Bestselling business leadership author and philanthropic entrepreneur
When my now bestselling business book, Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), first came out I wanted it to become an instant New York Times bestseller. It was not. Many other books out that fall in 2009 did, but not mine.
Being a typical type-A personality, I was not pleased with my performance (or lack thereof), but just about that time I received a call from my publisher saying, "Congrats John, you have made a coveted business bestseller list forInc. Magazine's 800-CEO-READ. I did not have a clue what they were talking about, but soon enough it became clear that Inc. Magazine 800-CEO-READ business bestseller list was one that tracked bulk purchases of business books from leading companies and corporate leaders. This was a group I had been trying to positively influence as a thought leader over the years, and here I had achieved a pinnacle of publishing achievement — and I had not even tried. Just goes to prove that old saying, "if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plan." He always has a better one.
As time went on, Love Leadership made the list for several months running in 2009, and then most of 2010, and even into 2011. In 2010, Love Leadership was one of the top 10 books for 800-CEO-READ, reaching the 4th top spot. I was on top of the world, until I received yet another call.
I was somehow the only African-American bestselling business author period, in mainstream business or leadership or alternatively, business leadership. I was speechless, but not for the obvious reason. Personal pride was not the driver in my initial response.
To be clear, there are countless outstanding and amazing African-American authors in areas including social justice, faith, community, civil rights, fiction, entertainment, politics, sports and the like — but not business or business leadership. And business, I believe, drove or undergirded all of these things. Entertainment and sports are businesses. Civil rights was achieved in large because businesses took down those stupid "whites only" signs, and changed their policies (not local governments in the southern states). And where were we? More so, where are we now?
I don't believe I should be pegged as an African-American author, no different than President Obama wants to be pegged as a "black president." The president seeks to be a great chief executive who happens to be black, and he is proud of being black, but being black is not his badge or ID. The minute he becomes a black president, he will be a "done" president. He must be a leader of and for all people. That said, it is important that he is African-American, and it is important he is proud of it. It is also a powerful inspiration to others, and an indication of how far we have come in the public sector leadership space. From Dr. King seeking the same water fountain for his children, to President Obama seeking more freedom, opportunity and justice for all.
I am proud of being African-American, even though I don't believe that I or anyone else should be "black for a living." We have to be able to compete on a level playing field like everyone else, and we can. We have. We do. That can be a powerful inspiration to an entire generation of black and brown youth (and other mainstream youth too), who maybe believe that "they can" too. That is the good news about Love Leadership reaching #4 on the Inc. Magazine 800-CEO-READ business bestseller list. The bad news is almost everything else.