Take The Lead

Disturbed by the bleak outlook facing many of the young people on Chicago’s South Side, Monica Haslip decided to take the lead on effecting a positive change, so the marketing executive left her job at a cable television network in 1992 and reprioritized her life with a social mission as her focus.

Using her personal savings and a loan from her mother, Haslip purchased an abandoned building for $23,500 and devoted her time and energy to transforming it into a community arts center. The total spent to buy and renovate the building as well as purchase supplies and equipment was $200,000. In January 1994, the Little Black Pearl Workshop opened its doors to young people looking for a cultural and artistic refuge. “I couldn’t stand by and allow these children to squander their future and deny the community their contributions,” says Haslip, 42. Little Black Pearl offers hands-on workshops such as painting and pottery, and in January 2004, the organization expanded to a new 40,000-square-foot facility. “I knew I was capable of committing to a purpose larger than myself,” Haslip says.

Haslip’s display of proactive involvement is leadership at its best, says Robin Denise Johnson, president of EQUEST Inc., a California-based multicultural leadership development, education, and executive coaching network, and author of Dance of Leadership (Novus Publishing; $19.99). “True leaders not only act, but influence others to act as well to achieve goals that make a meaningful difference in their environment,” Johnson says.

While opportunities to lead are ubiquitous, the number of those willing to lead is lacking, says Omo Igiehon, a founding member and regional director of Global Leadership Interlink, a professional network committed to creating social change through value-based leadership.”There is a profound leadership vacuum in our world today,” he says.

Johnson agrees, noting that there’s a misperception that leaders are only those individuals with position, title, status, and money. Those without financial resources or position are inclined to miss the opportunity to facilitate positive change.

“This absence of leadership results in societies, families, communities, and countries being overrun with chaos and consumed by depravity,” Igiehon says. He insists that in order to

fill the void and reverse this trend, individuals have to redefine their personal definition of leadership and acknowledge their inherent ability to effect progress.

For those willing to step up and lead at home, work, school, or within the community, here’s a primer:

  • Responsive. Keep your eyes open for problems, people, situations and circumstances that could benefit from your knowledge, skills, talent, and passion.
  • Proactive Take the initiative to improve conditions or solve issues. Don’t wait for change, but rather create it.
  • Fearless Venture outside your comfort zone and push yourself to exceed standard expectations.
  • Resolute Remain focused on desired outcomes and stay the course despite uncertainty or setbacks.