Wednesday, December 19, 2018

How you can help lead (and change) the world

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

I’m grateful that I am able to live and lead on purpose everyday as the CEO of L.E.A.D. Inc. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). That is my why.

I was born and raised in the inner city of Atlanta. As a child, I dreamed of playing professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs and one day becoming a leader like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I watched a lot of Cubs games on television with my Grandfather in the summer. He liked them, so I liked them, too. As an Atlanta Public Schools (APS) student at Grove Park Elementary School in the 1980s, my Grandfather and I talked about Dr. King a lot. Dr. King was also an APS alum, graduating from Booker T. Washington High School.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” — Desmond Tutu

The Facts

• Atlanta Public Schools educates more than 51,927 students grades K-12 with approximately 26,398 being males
• 33.5 percent of Black males either will not graduate on time or at all
• Georgia ranks in the Top 5 in incarceration in America, while America ranks No. 1 in the world
• If you are born into poverty in Atlanta, you have a 4.5 percent chance of making it out

By the tens of thousands, Black males are trapped in generational poverty because of slavery, which was followed by racism that had been supported by government policy before they were ever born.

If this was your story, how could you get free if no one helped you?

The Atlanta Public Schools mission statement is as follows: With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career.

I love APS. Under the consequential leadership of Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the culture of APS has changed.

Among many reasons, L.E.A.D. partners with APS because we are committed to the development of Atlanta’s future leaders who are being educated in APS. It has been done before.

Here are some other good men that are APS alums who have led Atlanta and helped lead the world:

Truett Cathy
Donn Clendenon
Johnny Isakson
Maynard H. Jackson
Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.
Herman Russell

Our goals at L.E.A.D. are what drive us. By 2030, a U.S. Congressman will be a L.E.A.D. Ambassador. A L.E.A.D. Ambassador will lead a congregation of 15,000-plus church members. A L.E.A.D. Ambassador will be an Atlanta City Councilman, C-suite executive for an Atlanta based Fortune 100 Company, a chairman of the Atlanta Board of Education.

Photo by Rodney Cofield 

“Atlanta will never become a world-class City until hundreds of thousands of Black males are living a sustainable life of significance.” — C.J. Stewart

For 2019, I will teach our Ambassadors to gain an understanding of the word, bravado. I will also model it for them while mandating that they correct me immediately and consistently when I fail to lead appropriately.

Bravado is a noun that means pretentious; a swaggering display of courage.

Bravado may be perceived as a negative term, especially when attached to young Black males. Being pretentious is characterized by the assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved.

• Are Black males in the inner city of Atlanta underserved?
• Can they escape a mindset of poverty with bravado?
• Do you have confidence that L.E.A.D. can teach and model bravado to our Ambassadors while it models it for thousands of others who live in their community?
• Would you be willing to make a special year-end donation of $50, $100, $500 or more? Or maybe you’d like to make a monthly recurring donation of $10, $20, $30 or more — no donation is too small.

L.E.A.D. vows to remove the gap between your donation and its impact.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

This guy: Why Antonio Pierce’s rise to prominence should matter to you

I have been developing elite level hitters for more than 21 years. And I would have to admit that Antonio Pierce was one of the least talented athletes I have ever coached.

Before I explain, let me define a couple words I used in the above description.

Coach is something you do to get people from a place of being to a place of becoming. Talent is something that you do well.

Before the word coach was used in the context of sports, it was reserved strictly for transportation. There was a horse, a coachman (who controlled the horse) and a coach where the passengers rested. A coach took you to where you were supposed to be. Today, that doesn't happen as much because too often there is a fear of accountability.

Talent is the beginning. It is followed by habits and skills. Black boys mistakenly want to be called talented. Unfortunately, they don't realize that talent is really starting at the bottom. That’s the reason reading is such a fundamental tool.

Habits are things that you do well repeatedly without thought, while skills are the things that you do well repeatedly without thought while under stress.

