Lenora Billings-Harris, CSP is an internationally recognized speaker, multicultural diversity expert, and author with more than twenty-five years experience in the public and private sectors. She served as an adjunct professor for Arizona State University, and is currently on the adjunct faculty of University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Lenora received her MA from The University of Michigan and her BS from Hampton University. She presently serves as President of The National Speakers Association, and the board of Win Win Resolutions, a non-profit organization in North Carolina that teaches k-12 students how to resolve conflict without violence.
Lenora is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions for her business successes as well as her civic activities. A few include being listed in the International Who’s Who of Professionals, Who’s Who in the West and Outstanding Young Women of America. She has won the Outstanding Marketing Awards from, formerly Carlson Learning Company, now Inscape Publishing, eight times.
My Definition Of Success | Especially when we are young, we often think success is measured by possessions and bank account totals. Although money enables you to worry less about certain things, money and possessions are not the goal; they are the reward for your service. Real success is accomplished by how well you deliver what you have promised, and how you make people feel when you are in their presence. This type of success can be measured personally and professionally.
As I have matured, I measure my success based on the number of people I can impact in a positive way. Because my work focuses on helping people of all cultures work and live together in a way the values differences, I know I am successful when people in my circle of influence discover they can respect differences in others while remaining authentic to their personal values.
My Highlights |
When I was a little girl growing up in Newark New Jersey, before the Civil Rights Movement, I never imagined I would be blessed with the life I have had. Graduating from Hampton University and then earning an advanced degree from The University of Michigan were two accomplishments that paved the way for many of my career achievements. I am an author, a researcher, and I continue to write numerous articles. Being elected to the position of Global Speakers Federation president; and being elected to the position of president of the National Speakers Association gives me feelings of humility and pride. Within my area of expertise, cultural diversity and inclusion, I have been recognized by several organizations as a thought leader.
My personal heroes are my grandmother, grandfather and father. My grandmother, who took in laundry to earn a living, and raised me until I was ten years old, told me to “Get that education; they can never take it away.” My grandfather was a shoe shiner. He told me to “Speak the king’s English.” They both knew that speaking well and having a formal education would help me overcome many of life’s obstacles awaiting this little Black girl with crossed eyes. My father then raised me until I left for college. I learned through his quiet strength that doing the right thing was always the best thing, even if it meant personal sacrifices. I stand on their shoulders and I am grateful for their guidance.
My husband and I have been married over forty years. With him as my biggest cheerleader and my rock of strength, I have had opportunities that have taken me around the world.
The Difference Between Good And Great | People who are good at what they do, stop at “good enough.” People who are great at what they do are lifelong learners. They surround themselves with people more successful than themselves, and they constantly ask questions. The best leaders are those who know what questions to ask, and have the courage to ask them.
A Key Talent | Because of my professional demeanor, I realized that to some people I was intimidating. Once I realized this, I knew it was my responsibility to create that safe space that allows people to see the “real” me. I learned how to put all types of people at ease. This skill has enabled me to be successful as a leader. So what is the skill? Warmth- smile, extend yourself by being interested, not just interesting.
Principles I Live By |
-When in doubt, don’t! Never do anything that you would not want your parents or family to discover.
-Lean into your fear. Push yourself to do things you think you are not ready for. Then surround yourself with others who can help you.
– In the end, you cannot take it with you. Focus on building relationships and the tangible success will follow.
Critical Skills I Develop | Being a professional speaker, I have been studying the craft of communication my entire adult life. If you have great ideas but cannot articulate them, they stay buried within you. People learn through hearing or reading stories. Learn how to speak and write through story.
Lessons I Have Learnt | Dreams come true when you set goals. I had wanted to go to Africa since I was eight years old. When I was 39 years old, I set a goal to get there. I wrote in my journal that I would be in Africa by the time I was 45 years old. I had no idea where the money would come from, or which country I would visit. Providence happens when you get focused. I was invited to speak to groups in South Africa eighteen months after I wrote down the goal. I have returned to southern African countries at least every other year since then.
Dealing With Doubt | I did not think I was smart enough to go to university. No teachers had ever encouraged me to seek such an opportunity, and no one in my immediate family had ever gone. Once I investigated what it would take to get there and graduate, I had laser sharp focus on doing what it took to be successful. I did not have any mentors at that time, but I observed, asked questions and applied myself. I know there were invisible sponsors, who saw my potential and opened doors for me, even though I was unaware at the time.
As an adult I was afraid I would not have the stamina to serve as the first African-American president of a national and then a global organization. There were so many people who encouraged me, and affirmed that I was the right person at the right time, that my self-doubts melted away. Most importantly, leaders that I respected revealed they had the same fears about themselves as they stepped into leadership roles.
I have realized that a little self-doubt motivates great leaders.
Performing At My Peak | I keep four focuses top of mind: faith, family, fitness and financials. Because I keep a physical reminder in my office, that I see all the time, I am easily reminded when any of these focuses get out of balance. I know I must care for my spirit and my body; I must make time for family, and I must pay attention to all aspects of my business.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Never compromise my integrity.
I Am Inspired By | My role models are the family members, I mentioned earlier- my grandmother, grandfather, dad, and husband.My life changed forever the first time I visited South Africa. The legacy of Nelson Mandela and the concept of Ubuntu guide me personally and inspire my work.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | My hope is that people I have touched will understand that we are all interdependent. The more we seek to understand each other’s perspectives, the more we can together solve any problem and overcome any challenge.