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Paving the Way

I was truly inspired as I watched the untold story of the three very brave African American women portrayed in the movie Hidden Figures. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson paved the way for a generation of African American women scientists, including myself. When you pave the way for someone, you make it easier for them to do the impossible. Despite the obstacles these women worked at a level of excellence which enabled ground-breaking research that ultimately put a man on the moon. What an example!

You don’t have to be a trailblazer to pave the way for someone else. It starts with a passion to make even the smallest difference. As the credits rolled at the end of the movie, I sat there with a tear rolling down my cheek and a smile on my face. I began to ask myself, “For whom am I paving the way?” Who are the people that have or will benefit from my struggles? Now, turn these questions on yourself.

Paving the way is about,

  • being the example others aspire to follow. We all have a greatness within. You just need to do the work to let what’s on the inside manifest itself on the outside. This includes being a person of integrity and unwavering character. These are attributes sought in all leaders.

  • telling your story. Sharing your success, and more importantly, your failures helps others to see it’s possible. Knowing that others have climbed the ladder and overcome their setbacks can bring clarity to a discouraging situation. Tell your story, because somebody needs to hear it!

  • being a catalyst for change. If you’re paving the way, most like you’re going first. Being first changes the perception of what others think is possible, because there is no precedent. By definition you will become a catalyst for change. However big or small, let that change first start inside of you.

  • being a mentor. “Be a river, not a reservoir,” as said by John C. Maxwell, is mantra by which every mentor should operate. A simple statement that evokes a mental picture of the relationship between a mentor and a mentee. A flow of information, direction, correction, and encouragement that enables for the success of the mentee.

The women portrayed in the movie Hidden Figures paved the way by being the first, doing what was right and not what was necessarily popular. As a leader, you too are charged with paving the way. If you can’t provide evidence of how you’re doing so, then it’s time to get to work. Be that example, tell our story, be a catalyst for change and mentor, and you will make in difference in the lives of generations to come.

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