Tonie Leatherberry - ELC Gala

The Executive Leadership Council 2020 Virtual Gala – Tonie Leatherberry

This year marks my second and final year as Chair of the Board of The Executive Leadership Council. I can’t believe two years have gone by so quickly! It’s been such an honor to serve in this position.

Doubly so, as I come behind some phenomenal leaders. I think, particularly of Bernard Tyson. When I became Chair, I went to see Bernard. To talk about the opportunities and challenges of the role. He gave me some great advice and his wisdom continues to guide me.

It was such a shock when we lost Bernard last November. Only 60 years old, he was one of the most influential healthcare leaders of his generation. A man who cared passionately about healthcare for all… a staunch supporter of social justice…and a much-loved family man and force for good in our community.

But amid that loss and grief, there is hope.

The work Bernard cared most passionately about will continue. To honor his memory and continue his legacy, The American Heart Association has announced the Bernard J. Tyson, Impact Fund. This national fund, led by his widow, Denise Bradley-Tyson will support evidence-based, locally-led solutions to improve access to healthcare and related services for underserved and under-resourced communities.

The last two years feel a little like a blur.

So much was done in what seemed a short time. But I believe that we’ve accomplished much. We faced challenges to the diversity that our ancestors would recognize… And in the face of that injustice and instability, The ELC has emerged more relevant and as a greater driving force for our community.

I’m proud of the power of The ELC’s voice now in the public domain. Our story is being told in corner offices and corporate boardrooms and by prominent media outlets. And I’d like to share a few of our accomplishments with you.

Launch of philanthropy:

At last year’s gala, I spoke about The ELC’s Strategic Vision 2021 and our plans to deepen our philanthropic outreach and presence in the community.

This year, The ELC will invest $2 million to launch a series of new philanthropic programmatic pillars. We created these pillars to help young Black women and men succeed as business executives.

We launched the Black Male Cohort Initiative… a pilot program created in collaboration with the business schools of three Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Delaware State, Howard University, and North Carolina A&T.

Together, we will help Black male students attain career and life success by completing their degrees, obtain internships, leverage mentoring support, and develop leadership skills. An emphasis on data analytics and critical resource platforms will help drive the success of the program.

Our two additional new program pillars include:

A Leadership Development Program for students through our ELC Institute for Leadership Development and Research…

And a Black Entrepreneurship Support, an initiative that includes mentoring, investing, and capacity investments for entrepreneurs.

We continued our philanthropic giving through grants and charitable donations to select nonprofit organizations benefitting the Black community.

Amos Bursary:

I am proud that we also expanded our philanthropic impact into the United Kingdom where our ELC membership continues to grow.

We issued a grant to the Amos Bursary which is an organization that supports a talent pipeline of men of African and Caribbean descent in the UK by developing and uplifting them through education, personal and professional development, and business opportunities.

Game Changer:

We launched The ELC’s Game Changer event last year. This is an unmatched forum for CEOs. It allows them to address critical issues faced by Blacks in the workplace within a confidential peer group. And it offers action-oriented solutions for engagement and benchmarking.

This year’s virtual event had a different tone given the spotlight on racial inequities in the workplace after George Floyd’s death. We facilitated hard conversations on an uncomfortable topic… but led as a trusted ally, knowing the only way to effect systemic change is to do it together.

Board Partnerships:

We’ve seen a marked rise in the number of people coming to The ELC for Black candidates to fill board seats. Thanks to the stellar reputation of our Corporate Board Initiative, they know that The ELC is a valuable resource for Black board-ready candidates.

One of our north star goals is to increase the number of Black executives on corporate boards.

In less than three months, we have led or engaged in multiple partnerships and initiatives devoted to increasing the number of Black executives on corporate boards…

Including the Board Diversity Action Alliance, led by our own former CEO of Xerox, Ursula Burns, in concert with Gabrielle Sulzberger, The Ford Foundation, and Teneo. Together, we’re taking action to increase the representation of racially and ethnically diverse directors on corporate boards of directors, beginning with Black directors.

We also partnered with organizations like the Black Economic Alliance, When We All Vote, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation…committed to driving public policy, advocacy, civic engagement, and voter education for the Black community.

Mid-Level Managers’ Symposium (MLMS):

I am also proud of the evolution of our ELC Institute. In addition to launching two research journals this year, we created new competency-based programs, including one for Black women.

Earlier today we wrapped up our first of its kind: virtual 2020 Mid-Level Managers’ Symposium. We had a stellar line up of business and non-traditional speakers who focused on leadership development while empowering Black mid-level executives to bring their whole selves to work during these unprecedented times.

Going virtual has allowed us to reach a broader segment of the talent pipeline than in past years.

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My association with The ELC encompasses many years. You might say that I’ve grown up professionally in this organization. Even before becoming a member, I participated in The ELC’s inaugural Strengthening the Pipeline leadership development program.

Last month I retired as a Principal with Deloitte & Touche, LLP.

I am humbled as I realize that I am standing on the shoulders of those who formed this great organization, and I now stand beside them as a Legacy member, ready to continue the fight through a different lens.

Next year is The ELC’s 35th anniversary. And if 2020 is any indicator, we will take many of our same challenges into 2021.

We must stay steadfast to the mission of this organization. We must not only RESPECT the gifts our predecessors gave us. But we must EARN them as well.

We must use our voice to stay at the forefront of systemic change…and continue to elevate our stature in corporate America by supporting a pipeline of C-suite and Board-ready leaders.

NO OTHER ORGANIZATION brings together the business thought leadership and social impact leadership in one place.

WE are that place.

NOW is our time. It is a time for Bold Moves. For courage. For resilience.

Take those words to heart. Together, we go forward into the future.

Because we are one…standing strong…with each other.

And we will win.

Thank you.

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