Thoughts on Effective Leadership From “Professor X”

The unique talent I bring to Black Enterprise, and every publication I’ve ever led (including my first, the Black Voice/Carta Boricua, a periodical for black and Latino students at Rutgers, back in 1981), is not writing ability, or editing skill, or a background in web media or great intelligence. It’s this: the ability to look beyond credentials, formal training and job history, to find the people with “IT”–that unique mix of talent, desire, character, attitude and potential (it’s hard to describe but I know it when I see it), organize these special people into a team (not just a staff or a group) and motivate them to accomplish amazing things. When it comes down to it, that’s what I was really hired to do when I took the position of editor-in-chief of; to build a winning organization.

I’ve had a passion for this specific kind of challenge long before I was aware of it, and I believe it is a gift from God (one of the talents the Master entrusted to me to manage, develop and invest until He returns). For example, I’ve always been a mediocre basketball player, even though I like to play. When I played pick-up basketball as a teen at my neighborhood playground in Long Branch, N.J., I developed a knack for choosing teammates who could compensate for my lack of skill–instinctively taking into consideration attitude as well as talent and ability. My teams could hold the court all day, despite a significant liability–namely me. I now remember that if I was on a losing team that was not of my choosing, I’d feel bad (I don’t like to lose). But if a team I personally selected lost, I’d be furious, more at myself than at my teammates. I did not recognize that pattern until I grew older, but I now recognize that I’ve always instinctively known that a team is far more than the sum of its members, and that if you could put the right people together and motivate them properly, they could do amazing things, despite apparent or perceived disadvantages.

Similarly, my lifelong love of pro football has never been about individual athletes. I’ve always been obsessed with the question of why, in a league of teams with the same access to talent, money and resources–with parity–certain teams consistently win (Giants, Patriots, Cowboys, Steelers), certain teams consistently lose (Lions, Raiders, Falcons, Cardinals, Saints), and certain teams are consistently inconsistent, winning a respectable number of games (Chargers, Browns, Bills, Chiefs), but rarely championships. It’s why I have few favorite players, but I am