Do You Have What it Takes to Win in the New Global Economy? (Part 2)

CTU Distinguished Lecturer - Rosa WhitakerAs part of CTU’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, Rosa Whitaker, one of Foreign Policy Magazine's Top 100 Global Thinkers and president of The Whitaker Group, shared her insights on seizing business opportunities in Africa via a live webinar. Following her presentation, we continued our conversation with Ms. Whitaker to learn more about her personal journey to success.  

Now that we understand the importance of adding value to relationships, what advice do you have on growing a powerful professional network?

One ingredient for my success is having a phenomenal network. Your attitude determines your altitude. If you don’t want to meet others, you won’t have a network. Relying on mentors, and their guidance, is important but you can’t depend on it forever. You have to widen your network and with it your horizons, and reach beyond your mentors if you want to further your goals.

Secondly, have an attitude of giving and of service. Give and you shall receive support. On any project, I’m the last to leave. I’m the one who turns the lights out. I have built my networks around service and, today, I don’t have one former boss who will not help me.

Thirdly, it’s easier to build a network around a common purpose. That means I may call on people with a compelling vision or project that I may want them to be a part of, but participating has intrinsic value to them too.

Who did you look up to as you navigated your career?

My first role model was my mom. She is a pillar of strength who succeeded against so many odds. My husband comes next. But outside of my personal sphere, I have observed the habits and traits of successful people because it’s important to learn from real-world experts – watch how they solve problems, what they do, how they win and how they lose. I’ve been privileged to work with and learn from role models, including J.C. Penney’s former CEO Mike Ullman; Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks; Howard Buffet, an entrepreneur and son of Warren Buffet; Robert Bruce Zoellick, a former boss and former president of the World Bank; Congressman Charles Bernard "Charlie" Rangel, a U.S. Representative for New York's 13th congressional district; C. Delores Tucker, the late African-American politician and civil rights activist, and my executive coach, Michael Zachariah.

People often assume that the successful have never failed. What has been your experience with failure?

Very rarely is the conventional notion of failure in vain. I have learned as much from my failures as my successes. I think people should develop an attitude to embrace failure as part of the process. There can be no triumph without test. The most successful things are checkered with failure. There is usually a purpose for failure and you have to turn pain into power. I don’t even like the word failure. Failure and pain are teachers that can push you to purpose, edging you on to the path you were meant to be on.
You have to know that problems can be our biggest teachers. Even when it seems like we are not mastering a lesson from what we perceive to be failure, the experience itself is part of our internal journey.

There are lots of people with untapped potential because, not having understood the purpose of pain and failure, they have checked out. Failure is giving up and checking out and not being in the game of progress. We have to help people understand this. So many people are devastated by failure. I fail every day at something but I use it for learning.