To me, an ideal thought leader has the unique combination of having a distinctive opinion and can exquisitely articulate it, along with the actual EXPERIENCE in the field of his/her expertise. A Thought Leader can also INFLUENCE in an authentic and sincere manner all based on substance.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing the honorable Alicia Reece.
Alicia is an experienced 20-year public servant who has held many roles on behalf of the citizens in the State of Ohio. She has won seven elections at the local and state levels and was the youngest woman to ever win a seat in Cincinnati City Council’s history. Ms. Reece is a successful entrepreneur and serves as an Advertising, Marketing, and Political Consultant as well as speaks nationally.
Ms. Reece is the Host of the popular Alicia Reece Soulfood, which is a national radio show and podcast that airs every Friday at Noon and Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. on Cincinnati’s WGRI/103.1 FM. The podcast is available on Apple and Google Play platforms. Ms. Reece has also been featured in numerous local and national media outlets including MSNBC, CNN,Roll Call, Root.com, Madamenoire.com, American Urban Radio Network, TVOne, and BET, to name a few.
Ms. Reece has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Grambling State University and has received numerous awards and honors during her career. She is also a successful entrepreneur and serves as an Advertising, Marketing, and Political Consultant as well as speaks nationally.
In addition, Ms. Reece is an active member of New Friendship Baptist Church in Cincinnati. She is also a current member of the Order of Eastern Stars, NAACP, and is a Founding Member of the National Urban League of Young Professionals in Cincinnati. Ms. Reece serves as a Board Member for Rev. Al. Sharpton’s National Action Network and is a former Board Member of the Cincinnati United Way, Cincinnati Health Collaborative, and the Greater Cincinnati Health Foundation.
Ms. Reece is the doting older sister to two siblings as well as the proud aunt of six nieces and nephews.
Currently, Ms. Reece is the Democratic Candidate for Hamilton County Commissioner for the November 3, 2020 general election in the State of Ohio.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in the Westwood community, I have always had a passion for public service and giving back to others. As the daughter of Dr. Steven and Barbara Reece, both successful entrepreneurs, I was raised with a strong awareness of public service having been exposed to the dynamics of Cincinnati City Hall when her Father was Chief of Staff for the first African American mayor of the City of Cincinnati, the Honorable Theodore M. Berry. Later, I went on to major in International Studies at Withrow High School in Madisonville. She was elected Senior Class President and also was the Captain of the Withrow Girls City Championship Basketball Team during her tenure. After receiving the opportunity to attend Brown University, I turned down the Ivy League invitation to attend Grambling State University, a historically Black college in Louisiana, where she majored in Communications and minored in Spanish.
While attending Grambling State University, I made significant contributions inside and outside of the classroom. I played on the Grambling State University SWAC Championship Basketball team. I was also awarded the title of Miss. Grambling State University and served her college community with tremendous passion and commitment during her reign. Moreover, I was a strong advocate for voting rights. I led voter registration and mobilization campaign that activated thousands of college students. My efforts received national media attention since it contributed to the defeat of former KKK leader, David Duke, and his run for Louisiana Governor. This effort continued to ignite my passion for public service.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I returned home to Cincinnati after college with the passion to make a positive difference in her community. As the youngest woman ever voted on the Cincinnati City Council, I was a pioneer in so many areas as well championed small businesses, health, public safety, economic issues and more throughout her tenure. During the riots of 2001, as Vice-Mayor of the City of Cincinnati, I was a part of the leadership for the creation of the City’s historic Collaborative Agreement that continues to serve as a national model for positive policing and improving public safety in communities of color.
Next, I returned to elected office and served four terms as an Ohio State Representative in Columbus, Ohio. During my time, I led numerous bi-partisan legislation and projects as well as served as the Co-Founder of the Governor’s Community-Police Relations Taskforce. I also championed the Executive Order creating the State’s first Community Police Relations Collaborative Commission resulting in a statewide use of standards in community partnerships.
During my tenure in Columbus, I was also elected President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. In that role, I launched the State of Black Ohio Action Agenda that led to the largest minority business spend of 300 million dollars in Ohio’s history. I also championed the increased funding for Central State University, secured hundreds of thousands in funding for job training partnerships with Urban Leagues and Community Action Agencies across the State as well as hosted a historic Power of the Black Vote convention in Cincinnati that featured Vernon Jordan and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. I am most proud of the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. state highway interchange that I championed. This 100 million dollars project connects hospitals, technology, and jobs in the heart of Cincinnati. Additionally, it is the only new highway interchange currently in the State of Ohio.
My passion for a permanent solution to voter disenfranchisement, suppression, and intimidation led me to create and lead the historic Voter Bill of Rights Constitutional Amendment in Ohio in 2014, and in other states across the country. The Voter Bill of Rights is a nonpartisan, grassroots effort to protect voting rights in Ohio by putting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot before Ohioans. The movement collected over 100,000 paper signatures statewide. I unveiled the plan at the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington on August 24th where I was one of the featured speakers.
