United Kingdom…African Diaspora…United States…Brothers & Sisters…Communities Of Impact…

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Members of The Executive Leadership Council journeyed to London, UK in June 2015 with members of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity to network with high-level corporate executives from the African diaspora located in the UK, Africa and other countries. The event featured a full-day business session on corporate board diversity, and was slated to be the largest gathering of corporate dignitaries from the African diaspora ever held in London.

Read a first-hand account from ELC Board Director Ehrika C. Gladden, Americas Executive, Cloud Solutions at Cisco Systems, Inc., who chronicles the trip and the impact it has had on her since returning to the States.

The richness of an experience can rarely be expressed in words that replicate the connection and sentiment of personal interactions. And yet I am going to try to do the 2015 London Celebrations justice through this blog.

This meeting, born out of recognition of the importance of black, global diversity, evolved to the power of global togetherness for black executives addressing opportunities in the African Diaspora and global corporate board diversity for black executives. The incredible value, wealth of knowledge, and memories provided by The Executive Leadership Council (ELC), Sigma Pi Phi – Alpha Boulé, members of the British Royal Family, and world leaders from Qatar to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Alaska exceeded expectations and provided insight into vast opportunities, the power of leading change through local execution and the motivation to personally give back.

Vast Opportunity

The opportunity lies in Political, Commercial, and Social commitment to prosperity creation v. economic development, per DRC Presidential hopeful, Bernard Katompa. Aberdeen, Hermes, Moody’s, and Mr. Katompa helped the audience understand the vast opportunities the continent of Africa offers local African companies, business developers and investors. Extensive growth opportunities can be found throughout the most resource rich continent on earth and especially in Nigeria where there is power deficit, Zambia where copper is plentiful, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Africa is touted to have the second highest GDP growth in the world and by 2050 Nigeria will be the third largest state in the world. The sheer number of opportunities to capture and accelerate growth in Africa is immense. However, while answers appear simple the complexity of environment, political and personal agendas, and perceptions create so many roadblocks. I remembered the importance of the Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) theory and spent the rest of the weekend trying to find that one thing I can personally do to support growth in Africa.

Speaking of KISS, the day progressed with a joint ELC Institute of Directors (IOD) meeting. A core team of ELC members met with the IOD, a UK based Corporate Board Membership organization, and strategized to identify partnering initiatives to increase black corporate board representation globally. According to Michael Olayinka Eboda, Founder/CEO of Powerful Media Ltd. and publisher of The Power List, Britain’s most influential people of African and African Caribbean heritage, there are 13 black people on the boards of Ftse 100 companies. Nine are African (mostly on the boards of southern African mining companies); two are African Americans; and just two are British-based – Dambisa Moyo, who sits on the boards of Barclays and SAB Miller, and Jean Tomlin at Sainsbury’s. Both are non-execs. There are no black people in a board-level executive role in any of our top companies.

All agreed a joint effort to accelerate improvements in the UK and United States would make a difference for communities and companies alike. The title of Redman’s song, “Time 4 Some Aksion” came to mind.

Leading Change. Local Execution.

Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, and Duke of York, Prince Andrew, personified leadership commitment to making a difference through engagement, strategic planning, and execution abroad and locally.

Prince Andrew emphasized talent identification and skills development in early childhood (“early intervention”) as critical success factors to start the cycle of growth and opportunity. And rather than just talk about it he shared the actionable details of his partnership with the City of Philadelphia and Sir Oliver St. Clair Franklin of the Alpha Boulé at Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz High School (now Mastery Charter). I left wanting to hear more about how their initiatives will impact the University talent pipeline and blacks in the global workforce today, and equally encouraged by the steps already taken to make a measurable difference.

Personally Giving Back

Lord Michael Hastings, Global Director, KPMG Board of Directors and House of Lords host for our Corporate Social Responsibility luncheon, provided a unique leadership example of “actions speak louder than words”. He implored us to live the philosophy we espouse by giving back through real, genuine actions and commitment by his own tangible examples of influence amongst governments, peer corporations, and communities. As a result of his speech I was moved to ask another organization I support to include the Black Women Executives Research Study Initiative of The Executive Leadership Foundation Institute for an upcoming event. (I’m looking forward to sharing how things turn out later this year.) His speech and measurable commitment were one of the most impressive examples in my Corporate life.

We were addressed by royalty; called to action by country leaders; and compelled to change history. We were inspired by our black brothers and sisters “across the pond” and moved to be the difference while making a difference in our own local communities and abroad. We made new friends and built even closer bonds with our circle of friends.

Did I find that one thing I could personally do, you ask? Of course, and more than one. As a start, re-introducing M-Pesa, a mobile phone based and money transfer micro financing corporation, to the Cisco Foundation board and increasing the Foundation presence in Africa through giving and physical representation. This recommendation supports philanthropic investment diversity and the corporation foundation board priorities while driving revenues back into the hands of local African business owners.

Surrounded by elegant English gardens hosting black leaders adorned in regalia finest during the Sigma Pi Phi – Alpha Boulé Gala I couldn’t help but reflect on the week’s events at St. James Palace, The Reform Club, and Parliament’s House of Lords and found myself remembering the words so often quoted in our community: “To him whom much is given much is expected.” Thanks to the vision and leadership of ELC’s founding members, including Elynor Williams who was present with us for the week of activities, we have been given an organization that is making a difference within our respective corporations, communities, and now the world. The expectations of each of us are high. The opportunity to over deliver – priceless.

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