Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever: Excellent Leadership Lessons from Black Women

As a way to celebrate Black History month, Take The Lead welcomed author and leadership strategist Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever recently to Virtual Happy Hour. Dr. Jones-De Weever is an expert on race, gender, the economy and the creator of The Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women. Named to theGrio 100, recognized by the Women’s Media Center as one of 30 women making history, and acknowledged by BET as one of the most influential women in Washington,  Dr. Jones- DeWeever’s mission aligns with Take The Lead to achieve leadership parity across every sector by 2025.Avis Jones-DeWeeverBelow is a summary of the conversation:On how she became who she is today and her advice for women to follow their heart:Dr. Jones-DeWeever explains she has always followed her heart and her passion to build her life as it is today. She recalls that she would always speak up and fight to right those wrongs even when she was a child. She has worked towards exploring opportunities which focus on solutions, and most importantly has loved her work. One of the most important thing she tells all the women she trains, is to trust yourself enough to allow yourself to move in the direction of your natural brilliance. Working with so many brilliant women over the years, she has realized that most of them don’t even know how brilliant they are. Sometimes you need a third perspective to make you aware that you are special, and when you do realize it, you should hone those special gifts you have. The most common response by women to this usually is, “Oh but I can’t.” This most often boils down to fear because as an adult, you are aware of your responsibilities (mortgage, children etc.), and so you focus all your efforts on doing what you have to do while all along leaving our base desires outside the realms of possibility. To this point, Dr. Jones-DeWeever encourages women to think broadly, think of things they want to do along with the things they have to do.We all need guidance to hone our leadership skills over time and this is an excellent resource to learn from first hand experiences. Take The Lead’s 9 Leadership Power Tools To Advance your Career workshop can help you develop some of these skills.On what probed her to write her new book How Exceptional Black Women Lead:Throughout her life, Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever has had the opportunity to work with exceptional black women doing great things in the world. Her motivation to write these experiences into a book were based on two fundamentals:

  1. Not many people know about these women and what they do. She hopes to give the readers a sense of what these women are doing through this book.
  2. She wanted to encapsulate the knowledge that these women have so it can be passed through the generations. One of the challenges most leaders face is to transfer leadership. Through this book, Dr. Jones-DeWeever says she hopes to tap into the best minds and transfer their secrets to success to all who aspire to get ahead in their careers.

On the highlights of her interviews with exceptional leaders:

  1. The one thing she says that was a common thread in all her interviews was the realization by many that you have to plan your career. Most successful women say they are lucky to be where they are. [bctt tweet=“But careers don’t just happen. They happen because of a plan.”] Most of these women leaders knew what they wanted, declared it and made a plan to achieve it.
  2. Secondly, it is very important to build a strong and diverse network of real relationships. It is crucial to understand that the strength of a network is developed over time, and is based on the strength of your relationships. Three keywords to remember when doing so: Diversity. Breadth. Strength.
  3. The third thing she mentions, that is particularly true for black women, is that they have a strong sense of self-confidence. [bctt tweet=“The important thing to remember is, “Other people’s perception of you is not you.””]

This reflects the Take The Lead Power Tool #2: Define your own terms. On using skills to create your own business:Black women are known to be the biggest demographic in America who are most likely to start their own business. Often times it is because they are subject to hostile work environments or because they are not given the opportunities to to grow even through they have the skills and the ambition. They also face more challenges to get funding which is why more often than not, they use their own savings as capital. These women are committed to their careers but corporate America offers few opportunities for black women in leadership. In such instances, those women who do have some power of influence, can take it upon themselves to look out for the next generation and pull them up.Read “Inside the Law Firm that Three Black Women started with a Tweet,” a story of how one of them tweeted about the micro aggression she faced at work and how they decided to do build a business to do something about it. We are always looking to feature more such fascinating stories. Subscribe to Take The Lead This Week to share your story and read more such interesting ones. Avis-How Exceptional Black Women LeadOn how to address micro aggression at work and how to learn to work with women from different backgrounds:Dr. Jones-DeWeever points out that unless the aggression issue is highly discriminatory, where legal action should be taken, there is nothing an upfront courageous conversation cannot solve. The important thing to keep in mind is that to move such a conversation forward positively, one has to plan this conversation ahead of it taking place. Have control over your emotions, tone, facial expressions and body language. Because if you lose that, the conversation can easily turn defensive and unproductive. This is mainly true in the case of black women who are perceived on the more aggressive side, a bias that needs to be addressed in any aggression situation. When working with women from different generations, backgrounds or cultures, make the effort of connecting with each other on a human level. Spend time to understand each other’s backgrounds and learn to bridge that gap. Don’t deny the differences, celebrate them. Mutual respect goes a long way.Dr. Jones-DeWeever’s final words of advice on how to get noticed at work:

  1. Consistently show up. Early if possible. That’s what gets you on the radar of the people in power.
  2. Speak up and own your take on a situation.
  3. Make sure you know who needs to know you and make an effort to get a sense of who they are other than just their work.

What’s her go to quote or song that gets her fired up to achieve leadership parity by #25not95?[bctt tweet=““It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela”]Also, Beyonce’s Formation is her new anthem.Stay tuned to be a part of more such Virtual Happy Hours every month and learn valuable tips from influential women. Join us  March 9 for a conversation with Dr. Suzanner Steinbaum as she talks about how important it is to take care of yourself as an initiative to support National Heart Month. Resources:Exceptional Leadership InstituteHow Exceptional Black Women Lead