12 Lessons Learned: Playbook for Succeeding as a Black CEO

12 Lessons Learned: Playbook for Succeeding as a Black CEO

Parul Agrawal 24/07/2020 9
12 Lessons Learned: Playbook for Succeeding as a Black CEO

From a young boy avidly listening to his grandmother reflect on her memories of her days during the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s, Terrence Patterson embarked on a journey in envisioning those stories into vivid cinematography. 

Despite many hurdles, Terrence succeeded in catapulting past the odds by staying true to his vision, leading with honesty and integrity, and always looking beyond himself to create an empowered team of professionals who feel seen, heard, and have the opportunity to pursue their own dreams in the making. 

Take a closer look at the top 12 lessons learned in leadership that apply to all businesses, genres, and industries alike.

  • I believe one very good reason for having a diverse executive team helping you bring your dream to fruition are the ways they enrich your ideas to help make them better and attainable. Their life experiences inform their ideas and that alone is magic waiting to happen when you, as a CEO or employee need a new perspective on a problem or solution. I love it when a director, actor or fellow producer suggests ways to enhance a scene we are filming, on the spot, it feels good to have the diversity to pull from. 
  • Diversity is so important because it is incumbent upon everyone in power to provide opportunities to those who are often overlooked. Having several representations of people at the executive level gives hope to those disadvantaged by not having access.
  • Allow your executive team to have a mentorship approach in their management style to nurture their own teams and hopefully they (teams) are diverse as well. I like to hire people and trust that they are encouraging to their staff and that they are problem solvers for those who report to them. 
  • One of the things that I think could be done to address diversity and its role in executive leadership are that we have to open communication across age groups within our community.  The younger generations need to have direct communication with mentors who have the experience and leadership roles they desire. We need to be available more and make time in our calendars to do that instead of scheduling an unnecessary meeting where an email would suffice. 
  • “You are going to fail way more often than you think. And its OK.Be comfortable in the “failure” because it only takes one time to win and start your path to success. For me “failure”  in the beginning meant not making a return on my investment in an Off-Broadway play. We sold a lot of tickets and had sold out shows. What we didn’t factor into the budget was having a cushion for unexpected emergencies that can be costly for theater productions. Every project I produce has an emergency fund and backup plans as well.
  • I wish that I had been told that I would have to “keep my day job” much longer than I did when I quit. Not the smartest decision as it was during the financial crisis. I had been receiving many recruiters calling me with an extra $25K annual increase in my current salary, and 30 days later in February, the silence was deafening when I reach out to those same contacts to follow up after I had quit my job. In hindsight it was the best decision I could have made at the time but it was rough after savings ran dry.
  • “It will take time to assemble a good support team.” When I first started out I didn’t have an extensive network to draw from so I started to assemble a team for a project by referral. In the beginning that is sometimes your only route however, with that you are going to hire people who are not as qualified as their references emphatically relayed to you when you did your due diligence. It is trial and error and that is part of the process. Ultimately you will find your core group of people you trust to make decisions when you are not around.
  • Have the ability to delegate duties/tasks to your team as you start to grow. As an entrepreneur you are usually a one-man band and you are comfortable wearing many hats. There comes a time however when you have to have your eye on the bigger picture and you have to step back from parts of the process. Your team will only get better and function more cohesively if you give them more responsibility when you believe they are ready for the new challenge.
  • There will be days when you will want to quit. Throw in the towel. I was recently watching a great documentary “She Did That” on Netflix that profiled the struggles and journey of numerous African American women. I identified with so many parts of their personal journeys, struggles, financial woes and thoughts of giving up. These ladies were resilient and kept pushing through to the end. I am lucky to have great examples, in New York and in Atlanta where I attended college, of black men who were warriors when it came to their aspirations. I am very lucky to have great examples from all genders. I will never quit just because I owe it to all of those who paved the way for me.
  • Leadership to me means that everyone on your team feels comfortable coming to you to help them make decisions. It is important to empower others and being of service is inherent in the idea of helping others. Drive their talent and you will drive their instincts.
  • Another one is to study your competition/industry leaders but keep your focus very narrow while building your own career/brand/company. I learned it was hard to move forward from a growth perspective if I was sidelined and viewing the trajectory of my peers. 
  • Listen to everyone you meet at a networking event or meeting, party etc. so that they have your undivided attention. I mean, really listen and empathize with people who may not share your exact goals and the trajectory or the process of how you want to arrive at a positive outcome. Especially if you are in negotiations on a deal/project, where the environment can

“Half-Past Jump Time” Web Series

Terrence aims at reigniting that spotlight on the African American journey by combining sci-fi, the Harlem Renaissance experience, as well as the life of young African Americans in present-day New York.

A major component of the show will be showcasing the social issues of each time period, revolving around the African American experience. Current events of each time period will play heavily in the series storylines. The characters of HPJT are from two different worlds, and yet their lives contain certain similarities that make for great stories.

“Half-Past Jump Time” Web Series (HPJT) has audiences at the edge of their seats, as a 1920s Harlem Renaissance-era club owner and time traveler are on the verge of losing everything she owns to a powerful politician and has to convince a relative—100 years in the future—to give up her life in present day New York and come to 1920s Harlem through a time-portal.

“The present day rights that are enjoyed today were created through the persistence and sacrifice of some amazing people who lived long ago.”

Terrence has been allowing audiences to share a glimpse into a time mixed with incredible imagination and talent with his web series that is based on his grandmother’s stories during the Harlem Renaissance. This dramatic web series is part urban, sci-fi adventure as well as a dance/ entertainment spectacle. Available on Facebook, Vimeo, Amazon Prime Direct and www.halfpastjumptime.com.


Playbook for Succeeding as a Black CEO

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  • Tom Hughes

    Make employees feel important and they will stay forever with you.

  • Luke Keylock

    Great tips

  • Mark Paton

    Be aware of team morale, spend time chatting with the team casually, have a bit of fun, be part of the team, get your hands dirty occasionally and lead by example.

  • Andrew Page

    Fascinating interview !!

  • Druv Abhilash

    You are a great leader

  • Simon Ward

    Interesting.. Thanks for sharing

  • Marco Gonzalez

    This is really helpful

  • Lee Davison

    Helps a whole lot. Thank you.

  • Tyrone Schultz

    Love this interview. You are a role model !

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Parul Agrawal

Leadership Expert

Parul Agrawal is an International Bestselling Author, Speaker, Forbes Coaches Council Member and Podcast Host. She holds a double Master’s in Engineering from Arizona State University (ASU); worked as a Research Scientist at ASU and Engineer for Intel Corporation. In an effort to help others address major medical issues and live more healthily, she pursued holistic studies and acquired her certification as a wellness expert. After launching a successful Wellness Coaching business, Parul delivered the message of health through public speaking in various community centers and corporations. Parul’s life and business changed dramatically after she wrote a book on the benefits of juicing that became an International Bestseller in multiple categories. The book’s phenomenal success resulted in her being featured in major publications like the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Forbes and as a guest on ABC Arizona. Parul has not only continued her success as an author and businesswoman, but she has paid-it-forward, by helping over 100 writers become bestselling authors, too! She is the founder of an International Publishing Platform where she helps thought leaders in the areas of health, wellness and consciousness write their books, achieve bestseller authority status, and land in mainstream media - just like she did! Parul is currently experiencing the honor of being listed as one of the 30 change-makers in India for the year 2018.


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