Leading With Purpose
INSIDE CORPORATE AMERICA AND BEYOND
In October The Executive Leadership Council (The ELC) held its 2019 Annual Recognition Gala in Washington, D.C. A capacity crowd of 2,300 corporate, entrepreneurial, political, media and academic luminaries lit up the Marriott Marquis Ballroom to honor Robert F. Smith, founder, chair and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, as he accepted the 2019 Achievement Award, and UPS received the 2019 Corporate Award. UPS CEO David Abney accepted the award in person.
The ELC comprises more than 800 senior black corporate executives, all within two reports of their companies’ CEOs, and a new cadre of very successful black entrepreneurs. The newly formed ELC purpose statement, rooted in the organization’s renewed commitment to philanthropy, now guides The ELC “to open channels of opportunity…for impact on business and our communities.” Reports The ELC’s new interim president and CEO Crystal E. Ashby, former executive vice president, Government and Public Affairs, BP America, “Our purpose shines a light on the enduring excellence of our valued members, as they share their gifts to shape the world. We are committed to making an impact on corporations, on corporate boards and in the advocacy space through education and research. The ultimate result is to make a difference for the black community in areas where we and our families work and live.” The longtime ELC goal is increasing black representation on corporate boards and in the CEO offices, and the past decade has seen changes. “But when the data is disaggregated,” observes Skip Spriggs, the former president and CEO whose term ended on December 31, 2019, “there’s one underrepresented group that’s barely moving at all, and that’s black – men and women.” Now The ELC is going directly to CEOs to press its specific case: inclusion for black executives across the talent pipeline. On the day of the Gala, The ELC hosted more than 40 CEOs and their ELC members at its inaugural CEO GameChanger Conference.
Groundbreaking research from Korn Ferry identifying the skills and competencies of black corporate C-suite executives framed the discussion. It’s no surprise that black executives share the same skills, competencies and experiences as their white counterparts. Attendees explored that research and applied it in a deep and open discussion around black talent in the workplace, from recruiting to succession planning. to A corporate second forum leadership for direct is The appeals ELC’s partnership with the African American Directors Forum (AADF). The ELC’s Corporate Board Initiative has been for some years creating a supply of board-ready members. Now, with AADF, The ELC is creating demand through intentional networking with decision makers, urging them to create a more inclusive leadership pipeline to the boardroom.
The pilot event was held in November 2019 in Atlanta. Atlanta-area CEOs, lead directors and other board members met with a select group of nearly 50 boardready ELC members. They received a Bio Book of member profiles and then, after a formal presentation, had opportunities to button-hole specific members. “We don’t know anybody” is no longer
a valid explanation for the absence of diversity on corporate boards. As The ELC membership has expanded to include entrepreneurs and thought leaders, The ELC as an organization is also embracing broader leadership responsibility for its black community. ELC Board Chair Tonie Leatherberry, a principal at Deloitte & Touche LLP and president of the Deloitte Foundation, has begun her Chair’s Initiative in partnership with selected Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to increase the number of black males who earn college degrees. The ELC has been supportive of HBCUs since its founding in 1986. The ELC is also poised to tackle the black/white wealth gap. The second Black Economic Forum, a partnership between The ELC and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Beta Iota Boulé, a local chapter of the national organization that sponsors social action and public policy initiatives, met on Martha’s Vineyard in August 2019. Black leaders in finance discussed addressing that gap, based on the ELC/McKinsey & Company report “The Economic Impact of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap,” which concludes that narrowing the racial wealth gap could increase the nation’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) by 4%-6%. Narrowing that gap could put the United States on a dramatic growth streak. For over three decades, The ELC has advocated for more blacks on boards and in the C-suite, including the CEO office, and designed, refined and presented unique leadership development programs. The ELC is now leading with a broader purpose, with depth and breadth, to embrace black entrepreneurs and thought leaders – stars in the new business landscape – and take on institutional barriers that have defied the stability and wealth aspirations of so many black professionals. Learn more about The ELC at www.elcinfo.com.