“I’d love to start a movement where people would understand how to view each other as human beings again. We don’t talk to each other anymore, we talk at each other. So many of us fail to realize that people have feelings and are dealing with personal struggles that we cannot begin to comprehend from the outside. At the core, everyone just wants to be respected and loved. If we changed our perspective, like if you view everyone the same way as you do your brother, sister, mother, and so on, you would never do any harm to them.”
I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Wendy Osefo. Dr. Osefo is an award-winning researcher, NigerianAmerican television personality, and a progressive political commentator that projects a passion for change and empowerment. The Johns Hopkins Education professor remains on a personal quest to manifest brighter futures for minorities and implement effective policies and programs throughout America. As a strong, talented black woman, Dr. Osefo presents herself as the change she wants to see the world, and often provides commentary for top news outlets. She is also a contributor for The Hill, and founded The 1954 Equity Project, which offers tools and resources for underrepresented minorities to achieve a higher education.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was a kid, there was a lot of people on TV, but there were not a lot that looked like me. As I grew up, I knew I wanted to change the narrative. I wanted the next generation of children to have an example and a representation, of themselves that they could watch. My opinion, not just who I am physically, is a representation of being black and a woman. Younger people watching can learn what somebody who looks like them believes in. I knew I wanted to have a hand in the changing of the media.
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?
This could sound cryptic, but when I first broke into the business, I thought people would be happy for me. On the contrary, I found people to be very territorial. The whole feeling was that I was the “new girl”. Bottom line though, it made me work harder, it made me want to prove that I was not here by chance, but because I deserved to be. I thought “Okay, maybe I’m the new girl, but I am good at what I do and I deserve to be here”. My mission is to be the best, and I use that energy to hone in on my craft.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I am currently the CEO of the 1954 Equity Project. My organization’s goal is to make sure that all people have equality and equity in education and the workspace. I believe when an environment is more diverse, it is also more conducive. So, if you’re sitting in a board room, and everyone looks like you, you probably need to give my company a call!
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help them to thrive?
Do not look at yourself as “just” a female leader. Look at yourself as a leader. You cannot just be the best female, you have to be the best. Period. When you limit yourself to your demographic, it lowers the bar, but when you look at life from a global scope, it forces you to set your goals higher.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Make sure you know how to delegate tasks. A lot of leaders get to our position because we take ownership. But once you build out a team, you can no longer think you can do everything yourself. You need to be able to let go a little. Trust your team. You hired them because they were the most qualified, and they are highly capable to do the tasks you need them to do. You should have oversight over everything, but not always ownership.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mom. I know it sounds really cliché, but it’s so honest. She came to this country when she was relatively young and followed the typical immigrant story. To this day, she is the strongest person I know. She put herself through nursing school and I was there to see her college graduation. Through perseverance, consistency, and hard work, she showed me anything and everything is possible.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My role is to speak for people who are stuck in the margins. Not the voiceless, as those do not exist. Everyone has a voice, just not all have a microphone. I project the opinions of people who, when I speak, say to themselves“I was thinking the same thing”. People are always willing to tell their opinion, but they never turn to the person to their left and ask what they are thinking. I am there for the people on the left who do not get asked what they believe.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Consistency: The biggest problem with companies is that they do something once or twice and expect an immediate positive result. But they’re wrong. Success comes from the things you do consistently. Treat your business the way you would your body when working out. One day of exercising is not going to make a drastic difference, but over time you’ll see results.
2) Mirror that in which you want your team to be: In leadership roles, people who think they’ve worked hard to get to their position often slack off. Yes, you deserve your success, but you should still come in early and stay late. You cannot ask your team to put in 100% when you’re only putting in 30%. If you want them to be hard workers, you too have to work hard.
3) Treat the lowest paid person on your team the same way you treat the highest paid: It’s about the team, not the individual. The person at the top cannot accomplish everything he or she sets out to without the work of the person at the bottom. If everybody is fully invested and treated fairly, the business will be successful.
4) Mentorship: We all think we got to the place we are today because we are so inherently fantastic. But the truth is, we had people help us along the way. We need mentorship even when we think we’ve reached the top. It’s good to have a Board of Directors so there’s always people you can call on in life to help you.
5) Measurable outcomes: Make sure you can support moving the needle with data. You need to be able to substantiate the claims made by your organization, and the best way to do that is with clear, definitive numbers.
You are a person of great 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?
I’d love to start a movement where people would understand how to view each other as human beings again. We don’t talk to each other anymore, we talk at each other. So many of us fail to realize that people have feelings and are dealing with personal struggles that we cannot begin to comprehend from the outside. At the core, everyone just wants to be respected and loved. If we changed our perspective, like if you view everyone the same way as you do your brother, sister, mother, and so on, you would never do any harm to them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Never cut what you can untie. This is the motto I’ve used all my life. In business, relationships matter, but some people make it a priority to cut people out of their lives. I believe you never have to cut anything off, it’s better just to untie it. Don’t burn any bridges. If you need a break from someone, you can and should do it, but don’t remove them from your life. If you untie the knot in your relationship, you can always put it back together.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Barack Obama. He faced so much criticism, and was attacked continuously, but took it all with such incredible grace. Learning how to hold your head when the world is crumbling around you is an attribute we can all benefit from. That’s something he is a master at.
Originally published at medium.com