In her dissertation on African-American leaders, Dr. Shanetta Robinson has a couple of memorable quotes on this topic.

One executive she interviewed urged women leaders that have reached the top to “leave the ladder down”.

Another admonished that if you reach the top, you should bring someone else with you.

Michelle Obama, in her beautiful speech at the Democratic National Convention said that her husband

…  he believes that when you work hard and done well and walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you.

No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that help you succeed.

It’s funny because I wrote almost the same thing on my blog on judo yesterday, that success is what you leave behind, about my friends and mentors, Frank Fullerton and Bruce Toups, who provided the resources I needed to win the world judo championships. In appreciation, I still teach judo to this day.

The same applies to business, to academia. We hire interns, I teach graduate students, not because it pays off that much but because at some point someone gave me my first opportunity , someone (more than one) spent time to show me the ropes, answered my questions.  When someone hires us instead of a large multinational consulting company, we appreciate that. We do a lot of business with small local companies. We’re the largest customer for a number of small businesses. We believe in leaving the ladder down.

Recently, a successful young business owner argued with me against working with another developing small business,

Sorry, but I’m an established business. I’m successful. I can’t be experimenting by working with someone who is just getting started and isn’t sure what they are doing.

That young person was wrong. We’re all experimenting all of the time. Sometimes the chances pay off and sometimes they don’t. If no one took a chance, though, we wouldn’t be here.

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