Black male leader in accountancy stood in front of grey wall

5 Great Black Leaders and the Lessons They Taught Us

July 18th is Black Leaders Awareness Day

Black Leaders Awareness Day (BLAD) was created to enable people from all cultures to experience the wisdom of past, current, and next-generation leaders through the speeches, quotes, and videos they or others share.

And to celebrate a group of people who accountants looking to succeed in their careers or leaders looking to leave a lasting legacy can be inspired by, we’re showcasing 5 incredible black leaders throughout time and what they taught us about success through adversity.

Martin Luther King

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

From 1955 until his assasination in 1968, Martin Luther King presented a fresh approach to the ongoing fight to end racial diversity. His call to disarm and to fight opression through non violent means, namely civil disobediance, caught the attention of the world.

In 1955, together with Richard Nixon, King led the Montgomery bus boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a white passenger.

In 1963 King’s infamous ‘I have a dream speech’ came to be regarded as one of the finest speeches in American history and was credited for being a leading influence in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Ella Barker

“I have always thought that what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others.”

Working alongside Martin Luther King in a less obvious, more hands on, ‘let’s get things done’ style of leadership, Ella Barker was a civil rights activist with a career covering more than 50 years.

A true leader, Ella’s mission was to advocate for her fellow African Americans and educate and empower them to believe that their voices mattered.

Not just an ardent campaigner against racism, Ella was also a pioneering feminist and worked tirelessly to improve the rights of women around the world.

Dr Shirley Thompson

“Be tenacious and be gracious.”

Shirley Thompson OBE, is an English composer, conductor, and violinist.

Thompson was the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony within the last 40 years. New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony performed and recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is an epic musical story celebrating London’s thousand-year history.

Conducting an orchestra is surely a leadership role like no other. If one member of your team is just slightly out of tune the efforts of the group are tarnished. Named by The Guardian in 2020 as a changemaker in Black British history, her leadership role has been as seismic as the music she has helped create.

Nelson Mandela

“It always seems impossible until it is done.”

This Black leader needs no introduction. Following his 27 year inarceration in Capetown’s infamous Robben Island prison, Mandela went on to be one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.

Though at times, particularly in his early years, his actions were contraversial, his overall impact on social justice led him to be awarded more than 250 honours, with the Nobel Prize standing out as the most prestigious.

CJ Lloyd Webley

“I didn’t want this to be just another fundraiser, as to me building a real community spirit is the most important thing. This project is about everyone sharing the load. Big changes come from small change.”

Certainly not as well known as Mandela, but give the man time!

We’ve written before about the more recent efforts of CJ, founder of The Black Pounds Project (BPP), a community interest company which provides business information and signposting assistance to culturally diverse entrepreneurs; and equips them with the necessary tools to start, build and scale a sustainable enterprise.

Including him in our list of inspiring leaders felt like the perfect way to show him that his efforts are inspiring black leaders around the country.

The news last year that only one in 250 Partners in the top eight UK accountancy firms is black, demonstrated just how far our industry has to go when it comes to diversity at the top tables. So identifying and inspiring leaders from other sectors past and present who we can look to for inspiration is a wonderful thing. My firm has and always will, make the topic of true inclusivity a priority and I encourage BAME accountants to reach out to talk about how we can work together to help them on their way to becoming leaders in our sector.’

Garry Howling, MD

To work with an accountancy recruiter that you can trust and who truly champions diversity in the workplace, contact us today. Together we can create more great black leaders to inspire future generations of accountants.







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