How can an achievement so great, also be a bad thing?

After the meeting, I kept asking myself, why? Why is there such a small percentage? How can that be when there are plenty of educated, skilled and accomplished women within the workforce? 

Here’s what I came up with…

While there are many qualified women are worthy of access, the unspoken rules have allowed only one to gain entry at a time. Then, the door is closed and locked behind them, while the rest remain on the other side waiting for their turn to be invited in for a seat at the table, too.

Somehow, we’ve been fooled into believing there can only be one of us at a time. So, instead of making room for another we make excuses, like:

“I need to get comfortable first before I focus on helping someone else.”

“If I made it in, so can they.”

“They just need to work harder, like I did.”

And then….

We become so comfortable in our new position that we forget. We conveniently forget about helping others because we’re fearful it may take away from our own growth. Or worse, we’re too afraid someone else will come along and outshine us…because after all, there can only be one, right?

(In reference to the movie Hidden Figures)

The Lesson: Don’t close the door behind you. Get in. Celebrate. And then, CHANGE THE RULES!

There is a greater opportunity for positive impact if there are more, not less, people like you and I in the room.

One can chase a thousand, but two can put ten thousand to flight. – (Deuteronomy 32:30)

Don’t worry about someone “outshining” you. Keep your focus on the greater good. Remind yourself that what you have is unique to you and what they have is unique to them; But, together you can do great things. 

Great leaders don’t just know the way, they show the way.

Need help creating an action plan? Download to my quick reference guide for 3 ways to effectively pay it forward.

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