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Servant Leader Career Path for a Professional of Color

Estimated reading time ~ 3 min
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A Career Without a Path

I proudly come from a mixed family of Black and Latinx members. With only one member of my family achieving higher education, I considered becoming the second graduate by joining the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. What held me back was the fear of not being mentally ready to pursue this goal so I decided to take a gap year after high school. Undergraduate women of color are more vulnerable to the imposter phenomenon than those that have earned a college degree. That gap year turned into nearly a decade of me occupying entry-mid level roles in various industries, such as Telecommunications, Real Estate, and Technology. Before I knew it, journalism became an interest of the past while I worked on developing my sales, customer service, and leadership skills.

It is not uncommon for people of color (POCs) to be unsure of what their career path entails whether that happens before college or during their career journey. While my initial career goal had changed, I was grateful for my new found passion: leadership. Coaching and developing people who aspired to be high performers, leaders, and/or change agents was meaningful to me. There were times I found myself in mid-senior roles only to notice promotion opportunities stall due to my education, career experience, and at times, racial discrimination.

A career without a path pushed me to pursue my Bachelor’s in Business Management at Grand Canyon University (GCU).

Servant Leadership for People of Color

By 2017, I began studying leadership styles and behaviors at all levels throughout my degree program at GCU. Ultimately, I was drawn to Servant Leadership. Unlike traditional leadership, a servant leader puts the needs of others before their own in terms of growth and prosperity, especially for the communities to which they belong. In this new self-realization, my goal consisted of serving other women and POCs by empowering them to define a clear career path in a way that I didn't personally have at the start of my own career journey. This includes, but is not limited to helping them identify their personal brand, explore career development and mentorship through networking, as well as discovering new ways to unlock opportunities.

Traditional leaders who use power and influence to enforce change and dictate performance are not helping employees, let alone POCs. Servant Leadership for POCs is a career path where serving others leads to inspiring change readiness and increasing profits through employee development and engagement. According to a McKinsey report, “Black employees are 23% less likely to say they receive “a lot” or “quite a bit” of support to advance at work, 41% less likely to view promotions in their workplace as fair, and 39% less likely to believe their company’s diversity and inclusion efforts are effective, compared to their white counterparts working at the same company” (Connley, 2021).

A servant leader does not need to have a leadership title to use power and influence. The goal is to serve more people as your power and influence increases over time. To do this, you’ll need to recognize when to leverage different styles of leadership interchangeably based on the needs of your followers. Followers can be a mix of friends, family, co-workers, clients, etc. The more you think about how your career moves influence yourself and the people that admire your expertise, the more progress you will make.

These are the styles of leadership I use to help POCs define their path forward:

  • Transformational Leadership
    • Preparing followers to grow their skills and challenge convention.
  • Authentic Leadership
    • Leading with a vision and purpose to influence diversity and inclusion.
  • Adaptive Leadership
    • Preparing followers for personal and professional change.
  • Situational Leadership
    • Navigating failures and successes through unique circumstances.
  • Ethical Leadership
    • Leading with ethical consciousness in the domains of human action— (1) domain of codified law, (2) domain of ethics, (3) domain of free choice— all of which influence one’s decision-making.

Exhibit A provides a high-level summary of each leadership style as well as famous servant leaders, including POCs, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman.

Exhibit A Exhibit A

Servant Leadership is at the Heart of Everything I Do

In my continued path of Servant Leadership, I accepted a role with Jopwell in May of 2022. Which has allowed me to help unlock opportunities for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals. If you would like to explore how to unlock your career path, and explore opportunities, take a look at some of our open roles now.

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