Ask Mandisa 11 – Leadership and Character

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Mandisa Thomas is the Founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc (Twitter & Facebook). One of the, if not the, largest organization for African-American or black nonbelievers or atheists in America. The organization is intended to give secular fellowship, provide nurturance and support for nonbelievers, encourage a sense of pride in irreligion, and promote charity in the non-religious community. I reached out to begin an educational series with one of the, and again if not the, most prominent African-American woman nonbeliever grassroots activists in the United States. Here, we talk about leadership and character.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: With respect to leadership, there is a notion. That notion is of a certain invulnerability of them, among other things. What is the non-invulnerability of leaders? How does this play out practically in the case of Black Nonbelievers, Inc.?

Mandisa Thomas: We had the experience of encountering many types of people who want to be part of the Black Nonbelievers, Inc. As a manager, I have not only worked to develop my staff but also to develop myself.

When it comes to being a leader, there are expectations that are pretty high. But I try to be as understanding as possible. We still have our separate lives. We cannot be everything to everyone.

It can be very frustrating at times when you have to navigate those people who are not as good leadership material. We have had our ups and downs. But we have always try to work through that.

People in leadership with BN know that they have our support. However, there is also the expectation that they work on themselves.

It is not a guarantee. But it can be rough. It is something that we must do once we commit.

Jacobsen: What are optional for leaders? What are must-haves for leaders?

Thomas:  Good communication means that you’re following up regularly and are tactful and diplomatic and cordial to others. There is something about that within the leadership, which makes us unique in how inviting we are to other people.

There does need to be a stick-to-it-iveness. If you go on a project of importance, you should commit to it. If you cannot do it, make sure, you are asking for help and allow yourself to be helped. We will not have the answers to everything.

Once you put yourself through the realm of correction or you are making errors where you can’t be corrected, that is a problem. It denotes a lack of accountability or responsibility.

This is especially true in leadership positions. We should learn from mistakes in order to not repeat them again. That tends to be a pretty tough area at times.

Jacobsen: Also, for effective leadership, what is the give-and-take of leaning on others and having others lean on you?

Thomas: As leaders, we must know who we can lean on. There are people looking to us for support and the sense of trust.  There is a tendency to be more of that than we can have for ourselves.

You must have a good circle of people who you can trust and talk to. So, that you can prepare for the masses or others who are looking for your support. We must be prepared that it is never going to be balanced.

There will always be an expectation that will fall on us. I am not sure that we will be completely understood by many. But I appreciate those who do understand and give support.

It also helps to keep communication going and knowing when, and who, to talk to, or to bounce ideas off. Who can you talk to? “Hey, I could have done better. What do you suggest?” Always say, “Thank you,” to those who support you in that way.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mandisa. 

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