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Inspiring Conversations with Lakeya Cherry

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lakeya Cherry.

Hi Lakeya, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
My story began in San Bernardino, CA.

As a kid, I was very curious- an observer. I observed everything and everyone around me. I wanted people to be happy. I wanted them to be who they were. I wanted them to be safe and to belong regardless of any aspect of their identity. I wanted to see everyone thrive. I also admittedly had no problem telling them and others what I thought, which is surprising now considering how shy and introverted I was.

However, I often witnessed discrepancies in how people were treated based on aspects of their identity whether it was their race, gender, social-economic class, etc. This did not feel right or fair to me. I didn’t know what to do about it, I just knew I had to do something.

I also noticed how it made these people feel to be treated differently -the impact it had on their self-esteem and self-efficacy.

(Again, I was observant. I read self-help and personal growth books before I was even in high school).

Growing up, I also saw differential treatment by those with power towards those without in my community. Again, this was not right or fair to me. I didn’t understand it. I just knew I despised injustice in any form but didn’t know what to do about it.

I saw how this treatment could knock someone so far down a ladder they were already having difficulty climbing- and I didn’t like it.

I wanted to be a force for good, for change. I wanted people to be who they were meant to be without all the extra STUFF.

In high school, I began volunteering for political campaigns, which initially led to pursuing political science in undergrad, I thought I needed to enter politics to make a difference especially in communities like mine. I quickly realized this was not my path and psychology and legal studies were more my jam.

After undergrad, I attended law school. I mistakenly believed I needed the title of “lawyer” to make a difference (noticing a trend?)

In law school, I was miserable. I had to confront myself and my beliefs and consider what I really wanted. As a first-generation college student, it meant a lot to me that people told me I’d be a good lawyer. However, this did not mean I should pursue a path I wasn’t 100% into. I then still wanting to make a difference and realizing that law was not for me discovered social work. I moved to NYC to obtain my MSSW from Columbia University.

This began an 11+ year journey of living in NYC, back to California, and DC. During this time, I worked with every population imaginable. I worked with families, youth, and children, parolees, and in a tech startup. I’ve seen and experienced a little bit of everything.

During this time, I’ve observed much of the same behaviors and impacts as I did when I was a child. However, I now had a clearer, stronger lens to understand these dynamics in addition to my role in supporting those impacted.

I love everything leadership development. I want to see more courageous people and cultures. I want all people to feel included and belong. I want people to climb the ladder as far as they want. I want to see ceilings shattered. I want to see gaps closed.

I’m now back in California and have been a social worker for over 14 years, a CEO of a nonprofit for almost eight years, and am an executive coach who owns her own coaching and consulting business. I also somehow managed to fit in a doctorate degree. Dr. Cherry- can you believe it?

The curious, observant child has finally realized her power as a leader and instrument for positive change. She found the path that made the most sense to her – one she is passionate about.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
While I’ve faced many struggles along the way, I’d say the most challenging obstacle has been myself. In my striving for perfection and hustling for a sense of self-worth, I neglected to fully see myself, what I accomplished, give myself grace, appreciate and embrace moments and rest.

I realize others face similar challenges and how impactful it can be on our being if not improved. Vulnerability is incredibly difficult especially when you’re taught that it is a weakness, but when we share our stories with others, it has the power to bring people together and heal them.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My mission is to build the internal capacity of leaders through daring leadership, clear visioning, and unwavering intentionality.

I do executive and leadership coaching, leadership development workshops e.g., Brené Brown Dare to Lead™ and Google #IamRemarkable. I speak on topics such as diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, self-care/wellbeing, executive presence, emotional intelligence, vulnerability and courage, leadership, imposter syndrome, self-promotion/personal branding, and networking.

You should work with me because:

I have lived experience as a double-minority and understand the unique challenges women and people from marginalized groups face particularly in the workplace.

I have practice and programming experience as a Social Worker of over 13 years, which includes a therapeutic background. In addition to this, I also have executive leadership experience as a CEO of a national network and am a trained Executive Coach from Evolution’s Coach Training Program, an International Coach Federation (ICF) accredited program.

I have a Doctorate in Social Work, understand people and systems, and have researched the racial leadership gap in the nonprofit sector, the importance of talent development i.e., training, coaching, and mentoring.

I am committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and ensuring all people regardless of identities are supported to achieve their goals and have equal access to opportunities.

I am a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator and ready to rumble with vulnerability.

In addition to this, I care deeply, am highly motivated, and will give my best to ensure you have the support and accountability you need to succeed.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
Dare to Lead – Brene Brown
Untamed – Glennon Doyle
Where to Begin – Cleo Wade
Essentialism – Greg McKeown
Carla Harris – Expect to Win
Managing Yourself – Harvard Business Review

Contact Info:

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