As a result of her success and experience as a public servant, in 2016, I was honored to serve as the Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Convention and also worked on the DNC Platform Drafting Committee. In this role, I helped author the voting rights and criminal justice reform sections of the DNC Platform. In 2020, the DNC has appointed me to the Credentials Committee for its national convention.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
During my career, I am always been amazed at the resilience of people. There are so many stories where I have seen people overcome life’s challenges. For example, during the beginning of the Pandemic, which occurred on the even of my primary election, many voters in my district did not know how they were going to vote with the new mail-in only system. In that State of Ohio. My team and I hosted drive-thru voter education and registration drives in grocery store parking lots, church parking lots, and even at gas stations! And, thousands of people attended! It was amazing to see people believe in the power of their vote as well as their right to vote during a global Pandemic!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I was first starting was when I ran for City Council for the City of Cincinnati. It was my first race and we beat the odds and won! After my long race, it was nice to think the hard part was over and that we won the fight. But it is only after the election when the fight for change begins. Over the course of my career, I have learned that the fight for change and justice is a lifelong fight.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
What a great question! To me, an ideal thought leader has the unique combination of having a distinctive opinion and can exquisitely articulate it, along with the actual EXPERIENCE in the field of his/her expertise. A Thought Leader can also INFLUENCE in an authentic and sincere manner all based on substance.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
I believe it is always beneficial to achieve excellence in whatever you do. Using one’s energy and resources to become the BEST is always a sound investment for one’s future.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
Exuding your expertise in a chosen field can potentially help grow one’s business, especially in the area of public relations. Being a thought leader can be leveraged for media and speaking opportunities as well as possibly consulting contracts. Many times, people will pay for one’s expertise.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- Do The Work and Get the Experience.
It is always important to have work experience in your field of expertise.
2. Be Well Read in Your Industry.
Make sure you are always informed and abreast of your field and the players in it.
3. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Expand Your Horizons.
Take strategic risks and expose yourself to new things.
4. Pursue the Necessary Education (Either Formal or Informal).
Make sure you get the education you need as well as have Mentors and Advocates to help guide you.
5. Be Creative, Unique, Innovative and Passionate for Your Field.
Make sure you love what you do as well as present yourself in your own unique manner.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
The Honorable Maxine Waters, from the great State of California, is an amazing Thought Leader! She supported me during my first run for City Council in Cincinnati. During her long career in public service, she has been a passionate public servant and a Thought Leader that exudes integrity, grace and great experience.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
The term “thought leader” is just an evolution of the term “expert.” I believe “thought leadership” has a connotation that one has depth and great knowledge in a particular field. I really like the term.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
The advice I would give to other leaders is to make sure that you do work that you love. That way, it does not ever feel like work. In addition, make sure you take the time to take a break and a vacation.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Voting Rights is truly my movement. As a 20-year political veteran from the State of Ohio, I am currently the Democratic Candidate for Hamilton County Commissioner and running the race of my life. There have always been challenges in every one of my campaigns. However, in 2020, the stakes are higher than ever before. As many know, you cannot win the Presidency without winning the State of Ohio. Specifically, my area of Hamilton County is one of 24 key swing counties in the state. At the same time, I am an African American woman and the only one on the general election ballot for the Democratic Party. Given my reality, I am here to share what I have learned from my primary election and why Black Voters are in trouble in November.
On the eve of the primary election in the State of Ohio, the Governor halted the election due to the Coronavirus on March 16, 2020. Therefore, instead of waiting for the City, County or State to help, my team and I went to work to educate, motivate and mobilize Black voters. We used every means of communication possible to speak to Black voters, from social media, like Facebook and Instagram, and hashtags (#votingisessential) to old-fashion phone calls and drive-in ballot collections at Black churches, Black-owned businesses, gas stations and grocery store parking lots. Masks on and sanitizer in hand, my team and I were everywhere in the County to make sure Black voters were informed and were taught on how to properly complete and submit their ballots. On the April 28th primary election day, my race was the only one that could not be confirmed due to roughly 18,000 provisional ballots that still needed to be counted. Two weeks later when the final count was revealed, we learned that out of those 18,000 provisional ballots, a little over 3,000 were viable ballots and were completed correctly. The Hamilton County Board of Elections in their public meeting on May 14th reported all of the numerous reasons that they had to throw out ballots. From simply printing one’s name on the wrong line to not signing (in cursive) one’s name on another line, and so on and so. Thousands of ballots were thrown out and those voters will NEVER know!
Once upon a time, in order to vote during the Jim Crow era, Black people had to first count the number of jellybeans in a jar. In 2020, what additional shenanigans and barriers will be created to keep Black people from voting? I believe that we MUST have a culture shift so that Black voters can be heard and counted (correctly). A mail-in only process is not the answer. If this happens, education and resources are desperately needed, and we must start now! Voter registration must also start now because a lot of voters have been purged. We need to start checking in with those of us on the ground. This election is too critical for voters to be disenfranchised due to chaos and confusion. It is time to expand democracy for all Americans! #votingisessential
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“God will provide” is one of my favorite quotes that I live by. Throughout my life, I have always had to lean in on my faith and God has always provided for me.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
LEBRON JAMES!!!! He is a fellow Ohioan. And, as a basketball fanatic (and former championship basketball player in high school and at Grambling State University), I would LOVE to have lunch or breakfast with HIM! Mr. James has done AMAZING for in his hometown. I truly admire his leadership on and off the court as well as how we gives back to his community.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.