AALF’s Leadership Academy is Shining a Light on Emerging Black Leaders

The African American Leadership Forum’s (AALF) Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy is a six-month hands-on path to personal and professional discovery directed by facilitators, mentors, developmental tools, and experiential learning opportunities. Each fellow builds a vocabulary for articulating their purpose and passion in a way that leads to impactful change.

We recently reached out to two fellows from our 2019 cohort to get their insights on leadership, the importance of the academy and how they’ve grown since becoming part of the program. Here’s what they had to say:

What have you learned about your leadership style as it relates to the Forum’s leadership personas (Thought Leader, Ambassador, Influencer, and Builder)? Of all the personas, which one is most meaningful to you?

Gallmon-Young: The main thing I’ve learned about my leadership style is that everyone has a part to play. I prefer to be in the background creating policy and institutional change. It took a while to realize that being in the background serves as its own leadership style. Leadership comes in different forms and different capacities. This fellowship has allowed me to see that and embrace my own form of leadership. Thought Leader is the persona that is most meaningful to me. A thought leader analyzes every situation and creates and develops a solution. It’s meaningful to me because it does not allow you to sit, complain, and do nothing. You can be placed in any situation and be able to look at things at a macro level to create and implement change. I strive to be a thought leader and create the change needed in my own community.”

What inspired you to participate in the leadership academy?

Gallmon-Young: The reason I applied to be a fellow is because I wanted to be a part of the change that is needed in Minnesota. I felt a disconnect after moving back here from D.C. I had an amazing network but did not know how to leverage it effectively. I wanted to be in a program that saw my abilities and were willing to invest in me and my future; this academy did just that and helped groom me to become a better leader.”

Which AALF leadership persona is most meaningful to you?

Harper: Influencer. Since taking the StrengthsFinder quiz years ago, I’ve been more intentionally noticing my unique ability to influence a conversation, agenda, or action. As an influencer, I’ve learned that you have to put your pride aside to create a compromise that will ultimately move the needle a bit more in our favor. As a change agent, I’ve come to the reality that we often will not see the change that we truly want. However, we can keep on speeding up those small victories that eventually accumulate to liberation.

How do the personas relate to the work you’ve been doing so far?

Harper: I applied for the academy when two strong leaders within our community, Sam Ndely and Duchesne Drew, nominated me for this opportunity. It was a new opportunity for me and I had heard about some of the great work that AALF is doing, so I took the opportunity. As a Supplier Diversity professional, my main goal has been to influence the procurement system at the University of Minnesota as well as Minnesota State Colleges & Universities. Procurement itself is designed to maintain the status quo. Through my experience and persistence, I have quickly become a leader in the industry. I have been promoted to Director of Supplier Diversity where I am combatting decades of discriminatory spending practices by using the skills and knowledge I have. While it may be slower than I prefer, through strategic policy and procedure, I am laying the foundation for minority and women-owned businesses to compete for contracts for years to come.

The African American Leadership Forum’s personas are important because they help us recognize that everyone has leadership within them, and it is our job to help them visualize that. This fellowship does a great job of shining a light on young Black leaders while also challenging us to go back into the community to continue that ripple effect. One thing I’ve learned through academia is that if we don’t find and celebrate each other, no one will.

To be considered for the Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy your application must be endorsed by a community leader. If you are a community leader who would like to endorse an applicant, please email: Ernest@AALFTC.org.

AALF invites you to become a network contributor: 1,500+ Black Thought Leaders, Influencers, Builders, and Ambassadors who contribute their time, talents, and treasure to positively impact our community. It’s FREE and easy to join!