One of the most celebrated thought leaders of the 20th century was the seldom ostentatious, but always zealous Maya Angelou. Growing up during racial segregation, Angelou dedicated her life to the art of poetry, the power of memoirs, and fighting for racial equality. Best known for her seven autobiographies, including the celebrated and acclaimed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she was a well-respected leader and defender of women and Black American culture.
With a career spanning seven decades, including writing, acting, directing, and producing, Angelou knew a thing or two about working with and leading others.
“A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself.”
Working alongside the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X during the Civil Rights Movement, as well as speaking at events with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, it would be easy to focus on the greatness and acclaim she had built over her career. But the best leaders are humble and encourage others to rise up to be the best they can be.
While there is a time and place for all types of leadership, building a team with employees who excel in their roles and are experts in their fields is paramount to being a successful leader in today’s business climate. And cultivating an encouraging environment built on employee development, recognition, and empathy is an excellent way to do just that. As Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What are some of your favorite lessons from Maya Angelou? What other past leaders do you look up to for inspiration? Let us know in the comments section below!