ALULA Honors African American Leaders Who Led the Right Way (Part 3 of 4)

January 2024 | By Delores (Dee) Conway

Co-authored by:  Dee Conway and Alycia Diggs-Chavis 

We enjoyed exploring how Benjamin Banneker and Madam C. J. Walker maintained and pursued a clear vision here, and we’re grateful to you for continuing to read our series on what today’s leaders can learn from successful African Americans. This post is all about... Black History Month 2

Somebody helped you. It’s a leader’s obligation to help others—to help unlock the potential within people. A leader values others not only for what they know and do today – but also for what they “could do.” Even the greatest athletes pursue continued coaching so they can get to the next level. Here are two African Americans who made a difference by coaching others. 


Althea Neale Gibson, American tennis player, professional golfer, and among the first athletes to cross the color line of international tennis, became the first African American to win a Grand Slam title (1956 French Championships). She won both Wimbledon and the US Open (1957, 1958). Following such success, she started running Pepsi Cola’s national mobile tennis project in 1972, bringing portable nets and equipment to the underprivileged in major cities. 

Gibson ran multiple clinics and tennis outreach programs over the next three decades. She coached numerous rising competitors and influenced many others, like Venus Williams, who said, “I am honored to have followed in such great footsteps. [She] set the stage for my success, and through players like myself and Serena and many others to come, her legacy will live on.” 

QUOTE: “No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.”


Berry Gordy III, aka Berry Gordy Jr., is an American record executive, songwriter, and film/TV producer. He is best known for founding the Motown record label and subsidiaries, the highest-earning African American business for decades. He was the mastermind behind the Motown sound, a blend of traditional African American harmony and gospel, with an R&B beat. 

Gordy coached/developed the majority of great 1960s–1970s R&B performers: Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. In 2016, Gordy received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama for “helping to create a trailblazing new sound in American music.” 

QUOTE: “I have this ability to find this hidden talent in people that sometimes even they didn’t know they had.”


In both Althea Neale Gibson and Berry Gordy Jr., we see leaders committed to unlocking peoples’ greatest potential. Through their incredible impact, leaders can appreciate how dedicated coaching can help others achieve truly memorable success. 

Ready to continue the journey through our series? Next up, we’ll learn about two leaders who knew how to stay humble and grounded. Read on here.


Topics: Leadership