7 powerful quotes from top Black Fortune 500 CEOs to help you navigate tough times in your career

BY Sandra Babu-Boateng September 7, 2023 3:18 AM EDT
Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

In today’s ever-evolving workforce, if you are a Black professional, you may find yourself grappling with uncertainty about your career and future. These turbulent times have left many of us pondering the path ahead, questioning our decisions, and seeking guidance on how to navigate today’s workforce and find our own path. It’s okay to feel uncertain; it’s okay to ask for advice.

Navigating a successful career is a journey filled with challenges and triumphs, and I truly believe that hearing from those who have achieved the pinnacle of corporate leadership can be both inspiring and enlightening for our own journeys in these difficult times. In times of doubt, the wisdom of those who’ve walked similar paths can provide the hope and direction we so desperately need.

Throughout history, top Black Fortune 500 CEOs have stood against all odds to break barriers and shatter ceilings, leaving behind a treasure trove of wisdom. Therefore, I have gathered some of my favorites quotes from some of the most influential Black CEOs, to help offer you offer you insight, hope, and inspiration to help you steer through these tough times.

  1. “Leadership is not just about giving energy… it’s unleashing other people’s energy.”
Ursula Burns, Former Xerox CEO

Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox, emphasizes the transformative power of leadership. In challenging moments, remember that inspiring and empowering your team can lead to collective success.

2. “Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, have confidence in your abilities, and don’t let the bastards get you down.”

Kenneth Chenault, Former American Express CEO

Kenneth Chenault, the former CEO of American Express, highlights the importance of self-confidence and resilience. Facing setbacks with courage and determination can be the key to overcoming adversity.

3. “Do what you can to make a difference and never underestimate the impact you can have.”

Ken Frazier, Former Merck CEO

Ken Frazier, the former CEO of Merck, reminds us that every effort to make a difference, no matter how small, can lead to meaningful change. When times are tough, focusing on the positive impact you can create can be a source of motivation.

4. “Your career is your business, and you are the CEO.”

Rosalind Brewer, Former Sam’s Club & Walgreen’s CEO

Rosalind Brewer, the former CEO of Sam’s Club and more recently Walgreens, emphasizes personal responsibility and ownership of one’s career. When facing challenges, remember that you have the power to make decisions that shape your professional path.

5. “Don’t be colorblind, be color-brave.”

Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO of Ariel Investments

Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, advocates for embracing diversity and addressing racial issues directly. In challenging moments related to diversity and inclusion, remember the importance of open dialogue and courageous action.

6. “Lead with empathy and you will be a better person, a better executive, and a better leader.”

Bernard Tyson, Former Kaiser Permanente CEO

Bernard Tyson, the former CEO of Kaiser Permanente, stresses the significance of empathy in leadership. During tough times, practicing empathy can foster stronger connections and resilience within your team.

7. “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

Kenneth I. Chenault, Former Chairman and CEO of American Express

Kenneth I. Chenault, the former Chairman and CEO of American Express, encourages us to break free from societal constraints and limitations. When facing career challenges, remember to believe in your own limitless potential.

I hope these quotes offer you some hope and inspiration for your journey. Remember, the journey to success is never without its share of difficulties, but like these trailblazers, you have what it takes to break through barriers and live a future beyond limitations. With the insights and inspiration from these remarkable leaders, you can navigate the challenges of your career with determination and resilience, forging a path towards your own success and fulfillment.