We all know the saying: Skills pays the bills.

Antonio Pierce will graduate from the New Schools at Carver (Atlanta) in spring 2019. When he does, he will be the first in his immediate family to do so. L.E.A.D. has partnered with Antonio’s family since he was in the eighth grade. It has used its proven Pathway To Empowerment Methodology to move Antonio and hundreds of Atlanta Public Schools Black boys grades sixth through 12, per year.

Today, Antonio is signing a commitment letter to Savannah State University, where he will be a student-athlete in baseball beginning in fall 2019. Here are some of his thoughts on his progression:

Why did you join L.E.A.D. in the eighth grade?
I joined to better my circumstances at home, in my neighborhood and to better myself.

What are other opportunities that you could have have joined in the eighth grade?
None. There’s wasn’t anyone who was offering me what L.E.A.D. had to offer.

On a scale of 1-10, what was your baseball talent level when you joined L.E.A.D.?

How many times have you considered dropping out of L.E.A.D. since you joined?

Why did you stay?
Because I needed the opportunity and exposure. Because my family and community needs me. I stayed because L.E.A.D. was and still is my performance enhancer. It also delivered on all of its promises.

What world problem do you want to solve?
I want to solve poverty.

What have you learned from L.E.A.D. that will help you solve that world problem?
I have learned that everyone doesn’t want your help. You have to help the people who want your help. It’s my job and responsibility to help my community.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Here to there

Can you recall the last time you told yourself everything was going to be okay, and it wasn't? You probably went through the day faking it to make it. Today may just be one of those days.

It’s not okay because the world is full of problems. We need you to live on purpose and become a solution.

Getting from "here to there" is something that I think about daily.

At 42 years old, I aspire to retire as the CEO of L.E.A.D. at age 50. From there, I would like to work full-time with the NCAA to increase the number of Black males who are competing academically and athletically as baseball players.

As of today, less than 3 percent of NCAA Division I players are Black. That’s a problem. As a Black man who used baseball to escape poverty, I want to be a part of the solution.

“If you want to reach the nation, start from your corner.” — Big Boi

In order for me to get there, I have to start where I am. I’m passionate about the plight of inner-city Atlanta youth Black males who are living in a racialized America. My passion to empower Black youth males in Atlanta is the fuel for my purpose.

"Atlanta bred, Atlanta cred."
D.L. Moody penned these words in his bible next to the verse Isaiah 6:8. It says, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do and what I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.”

Here are my "Great Eight Questions" that I believe can get anybody from here to there:

1. How have you failed yourself?
2. What are you suffering from or seeking?
3. Why won’t you fail?
4. Who are you and what does God want you to do on Earth?
5. What do you need to repeatedly do without thought to accomplish your mission in life?
6. What do you need to know to accomplish your mission in life?
7. What do you need to repeatedly do without thought under stress to accomplish your mission in life?
8. Who do you need to help you accomplish your mission in life?

Do you have the answers?


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How to get an “A” in Leadership

Being educated in the Atlanta Public Schools System (APS), I wanted to become a leader like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Atlanta’s first Black Mayor Maynard Jackson, botAPS graduates.

At the time, I believed the title “leader was a reflection of the position you held indicating others were following you. Fortunately, my definition of a leader has developed. How do you define leadership?

How to get an A” in Leadership:

Are you authentic?  Are you aware of your current shortcomings and biggest life lessons? How about those who follow you?  “Fake it til you make it” and “Grind til you shine” are two failing mantras that some leaders live by. There is an alternative – Authenticity. Authenticity is the foundation for effective leadership. What is your leadership mantra?  Are you Authentic?

AWARENESS & ATTITUDE (A2). How YOU Think and How YOU Act.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. - Albert Einstein

Are you AWARE of what ails our city and your ATTITUDE toward the problem? Georgia has one non-profit charitable organization for every 361 people. It is ranked in the top 1/3 of most charitable states overall. Georgia’s charitable organizations are generous with both their money and volunteers. So….

