SOT New Haven

SOT New Haven
SOT New Haven and their Circle of Mentors

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

LEADING BY EXAMPLE The Legacy of Leadership…

The Legacy of Leadership…
by: Carla Morrison

For the past couple of weeks I had been anticipating attending the 9th Annual Spelman College Leadership Conference, themed, “Women of Color”, Strategic Leadership: Building Wealth, Entrepreneurship and Paying it Forward. The Conference is one of my personal, annual highlights, where career driven women from all walks of life, with outstanding careers and/or businesses come together, share and learn from one another. 
Nicole Ari Parker and Judy A. Smith, both Spelman College
Legacy of Leadership Awards Honorees.
This year’s conference was no different; however, the Leadership of Legacy Awards Dinner was the event, I was especially looking forward to, because Judy Smith was going to be one of the honorees, (along with actress Nicole Ari Parker). “Who is Judy Smith?” one might ask. You heard of ABC’s “Scandal” right? Well, the show was inspired by Ms. Smith’s body of work, as a “Fixer” (in the public relations world we call it “Crisis Communications Manager”). And since public relations is what I do, it was thrilling for me to see and meet such an accomplished woman who has been highlighted and revered through a television show, for her intelligence, as a leading Public Relations professional/Crisis Communications Manager/Advisor. (Think the Michael Vick Case, Monica Lewinsky, the family of Chandra Levy, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., and Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry, just to name a few).
When I walked into the Georgia World International Convention Center (GWICC) where Spelman’s Legacy of Leadership Awards Dinner was being held, I was frantically looking for the press room, because I thought I was late for my interview with Ms. Smith (I’m also a journalist). As I was walking back and forth, I glanced to my left and spotted a woman of color, in a white pant suit, with long hair and glasses, sitting at a table, engrossed in a serious telephone conversation.  It was Judy Smith! aka the real “Olivia Pope”, live and in living color, doing what she does best. I waved hello and mouthed that I would be interviewing her. She positioned her finger to say, “one minute” and I kindly waited. Ms. Smith’s conversation went on for a while and was so intense, that she got up and walked away, but I kept my eye on her the whole time, so I wouldn’t miss my opportunity…
…A few minutes later, “I’m sorry I was on the phone. I was working,” said Ms. Smith, as she shook my hand.  “I know I heard you, I replied with a big smile. “Was it another scandal”, I asked. “Not something that I can tell you about,” said Smith, as we both laughed. What was even funnier was, the interviews hadn’t started yet and I was just in time for the press conference…
From journalists to the public relations specialists, and all the other professionals attending the conference, we were all excited to see, meet and interview Judy Smith, known as the real live “Olivia Pope”, from which ABC’s SCANDAL was inspired.
“The drums called you warrior, and we never saw you coming,” said Dr. Jane E. Smith, Executive Director of Spelman College’s LEADS program, as she introduced Judy Smith to the crowd of over 500 people, (mostly women), who roared with screams, and hand claps.
(l-r) Dr. Beverly Tatum presents Judy Smith with the Legacy of Leadership Award,
along with Dr. Jane E. Smith, who so eloquently introduced Ms. Smith. 
Judy Smith approached the podium and shouted, “Where are all my gladiators?” during her awards acceptance speech. When you talk about leadership, Smith said, “I lead by example. I focus on the work; do the work well and hopefully the work will speak for itself.” Smith went on to mention the importance of “showing up, leading the way and supporting one another”.
During the press conference, I asked Smith, what did she see her legacy being. Smith responded, “I haven’t really thought about my legacy; I feel at this point in my life, I’m just getting started”. And it was at that very moment that I realized, Ms. Smith didn’t recognize her legacy as being just what she said in her speech, “doing the work” and “supporting one another”.
Most Scandal watchers love the edgy story lines, the affair with the President, and the killings, but for the Public Relations professionals like myself and the hundreds of other PR experts who were in the room and around the world, we are inspired by Smith’s “work” to lead. Developing the level of network needed to get things done, using the media to convey the message she set forth for her client(s), establishing herself as a major player in the PR game and extending her personal and professional brand to millions of people through a major network, ABC.
Compassionate, committed and non-judge-mental are a few of the adjectives Ms. Smith used to describe who she is, as well as the character of Olivia Pope.  “I think the great thing about this show (Scandal) is that this is the first time an African American woman has played a major role on television in a very long time, so it was important to me that, that person have a degree of strength and a level of confidence and that person feel like she is at the top of her game and not afraid to show that."
Smith showed that same level of confidence, compassion and commitment to her work and her supporters. After the awards dinner, there was a long line of public relations professionals who came up to Ms. Smith, wanting to take photos, get a hug or just tell her how inspired they are by her. And the awesome thing about Judy Smith, she stayed and met every last person who approached her; from the corporate public relations professionals of Coke, UPS, Georgia Power, the Atlanta Braves and more, to the small business owner, as well as the GWICC Wait Staff, who called a relative for Ms. Smith to speak with.
“You all support me, why wouldn’t I stay,” said Smith. Leading by example is what she does; And Spelman College is producing those kinds of women leaders everyday.
Just a few of the many top PR professionals from Los Angeles
and Atlanta that were onsite at the Spelman
Legacy of Leadership Awards Dinner.
“Spelman College is an institution about academic excellence, leadership development and service. And in the leadership area, with the leadership of Dr. Tatum, we want to put emphasis on women of color and the work that they do. And this year its about wealth building, and entrepreneurship and paying it forward for our community.” -Dr. Jane E. Smith

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