Think It. Build It. Own It. How my leadership potential was ignited at the 24th Annual Executive Leadership Council Mid-Level Managers’ Symposium


October 23rd, 2018


By MLMS participant Darice Brown of Rockwell Automation

Have you ever wondered what a Wakanda professional training ground looked like? Well I can tell you, because I’ve been there. It’s The Executive Leadership Council’s (ELC) Mid-Level Managers’ Symposium (MLMS).

As a black professional in Corporate America, it is rare to experience a developmental opportunity where more than 950 up-and-coming global business leaders across various industries surround you while having the opportunity to be unapologetically black for two days. Beginning at the registration table, I felt plugged into a powerful professional network.


ELC Board Member & MLMS Emcee Leilani Brown (Center), SVP for K12 Inc., with ELC members and MLMS opening session panelists Nathan Cabbil of Huron Capital partners, Kimberly Newton of Hallmark, Monica Pool Knox of Microsoft, and Derek Lewis of PepsiCo at the 24th Annual MLMS

Leilani Brown, Senior Vice President of Strategy at K12 Inc., the emcee and moderator for the Opening General Session, was captivating from the moment she took the stage. Something quickly became clear to me – each member of the audience was exactly where they were supposed to be, and that The ELC was prepared to deliver on its’ symposium theme: “Think it • Build It •Own It • Igniting Your Leadership Potential.” I, along with my seven Rockwell Automation colleagues, also began to realize that the decision by our Chairman and CEO, Blake Moret and ELC member Ernest Nicolas, Jr. to sponsor our participation was going to change our professional trajectory forever.

Think It.

We were at MLMS to prepare for our next opportunities, had worked hard to get to where we are in our chosen professions and needed to challenge ourselves to find the intersect between our corporate and personal purpose.

Many times, like so many others in the room, I find myself being the “only” in the room, but I thought about how this helps to bring different perspectives and voices into those rooms, while helping to drive competitive advantages. But we were reminded not to stay the “only” and to continue to push forward to create a pipeline. Sitting there, I realized that we were beneficiaries of this pipeline and the responsibility is on us to continue to strengthen it.


Darice Brown (2nd from right) with her colleagues from Rockwell Automation at the 24 th Annual MLMS.

As a black woman in a corporate setting, we are often challenged on the subject of authenticity and whether it is valued or volatile in our respective fields. The opportunity to personally explore the experiences of four accomplished black women who chose to be their authentic selves at work impacted me in a way that I still find difficult to explain. During a breakfast gathering of 100 women, they shared their real-life experiences so openly about how they were able to overcome many of the challenges that we, as black women, face, ranging from our hair to the undervaluing our experiences and voice, and how we should think about doing the same.

Build It


More than 950 mid-level managers and aspiring executives attended the 24 th Annual MLMS.

Throughout both days of MLMS, accomplished leaders reminded us of the importance of being a relationship manager. As a relationship manager, we need to remember that someone is always watching. Relationships are important, and you never know how those relationships will materialize and where they can lead. As mid-level professionals who are committed to going to the next level in our careers, it is also important to remember that you have to put in the work. However, you can still have fun doing it.

The recurring reminder to commit to excellence was carried throughout the symposium. The unwavering excitement was palpable as the attendees discussed their experiences and “ah-ha” moments every opportunity that we could.

Own It

Moving into our cohorts, we delved deeper into igniting our “4.0 potential” – all of us challenged to build capacity, leverage design thinking, and finally take action to move mountains. Black leaders cannot be in a bubble, and of all the challenge we will face if we do not realize who we are and the value we bring to organizations. All professionals face daily challenges in Corporate America, however, as black professionals, it is imperative that we “mind our minds” and recognize that self-perception can be a game changer.

And then came my chance to really own my next steps and professional future...

Perhaps the most salient moment for me was the challenge to write our personal narratives. This exercise helped to awaken something so powerful in me and helped me remember who I am, along with impact that I am committed to making within my organization and the world.


ELC Member Caroline Wanga of Target with MLMS participant Darice Brown.

Closing out the symposium, we received key strategies for implementation in the next 30 – 60 days. Prior to our departure, all attendees committed to doing our best work and doing our jobs WELL, leveraging connections made at MLMS, and working towards our purpose to refine our visions.

Thank you ELC for such an amazing experience and role modeling for 950+ up and coming black leaders how to lift as you climb.


Click here to view the photo gallery from the 24th Annual Mid-Level Managers' Symposium.



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