measures of the company. “It’s all about being open and honest with employees,” Womack says. “Honesty fosters a positive work relationship and makes people want to actually work [harder] for a company,” particularly in public companies, which must disclose this information.
“Companies are really looking for leaders,” Womack says. He explains that in today’s corporations the expectation is different from what they would expect from a traditional manager. “A manager is more methodical in what he or she does; a leader is more motivational.”
For those fresh out of business school or even undergraduate programs, start reading books on leadership such as Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster; $15) and Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (HarperCollins; $17.95) by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.
Also identify mentors to help your personal and professional development. Look for people who are in the position, department, or area you desire. The idea is to link with individuals in the organization who have an excellent leadership track record with the company. As they grow within the organization, mentors often present opportunities to their protégés. Also, look for leadership opportunities outside of your organization in professional groups and charitable organizations.
Robert Dixon, vic
e president of information technology at Procter & Gamble, in Cincinnati, and the newest member of its Global Leadership Council, credits his success to the first global assignment he accepted in Brussels, Belgium, 10 years ago. Despite initial reservations, Dixon and his wife and two children count their three-year assignment as a highlight. “Once we got to Brussels, the world just opened up,” says the 46-year-old. “I found that African Americans do extremely well in overseas assignments, mostly because we’re open to other cultures.”
The assignment also helped him develop new business relationships in Europe. “I advanced the careers of several Europeans who worked for me,” says Dixon. “Several took international assignments in other countries, including the U.S. Your network expands when you advance someone’s career.”
Ten years ago, there were only a handful of overseas assignments at Procter & Gamble. Today, it sells its products in more than 160 countries. As a result, the company expects its senior executives to have two to five years of international experience.
“African American executives generally have wonderful overseas assignments,” says Dixon. “They experience fewer racial barriers, more socialization and integration with other expatriates, and experience more of the local culture.” Living in another country is a life-changing experience. Dixon says you can make the transition smoother by having a plan.
Here are a few considerations:
Finding a home in your new country. Most expats rent instead of buying. Invest a fair amount of time finding a landlord with a good track record with foreigners. The local expat community should be an excellent source of information.
Lifestyle. Things you take for granted can be a challenge overseas, like finding a good hairstylist and a church. Look for other African Americans from the states in the embassy, military, or American women’s and men’s clubs.