David Bartholomew takes Leadership Empowerment very seriously in his role as the Director of Leadership Development and OE at Myrtle Consulting Group. Growing up in the 9th Ward of New Orleans, he spent many occasions listening to his mother and her colleagues engaged for hours in heated debates about community empowerment. They advocated and fought for strong, engaged leaders with integrity and organizational building skills. As a key member of the New Orleans Association of Black Workers, his mother would often host meetings at his home. As a child and into his early teen years, David witnessed the heated exchanges about holding nonprofit and community leaders accountable as caretakers of the social and economic welfare of the disenfranchised people of New Orleans.
David embraced ideas of empowerment long before the term became popular in mainstream politics and business. As he began his own career in leadership in the early 1990s, he became well versed in leadership theory and literature. He quickly discovered that the leaders he encountered rarely matched up with the characteristics of great leaders often described in books and videos on leadership. Instead of courage, emotional intelligence, and empathy, he often found fear, insecurity, and emotionally detached leaders who behaved insensitively and even abusively. The more he learned about leaders and leadership, the more he discovered that most leaders know little about leading people. They often became organizational leaders because of their technical skills, managerial skills, and in some cases, because of organizational politics. Many simply had not been trained in leading people and others didn’t put much stake in people other than as an expendable resource. David consistently saw the dysfunctional cultures and demoralized employees these organizations produced. Again, he took his lessons about empowered leadership from real-world experience.
As he discovered his own style and approach to leading people and organizations, he was determined not to repeat the behaviors of which he was frequently exposed. He formulated his own style of “empowered leadership,” where he married his deep roots of community empowerment with his emerging knowledge and understanding of leadership. The result was a leadership style that is vulnerable, yet unbreakable, and that embraces fear as human with a resolute determination to not only overcome it but to help others overcome it. That’s the hallmark of empowered leadership – to help others remove barriers that stand in the way of their success, with them leading the charge.
“Early in life, I discovered that my calling was to lead and develop others. The problem was that for many years, I was too troubled and immature to lead and develop myself. Once I baked that cake, the rest was just icing.”
Today in his role directing leadership development efforts at Myrtle Consulting Group, David maintains his philosophy, style, and approach to empowered leadership. It seems like a lifetime since he witnessed those heated debates in his living room about empowerment, but they still burn in his consciousness in all that he does. It keeps his feet firmly planted while his mind is ever exploring and analyzing the world around him, particularly the world of leadership. David has spent over 25 years in the realm of leadership and now coaches leaders for a living, and also trains many of the coaches who professionally coach leaders.
With his personal motto, “Think Better. Lead Better”, David continues to challenge the status quo and lead leaders to the promised land of empowerment, one leader at a time. As he quotes his favorite speaker Les Brown, “sometimes other people can take you to a place within yourself that you can’t go by yourself.”