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Taking the Lead

Belinda White’s New Textbook is Pioneer in Leadership Studies

By Add Seymour Jr.

Belinda Johnson White

THE HARD-FOUGHT CIVIL RIGHTS battles led by the Martin Luther King Jr. influenced a teenaged Belinda Johnson White so much that she figured she’d follow in King’s footsteps. She planned to attend Morehouse College.

“It wasn’t until I was in the 10th grade that someone finally told me that I couldn’t go to Morehouse,” she said.

But after graduating from neighboring Spelman College and later Georgia Tech and Georgia State, and starting a career as a corporate consultant, White now teaches lessons of leadership as an assistant professor in Leadership Studies.

White also decided to do something she said no one else has done: pen a book about leadership studies, with an added focus on diversity in corporate America. The book, titled 21st Century Guide to Leadership and Professional Development: Life Success Tools and Strategies for Emerging Leaders of Color, is a textbook in its first edition and published by McGraw Hill/Irwin.

“There were no textbooks out there for this class,” said White as the light shines into her small office decorated with many honors and awards. “I always had to hodgepodge. I got tired of trying to hodge-podge.”

She describes the book as a compilation of advice and teachings from corporate America along with the basic things that students need to learn to become leaders. It is an area where White herself has worked as a trainer and consultant with numerous national corporate entities, including Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola Company and the Atlanta Falcons.

White uses actual quotes from some of the nation’s most renowned business leaders, including Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, Morgan Stanley managing director Carla Harris and media pioneer Ted Turner, culled from their talks on campus.

“Their words are golden,” White said. “But it really comes down to the fundamental things we talk about in class. Too often, students see the bells and whistles and that’s all they want to focus on. But you’ve got to have the fundamentals.”

She also presents her own theories and teachings on the topic, focusing on five areas: leadership, professionalism (“That’s the fifth language of business,” she said), ethics, global awareness and public service. The book is currently sold in the College bookstore. The second edition will be available next year and will be marketed to higher education institutions across the country, especially other Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

White said one of her main inspirations for writing the book was Benjamin P. McLaurin ’69, director for Career Counseling and Placement, who died in May.

“We always said we wanted to write a book,” she recalled. “This made me realize that tomorrow isn’t promised, so I said I needed to stop saying I’m going to do it and just do it.”

Now that she’s done it, White is now happy to face the challenges of pioneering a textbook topic not explored before.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “But that’s what we do at Morehouse. We teach students to take the lead.”

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