• Why, does Atlanta have so many problems with poverty and failed educational outcomes?

• Why haven’t these problems been resolved?

Don’t we have enough leaders? How do we hold leaders accountable to the very needed solutions? 

How you respond to a crisis reveals character. Bad news? A bad financial report? Difficulty in your company or with your child?  Do you have the wherewithal to make ADJUSTMENTS for positive outcomes in the face of bad news?  

Content knowledge without the character to act perpetuates crises and is a reflection of ineffective leadership. Conferences and books can educate leaders but crises itself equips us to formulate solutions

APTITUDE. How YOU Correct.
Aptitude is the ability to learn and apply knowledge. Leaders must put in action what they are learning at leadership conferences which require getting involved, staying committed and being vested in the outcome. Correction of our problems requires application, not just knowledge or position.

L.E.A.D. Ambassdor Ja'Vien Woods and U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson

ATHLETICISM & ACTION. How YOU Make Things Happen.
Leadership is dynamic. People being led want to win regardless of context Athleticism and Action – required elements for success in sports as well as leadership.  Watching Michael Vick play when he was our quarterback for the Falcons was exciting. Why? He made things happen despite not being the most fundamental quarterback in the league.

As a leader in Atlanta, how are you doing? Can you rate yourself on these A’s? What is your formula for making things happen?


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Reflection :: 4th Annual Safe at Home Game

The 4th Annual Safe at Home Game was played on August 4, 2018 at the Moore-Clendenon Baseball Field on the historic campus of Booker T. Washington High School.  Three specific things immediately come to mind as I reflect on the success of this year’s event:

·         the place,
·         the people, and
·         the point.

The Place – Home at the Historic Booker T. Washington High School, Atlanta, GA

The first three years, the Safe at Home Games were played at Georgia Tech’s Russell Chandler Stadium.  This year we brought it home to Booker T. Washington High School.

In September 2014, APIVEO founder, Brad Jubin, accepted my invitation to come out to Washington High School and give a short pre-game talk on leadership to the players at one of our L.E.A.D. Fall Legacy League self-officiated games. 

Brad had his son Christian with him, and after he addressed the players, he and his son stayed to watch the first game despite his apprehension over the location.  Suffice it to say that it is not the same neighborhood that it was when Martin Luther King, Jr. was a student at Washington High School. That said, what Brad and his son, witnessed on the field that day and learned about the people who live in the community became the impetus for the Safe at Home Game.  

Brad and Christian’s visit came just a few weeks after Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man, was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, MO.  Seems like we were all looking for a solution to ease tensions between Black communities and police, because a few months after his visit, Brad contacted Kelli and me to discuss what he had learned that day and asked what we thought about the possibility of a baseball game between inner city kids and cops. We spoke further, and the rest is history.

From a personal perspective, Washington High School is special because of family ties.  My mother, who had me as a teenager, is a graduate of Washington High School, my uncle Bob met my Aunt Margie there, and my nieces graduated from there this past school year.

Officer J.T. Somers and DeAngelo Nowell, Jr.

The People – Atlantans Come Together at the Right Place at the Right Time

According to the 2017 U.S. Census, Atlanta has an estimated population of 5,884,736.  A mere fraction of Atlanta’s population attended the game this year, but they were all the right people; there for the right reason. 
The people who came out were clearly there to support building bridges between the Black community and Atlanta’s police through their common passion for baseball. 
The stands were filled with fans cheering for the cops as well as the Ambassadors.  Even though the Ambassadors came up short for the second consecutive year, everyone agreed that it didn’t matter because we all won, and Atlanta continues to win through the goodwill and brotherhood generated between the players by the Safe at Home Game.

