• Feb 25 2022

Celebrating Black Leaders at ExecOnline

By Cristina Padilla, Director of Coaching & Engagement, ExecOnline & Tiffany Tate, DEI Lead, ExecOnline

Black History Month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the contributions and achievements of African-Americans in United States history. At ExecOnline, we believe that all leaders should have an opportunity to reach their future potential. We commit to provide visibility to the Black leadership experience by reflecting on and learning from the lived experiences of our very own Black leaders. 

Donna Person, ExecOnline Senior Vice President of Finance

Donna leads financial operations at ExecOnline and has years of leadership experience in finance, business development and strategy. She sits on the board of the Breastfeeding Center of Greater Washington. Despite her impressive business acumen, she shares, “I wish I would have had a better understanding of career pathways and how to identify growth opportunities. For the first ten years of my career, I feel like opportunities to advance just came about by happenstance. I was not intentional in where I wanted to go and what experiences I needed to have to make that possible.”

Leading with Empathy

Donna appreciates that we bring our whole selves and social identities to work: “‘Work can’t matter more than real life.’ That is actually a line from Insecure on HBO and encapsulates a series of lessons and advice I learned from one of my mentors who was an amazing manager with very high expectations. However, he always paused to listen and understand what was going on in our lives outside of work. From him, I learned that if I am supportive of the non-work parts of my team members’ lives, they will do their best at work.” 

Leadership Role Model: Vernon Jordan

Donna’s leadership role model is business executive and civil rights advocate Vernon Jordan: “He passed away last year but I had many opportunities to hear him speak. I was always struck by how Mr. Jordan, a man with great wealth, influence, and prestige, always honored the people who supported him in being great. He also spoke eloquently about the debt he owes society because of the position he sits in. His influence reminds me to make time for community service, a kind word, and other ways of serving others around me.”

Herb Long, ExecOnline Leadership Coach 

Leadership coach Herb Long is a self-described “serial entrepreneur” with extensive leadership, entrepreneurial and board experience. He holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. When asked if there was something he wished was made available to him earlier in his career, naturally he responded, “I wish I had a coach. It would’ve been valuable to have someone explore my beliefs and help create awareness around a number of issues. Eventually I did figure things out on my own, however my employer and I would have benefited from the impact coaching provides.” 

Accepting Failure as Growth 

The best leadership advice Herb has ever received was not to be afraid of failure and to keep an eye on team members who never failed. “I learned how to embrace failure, and to communicate to others that failure is expected. People who don’t fail don’t try.” Herb speaks to the importance of creating psychological safety for teams. Effective leaders are able to take calculated risks as well as analyze risk with their teams to develop their team’s collective problem solving power.

Leadership Role Model: Frederick Douglass

Herb’s leadership role model is Frederick Douglass: “At a young age I was struck by the ability of Frederick Douglass to use emotion and intellect to capture the hearts and minds of his audiences.” 

ExecOnline’s mission is to connect all leaders to their future potential. Our equitable, high-impact online experiences and coaching provide access to career-enhancing opportunities for leaders at all levels.


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