Atlanta Business League Welcomes Input

Organization Cites Virtues of Corporate, Civic Mentors

By Leona-Barr Davenport Guest Columnist | 5/31/2013, noon
Rarely, if ever, does anyone reach the top of their game without having someone willing to lift them up.
Atlanta Business League Leaders: (l-r) Egbert Perry (The Integral Group); Mary Parker (ALLn1 Security Services); Renee Lewis Glover (Atlanta Housing Authority); Leona Barr-Davenport (ABL President & CEO); Bellinda Stubblefield (Stubblefield Ventures); Walter Dukes (Georgia Power).

Rarely, if ever, does anyone reach the top of their game without having someone willing to lift them up. “Roots’ author, Alex Haley, told us that anytime you see a turtle on top of a fence, you know he had some help. Some of our greatest leaders, when asked to reflect on their ascension to prominence, acknowledge people who believed in them; sometimes when they didn’t even believe in themselves. We could learn a lot from these achievers about how to find success in our own lives.

Recently, the Atlanta Business League recognized the outstanding service of some of Atlanta’s most dynamic business leaders at its 35th Annual Chief Executive Officer Appreciation Luncheon. It’s our way of showing appreciation to CEOs and business professionals who make it a priority to include women and minority business owners in the economic mainstream of our community.

Among those honored were journalist Maria Saporta of the Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Saporta Report; Metro Atlanta Chamber President Sam Williams; Maceo Brown, President of System 5 Electronics, Inc.; and Renee Lewis Glover, President and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority.

We were struck by the humble nature of their acceptance remarks, and the village of people they acknowledge as having been instrumental to their success. We asked a couple of the honorees to share with our readers some of the great lessons learned from the mentors and counselors in their lives.

Sam Williams was boosted by a cadre of Atlanta’s most prominent leaders from the time he was a young college student. He credits men like John Portman, Bill Calloway, Jesse Hill, Herman Russell, C.T. Vivian, and Dr. Benjamin Mays, just to name a few, for taking him under their wings and teaching him invaluable life lessons. Williams was still a student when he first began working for Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen. Now head of one of the most powerful business organizations in metro Atlanta, Williams says these men that he looked up to and admired taught him important values for life.

“I learned listening skills,” he recounts, and the importance of being open-minded in negotiations.”

Williams soon came to realize that, oftentimes, what’s in the best interest of the City is the same as in the best interest of corporations. Now known for his ability to bring broad-based coalitions of leaders together to address issues critical to the region, Williams gained insights into managing hot button issues, such as civil rights, serving as a liaison to Dr. Benjamin Mays and Lonnie King, sitting in on the negotiations to end segregated busing in Atlanta.

Renee Glover, criticized in some quarters for her approach to resolving a public housing crisis, recalls the people who embraced her vision for sweeping change early on and encouraged her to take the lead on tackling a pernicious problem. This former corporate finance attorney, who had never worked in the public housing arena, reluctantly took on the daunting challenge of heading the Atlanta Housing Authority at its lowest point. She gained the courage to revolutionize the industry with the support of people like Mayor Maynard Jackson, who counseled her to proceed.

Glover, now nationally recognized for creating a paradigm shift in the country’s urban policy with mixed-income communities, credits people like Egbert Perry, Norman Johnson, Milton Jones and Eva Davis, former President of East Lake Meadows public housing, for believing in her ability to lead AHA. Glover learned that ending concentrated poverty is essential to strengthening communities and the country.

“I operate by the guiding principle that we’re all children of God with unlimited potential,” she says. “You have to give people every chance to succeed.”

The CEO Awards Luncheon is one of the many ways ABL purposely provides teachable moments to business owners, students and the Metro Atlanta community at large. Access is key…knowledge is power…the lessons are enduring… and class is always in session. Come step into our classroom, anytime.