The Point – Leading the Ambassadors into a Sustainable Life of Significance

I maintain that Atlanta will never become a world-class city until hundreds of thousands of Black males are living a sustainable life of significance, which may include careers in public service.  Leading Atlanta’s at-risk young Black men to live such lives is what I do every day.  I am intentional about how I lead these young men and commit to exposing them to experiences that will inspire them and lead to their success.

The Safe at Home Game has become such an event.  It is one that I rely on to inspire our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors into public service.  Through their participation, the Ambassadors get to know some of Atlanta’s hard-working public servants with who they have something in common.

For instance, they have unfettered access to Atlanta’s police officers and are provided with a unique perspective into their lives.  One officer that has become a role model is Assistant Chief of Police, Rodney Bryant.  He is an Atlanta native, educated in the Atlanta Public School system just like the Ambassadors. He attended M. Agnes Jones Elementary School and Sylvan Hills High School.

Elected officials have also become interested in the Safe at Home Game and participate in various ways.  This year Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens presented a proclamation to the players making August Safe at Home Month in Atlanta.  Councilman Dickens is a fifth generation Atlantan and proud product of the Atlanta Public School System where he graduated from Benjamin E Mays High School. He also played baseball.  The Councilman’s interaction is meaningful to the Ambassadors because they are familiar with him, where he comes from and who he has become. They look up to him, admire his achievements, and are inspired.

For L.E.A.D. to be successful, our work must be intentional.  As I look ahead in planning the 5thAnnual Safe at Home Game, I will keep these three things in mind as foundational to its continued success.  Atlanta's success is counting on it.

L.E.A.D. Ambassadors with Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Humility to me

This was the Facebook post that my wife Kelli made on Monday, May 14, 2018. To my surprise, nobody responded negatively.

"When Black people are told to be humble, it means we have to surrender our confidence and dignity. It is an age-old strategy that is akin to using Christianity as a tool to justify American slavery.

It’s what got Emmett Till murdered and our ancestors lynched – the notion that we would have the nerve to express our confidence and dignity.

There is a common thread between our explicitly tragic history and the calls we hear today to be humble: they are all based on acts of suppression that, cumulatively, amount to a culture of oppression. They all originate from a deficient and sometimes unconscious belief in a hierarchy of sorts, one in which we are all somehow supposed to “know our place.”

If I have been diligent in my craft and have experienced success as a result of it- I have earned the right to be confident. #LettinMyLightShine #ClaimingMyGreatness #NotHidingItUnderABushel #iSeeWhatYouTryinToDo

Kelli Stewart

There are so many definitions for the word “humble”. There are those who consider being humble a selective requirement. They believe certain people should be humble while others, including themselves, are exempt from it, as if they are the umpire, responsible for judging when a particular individual or the movement they represent is either “safe” or “out” (as in “unsafe”).

According to Rick Warren, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

I really like that definition.

As a child and even up until age 40, I defined humility as hiding my blessings and not taking credit for positive things that I’ve done so that I wouldn’t make others feel “unsafe”.

At age 40, I graduated from Leadership Atlanta’s 2015 cohort class. The mission of Leadership Atlanta is to build a better community for everyone in the Atlanta region through education about the key issues facing the region and inspiring members and others to take on and exercise real leadership committed to serving the common good.

Leadership Atlanta was a convicting experience that enabled me to get better connected with myself, which allowed me to collaborate with others to create change.

At age 40, I gave myself permission to embrace my blessings from God that allow me to bless others on earth. I also stopped the deflection of credit when I accomplished things. Ultimately, I realized that I serve as a conduit to receive blessings from God that I can then give to others.

For me, there are few things worse than an obscure Black man. As a child, I assumed that everything that was done right was done by a White man.

As children, we all form our sense of self-worth based on the circumstances and messages thrust upon us, but that doesn’t mean they are true. Our journey is one of navigating reality and overcoming untruths - of recognizing what is false in the world around us and what is true in ourselves.

