Minority business professionals who obtain leadership positions need support to stay in those positions. Ongoing leadership and professional development programs, and sponsorship, are some ways in which minority leaders can be sustained in their positions. Mentors must be intentional about identifying opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities to participate in professional development programs or service opportunities that the organization supports that may also provide a unique growth experience for their mentee. The mentor can also sponsor or recommend that the organization sponsor their mentee to participate in the leadership development program.
Sponsorship is important at all stages of career development. Sponsorship signifies that the company or sponsor is committed to the success of the person enrolled in the program. Company sponsorship usually means that the company pays for the leadership development program and provides the employee with time to complete the program activities. This is typically an investment of thousands of dollars; however, companies see a return on their investment when an employee is able to use those skills inside in their day to day work or in the communities that the business serves. Many cities have leadership programs targeted at mid-career and executive leaders designed to develop them professionally and improve the community by bringing leaders from key organizations in the city together to work on impactful projects.
The Cleveland Leadership Center in Cleveland, Ohio is an example of an organization that focuses on leadership development through civic engagement (Cleveland Leadership Center, 2020). Several of the top business in the city have executive and aspiring leaders that are alumnus of their various leadership development programs. Through their application process, they seek out diversity in thought, experience, race, sex, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, and further develop leadership skills through a year of impactful programming. Applicants that are selected to participate in the program may have their tuition sponsored by their employer. During the program, the participants' manager and or mentor may encourage discussion about what they are learning and learn how they would like to use their new skills within the organization. These intentional discussions help further prepare diverse leaders for future growth opportunities.
Membership in professional organizations also allows business professionals to participate in the issues that are of most importance to them. It provides the opportunity to network with colleagues who share similar interests. It often provides an avenue to advocate for the resolution of complex issues impacting the community or the profession, and it can provide for additional leadership experiences through service on committees and the board of the organization (Persaud, 2020).
Networking through professional association membership takes on many forms. This can include going to a monthly or quarterly dinner meeting or communicating on members-only social media platforms. This also includes attending and possibly presenting at conferences and conventions virtually, locally, and out of state. Relationships made through membership in professional associations can be strengthened throughout the course of a business professionals’ career. Often this happens when members of professional associations seek out other members to share their expertise, share solutions to common problems. The cost of belonging to professional nursing associations varies but the benefits are tangible and intangible.
Authored by Khaliah Fisher-Grace, PhD(c), MSN, RN, CPHQ, PCCN-K