Aspiring executives must be strategic in preparation for leadership. As an executive with a corporate career that spans over twenty years, I am always compelled to light the path for those coming after me. With this in mind, I will share four key tips to position you to excel in the corporate arena.

The first is to clarify your vision. As an executive, you are to be a visionary leader with responsibility for leading others. Before you can effectively lead anyone you must have a clear vision for your life and lead through positive example. When discouragement arises, you must be self-driven and diligent in your work to be successful. Although what we do is very rewarding, it is also challenging at times and how you lead through these situations can bring teams together for a common cause. Your mindset will play a huge role in bringing your vision to pass.

The second is to embrace challenging work. As you look for that next big job, always seek opportunities to make strong improvements to the organization. Look for opportunities to drive innovation and increase productivity. Take on those difficult jobs that no one else wants because they will allow you to develop and showcase your leadership skills. Realize that those jobs will require hard work, which you should embrace. Leaders execute, so as a leader your reputation needs to reflect one who is reliable, responsible, and a self-starter. This will show a strong work ethic. You may encounter those who are smarter or who can give better presentations, but your work ethic is what must distinguish you as a leader. You should not be outworked, and that characteristic will position you to successfully progress forward in your career.

The third is to be conscious of the mental challenges you must overcome. This includes the hurdles and microaggressions we face as minorities in Corporate America. This toll is largely unacknowledged and rarely discussed on a grand scale. As black executives, we do not get many second chances, and we must produce results very quickly. Once hired, we are expected to know everything on the spot and to make an immediate impact. This is why a strong work ethic is so important. It will allow you to go the extra mile and to produce faster. You will need these attributes to achieve success despite that mental toll. Be mindful of these hurdles, but not consumed by them. Your talent will get you past them. Do not complain or lament over unfairness. When you do overcome and succeed despite challenges, you will be a better leader, and you will have blazed the trail for others.

The last is to be patiently impatient. Too often, people want to fast-track into leadership, but fail to learn along the way. If you rush the process, you will not have built credibility and experience so you will be prone to fail. Black executives are few, so we must be exemplary. Be patiently impatient as you strive for leadership by learning your craft, and getting sustainable results in every role along the way. Be diligent about accomplishing your vision. Executive leadership is not just about gaining possessions or recognition. It includes the behind-the-scenes work that often goes unrewarded, late nights, and time away from family.

Executive leadership is answering the call to blaze the trail and to make corporate environments equitable. So in summary, clarify your vision, embrace challenging work, be conscious of the mental toll, and be patiently impatient. I encourage all of the individuals who aspire to become executives to never stop and never give up on your calling or what your vision is for your life. Please continue to press forward no matter the circumstance and you will be better on the other side!!

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