Unique Strengths of African American Male Leaders


  • February is Black History Month
  • African American leaders have unique strengths
  • African American leaders tend to have a greater sense of communal unity, perpetual evolution and social justice

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration and recognition of all aspects of black culture. Originating in the 1970s in the U.S. (though precursors to the official month can be traced back to the 1920s), Black History Month is now observed in multiple countries around the world.  At Lead Read Today, what better way to celebrate this time of year than by talking about black leaders.

As noted, Black History Month is a celebration. Talking about diversity and inclusion research often focuses on the challenges and hardships minority populations face.  But for this post, in the spirit of celebration, I am going to talk about a positive aspect of being a minority leader: specifically, the unique strengths of African American male leaders.

A recent study looked at this through in-depth interviews with five African American leaders[1].  Each of the interviewees were past presidents of their counseling association (though it seems their leadership experiences would generalize to all African American leaders).  There were many goals of their study, but the one I want to highlight was to examine what aspects of their African culture and heritage contributed positively to their leadership style and ability.  In other words: how does being African American make them better leaders?

Through the interviews with these leaders, many common themes in their experiences were uncovered, but I will highlight three as being especially relevant to leadership.

The first theme consistently discussed was a sense of communal unity. In other words, African cultural values encourage people to think not solely about themselves as individuals — but as the collective.  This mentality encourages people to question “How can I work to raise up everyone, not just myself?”  In organization, this means that these leaders will work for the good of all their employees, not just themselves.

Another theme that emerged was perpetual evolution. The men in this study often reflected on the challenges they faced due to their race. Rather than giving up in the face of this adversity, these leaders strove to improve themselves and their environments. In other words, the challenges they faced motivated them to want to evolve into better leaders. In fact, some of the interviewees cited the way they were treated due to their race as the impetus for wanting to become leaders in the first place. This suggests that these individuals will be looking to improve themselves and grow as leaders — and develop their organizations as well.

A final recurrent theme among these African American leaders was a sense of social justice, advocacy and empathy for other who are different. As I stated above, these men thought about the intersection of race and leadership and how this affected them. In addition to wanting to improve themselves because of it, they were also more cognizant of equality and just treatment of others who also face difficulties due to their minority status.  As leaders, they saw how they were treated and wanted to make sure others were not treated the same. In organizations, these leaders will make powerful allies to others who are mistreated.

As I stated in the beginning of this post, discussions about diversity and inclusion in the workplace can often be negative because of the challenges minorities face. But it’s important to remember that being a minority in the workplace is not always bad and can at times be seen as a strength. Of course, the results from this study do not suggest that all black male leaders will feel this way.

However, it does suggest that for many black males, their race can aid them in their leadership and make them better because of it!

Read more from Dr. Nicholas Salter:



[1] Roysircar, G., Thompson, A., & Boudreau, M. (2017). “Born Black and male”: Counseling leaders’ self-discovery of strengths. Counselling Psychology Quarterly30(4), 343–372.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.