Along that journey, there is balance and unity that comes with humility – a recognition that we may be much better than we thought we were as a child, but we are still imperfect individuals in an imperfect world.

As an imperfect man of God, I’m on assignment every day. We all have a purpose for our life and mine is to be significant by serving millions and bringing them into a relationship with Christ starting with my wife, Kelli, and our daughters Mackenzi and Mackenna.

Mackenna and Mackenzi Stewart

I’m 42 years of age and here’s a list of 42 things that I want to do in my future.

Ending racism in my lifetime is number 1 on my list.

Why is ending Racism #1? Because when I call on my own humility, what I want is about so much more than what I want. Ending racism is a legacy that will generate a positive impact that will flow powerfully through time and space, to future generations and to all people (not just black people). It will help us “know our place” relative to God rather than relative to each other.

This is not about me thinking less about myself, it is about me thinking of myself less.

I’m a devoted husband and father, a consequential leader, a coach, and a Best Selling author among many blessings. I have been diligent in my craft and have experienced success as a result of it- I have earned the right to be confident.

- How does Kelli’s Facebook post make you feel?
- How do you define humility?
- What emotions do you feel in the presence of a confident Black man?


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Speed of trust

Not too long ago, a White man asked me what I was mad about. Honestly, it was one of the best things that has happened to me over the last five years. The question forced me to pause. It forced me to think. The question showed he was paying attention to me. The answer was important to him. 

The feeling of acknowledgement is important to some people. It shows they are not being ignored or lack value.

Even the Bible says it’s alright to be angry, but not to sin:

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” — ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:26-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As a Black man, I oftentimes get mad because I don't feel I get the same treatment than my White male counterparts, especially when I’m trying to make things happen in Atlanta.

Along with my wife, Kelli, I lead two businesses. Our for-profit business, Diamond Directors, provides the blueprint of success for diamond sports athletes, while our non-profit organization, L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), partners with Atlanta Public Schools to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta.

In my dealings with other people, I seek three things: benefit of the doubt, respect and trust.

No. 1 — Benefit of the doubt

The Urban Dictionary defines "benefit of the doubt" as defaulting to the belief that your intentions are honest, and not assume malice when there is uncertainty or doubt surrounding the circumstances.

We all stereotype each other. I believe that it’s impossible to stop and is healthy to do.

It scares people at times, but early on in conversations with people, I share the stereotypes that I have of them so that they can debunk them immediately. This helps us connect, which leads to respect.

While I’m not a mind reader, my spiritual gift is discernment. I can feel when people doubt me. If you don’t have the courage to tell me the stereotype you have of me, give me the benefit of the doubt so that I can earn your respect.

No. 2 — Respect

Respect is the ability to treat people in a positive manner—a way that acknowledges them for who they are and/or what they are doing.

An important part of respect is simply acknowledging the other person in a positive manner. You don’t have to like me when you first meet me, but you should respect me until I’ve given you a reason not to.

No. 3 — Trust

Trust is the confident expectation of something; hope.

Things getting done move at the speed of trust. For some, trust takes time, which usually translates into a lot of time. For me, trust moves at the speed of your willingness and ability to make and keep promises.

Making and keeping promises means that I deem you as important. It means I will trust you.

Finding out what you deem important is about asking what's valuable to you.

As a Black leader in Atlanta, I want the benefit of the doubt, respect and trust, in that order. Having all three enables me to deliver on promises that I make to hundreds of young Black men every year.

Under my leadership and the support of our L.E.A.D. staff and executive board of directors, our L.E.A.D. Impact Stats are as follows:

  • 100 percent of our Ambassadors graduate from high school
  • 95 percent attend college
  • 5 percent enroll in the military
  • 92 percent attend college with scholarship opportunities
  • 15 percent graduate from college
These are numbers that we are proud to share. They represent the hallmarks of our success and represent the foundation for efforts to help build the next generation of Black leaders.