Posted by Trakstar • February 17, 2023 (Last modified March 24, 2023) • 7 min read
This year, we’re focusing on building and leading great teams. To start, we wanted to highlight and celebrate ten top Black business leaders you should know. February is Black History Month, and the history of Black leaders in business is one that fills the history of the world. These leaders have all impacted the world around us in various ways, from people behind the scenes at today’s leading businesses to some of the brightest lights in the entertainment industry.
Building great teams is hard, and leading them can be even more challenging. If you want more information about building and leading great teams for yourself, schedule a demo of Trakstar today.
Let’s start with one of the most well-known Black business leaders: Oprah Winfrey. Whether you know her from her talk show, her acting career, her philanthropic endeavors, or just as a beloved public figure, there’s no denying that no one does business like Oprah.
Oprah is the living embodiment of “lifting while you climb.” She’s an investor in many other businesses, has started many prolific careers, and always gives back. Her career began on television news. Through grit, grace, and tenacity, she broke boundaries and records on the path to being the chairperson of Harpo, Inc., her multimedia company. Along the way, she’s had her magazine, television channel, clothing, weight loss products, and more.
When someone is known by just their first name, you know they’re not only famous but highly successful. According to Forbes, she is the wealthiest Black woman in the United States, with a net worth around $2.5 billion.
Anyone who wants to lead others and stay true to themselves should model their behavior after Oprah.
George Foreman is a name that may ring a bell for many people, but for different reasons. Some know him for his highly successful boxing career (including an Olympic gold medal), and others may know him for his George Foreman Grill.
Known for his infomercials where he grilled healthy, tasty food, Foreman has sold over 100 million of his grills to date. While how much money he made from the sales of his grill is unknown, they are found in many big box stores across the country, there are still commercials selling them, and they are still one of the most popular gifts given for housewarming gifts.
George Foreman symbolizes perseverance and doing what feels right for leaders. He didn’t have to do something huge to change the world – but change the world he did.
Dr. Karen L Semien-McBride has over 25 years of experience in people leadership, including change management, development, social psychology, DEI, compliance, and more. She has done a little bit of everything and excelled in her field.
Now, she’s a trainer of leaders and strategists, helping individuals who want to find work-life balance, achieve business success, and lead great teams.
She preaches the importance of using emotional intelligence, smarter workflows, human interaction, and mindset shifts within your leadership.
We were honored to have Dr. McBride as a guest on our podcast. You can listen to that episode here to gain even more insight about being a people leader.
You might know Daymond John from his time on ABC’s Shark Tank, but you can only be one of the Sharks with quite the resume behind you. He has been extremely famous (and successful) for mixing fashion and business savvy. He started the clothing company FUBU in the late 1980s, using musicians, primarily hip-hop artists, to market and build brand recognition. Early on, he worked diligently to provide opportunities for himself and speak to young people and educate them about hard work and perseverance, particularly in a system where things aren’t equal.
As a public figure, CEO of Shark Group, Daymond John is worth over $350 million and co-founder of a co-working space.
For leaders, it’s helpful to study Daymond John’s tenacity and determination to succeed, even when things aren’t going your way.
Icema Gibbs currently serves as the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for JetBlue. She has worked diligently to improve JetBlue’s marketing and philanthropic initiatives, earning awards and recognition from her peers and admirers.
With a strong hand and thoughtful candor, Gibbs has led JetBlue through some of the most challenging conversations surrounding racial injustice, discrimination, and DEI. A founder of JetBlue, she has taken the airline to new heights in many different parts of the business, including customer service, operations, and concierge services.
One thing for leaders to take away from Icema Gibbs’ career is that service should always be a part of your work. When you’re able to give back to others, it takes your impact and multiplies it.
Robert L. and Sheila Johnson have likely had the most significant impact on people’s day-to-day lives out of anyone on this list. Robert Johnson is the founder of BET, the Black Entertainment Television channel. The network focuses on making content by, for, and about Black Americans. Robert and his wife Sheila sold BET in 2000 for almost $3 billion, making the pair the first Black billionaires in the US.
While the couple has since divorced, they continue to work diligently to ensure that Black professionals get the opportunities they deserve. From producing movies (including The Butler) to athletics (Robert became the first Black majority owner of a major sports team in America when he purchased the Charlotte Hornets).
If you want to build a career like either Robert L. Johnson or Sheila Johnson, it’s important to diversify your skillset.
Rihanna has far exceeded the world of music where she started. She’s one of the most well-known Black entrepreneurs in the world. Her multimillion-dollar cosmetics line, Fenty Beauty, was just the start. She broke barriers by providing a more comprehensive shade range than her competitors and creating makeup that was beautiful, simplistic, and worked. She also has a size-inclusive fashion line, Fenty X Savage.
Rihanna’s business prowess goes beyond inclusion. She remains CEO of her brands and complete creative control, ensuring that they don’t go in a direction she doesn’t like.
Rihanna’s net worth is estimated at $1.7 billion and growing
Today’s leaders can take away one thing from Rihanna: doing the unexpected might pay off in the long run.
Elizabeth Adefioye is the Chief People Officer at Emerson, a technology and engineering company. She has re-imagined the employee experience for the almost 100,000 employees at Emerson, taking a human-centric approach. Her approach leads with two things:
Adefioye has had leadership roles in many of today’s top companies, including Johnson and Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Medtronic. She is a scholar of leadership and people, continually learning more about what it means to lead and build great teams.
For leaders, taking a human-centric approach is something we can all learn from Elizabeth Adefioye.
Nadine Augusta is the Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Cushman & Wakefield. She drives global opportunities for equitable and fair growth within the organization and outside of it. As part of her practice, she stresses a more holistic approach to human resources and DEI, focusing on recruiting and talent development opportunities.
Nadine has received many awards and recognition from her peers and her philanthropic endeavors. She’s a great example of having a global worldview while focusing on the people in front of you.
Asahi Pompey is a fantastic example of philanthropic and engaging leadership. She leads the community engagement initiatives at the Goldman Sachs Foundation. Her work with the Community Reinvestment Act Program helps communities worldwide, including in programs like 10,000 Small Businesses, 10,000 Women, and One Million Black Women.
Asahi has made an impact beyond Goldman Sachs as well. She works with Glamour, Forbes, and the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream.
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