If you’re thinking about a career in politics, Reverend Leah D. Daughtry, the CEO of the National Convention, has a few pieces of advice for you. Daughtry spoke with BlackEnterprise.com exclusively on what it takes to successfully navigate the political space and campaign trail.
BlackEnterprise.com: Politics has historically been a male-dominated field, what is the most important quality that a woman needs to succeed in a ‘boys club?’
Daughtry: Well, I would twist that a little bit. What has been historic is that men have been at the forefront. Women have always been a part of the conversation but they just weren’t prominent figures. So for women to move in the space and occupy the front seat, it requires preparation, hard work, and a sense of tenacity that allows you to move throughout life, not taking ‘no’ for an answer. You also have to do it without losing yourself. I think sometimes a woman is told that she has to be strong, so you become something you are not. But my experience is I can be who I am, which is not any of those things, and build a career that certainly my mom and dad are proud of.
Considering your history of community activism and career in the political arena, what does a candidate need to win an election?
Candidates need a clear vision of how they propose to lead, as well as the things they want to accomplish if we trust them with our vote. They have to be authentic because voters can smell in-authenticity a mile away. They also should have the ideas that resonate with voters and captures their hopes and dreams. You have to be flexible about how you do things, but not flexible about your why. If you change your vision and you’re not consistent, you’ll lose voters.
Now all of this won’t matter if they don’t have the infrastructure—fundraising resources, technology, and a team, which can help you advance your message. Great candidates fail because of lack of infrastructure. And then there are those who have great infrastructure but have no message. Additionally, the campaign trail is exhausting. So to reach voters, you’ll have to have the willingness to work hard — harder than you ever worked in your life.
When it comes to the business of politics, what can we do to encourage more young people to get involved in politics?
We can help them understand the connection between their life and voting. It’s not just every November that we vote and it just goes away. Just like we expect and demand things from a company or product, we have to carry that into the political sphere. I often meet people who tell me they voted for someone and they are unhappy with a candidate, but I ask them, ‘Did you tell them?’ ‘Did you go to their office?’ This elected official works for you. You just don’t buy shoes and put them on a shelf. You have to engage with them and hold them accountable.