Dionne M. King, a CEO and strategic consultant, leads DMK Consults LLC, a thriving executive consulting firm specializing in leadership development and inclusion initiatives. She is experienced in providing leadership strategies and effectuating change for global firms and nonprofit organizations. King is versed in race relations, strategic inclusion initiatives, business case development, cultural competency, leadership development and alternative dispute resolution.
Over the years, King’s expertise has been sought out by an impressive list of companies and firms. As a result, her work has influenced the policies, personnel development, business operations and community relations practices of the many organizations served.
We recently spoke with King to get her view on what she considers to be her superpowers, which qualities make her unique as an African American female leader, and why it’s important for women of color to lead.
As a Black woman, what do you consider your superpower to be?
I am very aware of my superpowers and they are what I call my triple E’s. I engage, empower and equip like a power-ninja! Since I was a teenager I have had the gift to engage and draw people together for a common purpose. I have also developed creative ways to empower people to take their gifts and talents to the next level. I also equip people with life applicable skills and fun ways to solve problems. Back then, I did this with bible study groups, sister circles, college cultural studies groups and city-wide concerts. Now, I use these same superpowers in my profession as the CEO of DMK Consults, LLC, a consulting firm for c-suite executives and leaders.
What key skills or qualities make you unique as an African American female leader?
I show up with a double-consciousness (term used by W.E.B. DuBois for awareness of existing in several diverse dimensions). I’m a double minority! I understand that my identity is divided into several parts and I use this to my advantage as I consult because in most cases, I have lived what I teach. As a minority woman in America with an expertise in leading diversity efforts in large law firms with national and international presence, I personally know what it is to be both marginalized and privileged. I can consult my clients from a perspective that many of them appreciate because it is authentic and backed by experience.
What thoughtful or encouraging pieces of advice would you give to your younger self?
I have three:
- “Never let anyone define you.”
- “If it or he does not add happiness to your life, keep movin’.”
- “Love hard and you won’t have any regrets.”
Why is it important for women of color to lead or work in leadership roles and decision-making capacities?
It is important for women of color, particularly Black women, to lead and be in key decision-making roles so that she can effectuate change for others and for the culture. I also believe her leadership gives hope to other women of color who aspire to be in leadership roles. There is an extra grit that a woman of color in leadership acquires because of the unique challenges she faces. It is almost like she grows extra muscles to combat the pushback that comes with her role. Her role is more challenging because systems and cultures continue to marginalize her and provide inadequate support systems. Also, statistics show that white men tend to provide less support when a woman of color is in leadership, specifically as a CEO. It is no secret that a woman of color leader still has to be great to be good. We still live in a time where she has to work doubly-hard and do twice as much to achieve success at work and in leadership. I believe, however, these women have a heavier mantle to carry because her impact is far greater.
If you could thank any Black woman history maker for her contributions to society, who would it be and why?
I’d thank Shirley Chisholm for being courageous and pushing through uncharted territories. Ms. Chisholm broke political barriers and was the first Black woman elected to Congress and to run for President of the United States. She also served as a model of strength. She was a true example of power, charisma and strength and I am proud to continue her legacy as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Why is it important for seasoned and experienced Black women to reach back and help younger women of color?
I lead two mentor programs, so I definitely believe reaching back should be part of our job description. It is imperative that we “lift as we climb” to ensure that younger women of color have access and are successful in their respective careers. I believe it is important to become both a mentor and sponsor for an aspiring professional. As experienced Black professional women, we should allow our “reach back” exchange to have a balance of sharing and providing directives. We should share the good, bad and the ugly! We should also share what made us laugh and cry (or cuss) on our journey. We should also be brave enough to share the #metoo experiences and our steps in healing. Transparency can be helpful when used in the right context, so I encourage us to keep it real for our mentees and protégés. Additionally, I believe we as experienced Black professional women should see reaching back as an absolute necessity to tool and mentor younger women of color. It is the best thing we can do to ensure our community thrives.
How do you feel about the hashtag #CollaborationOverCompetition?
I like #CollaborationOverCompetition. If we don’t have meaningful collaboration it will be #FailingByMyself. I deem trust, integrity and a strong work ethic as indispensable attributes in a business collaborator.
What are your thoughts on taking risks? Making mistakes?
I always imagine talking to my 80-year-old self when it comes to risky decisions I have to make in business. I never want to get to that age and regret not taking a chance — on anything. When I am 80, I want to be able to say I took risks — some turned out well, and some not so well, but at least I know what it feels like to try.
The other thought I have when taking risks is to approach it as “pilot program.” If I view it as a pilot then it diminishes the fear because it feels like I’m just testing it out. Taking risks doesn’t have to be permanent. If it doesn’t work, pivot and try something else.
As a successful woman in business, what is your greatest or proudest achievement?
I lead a consulting firm and consult with some of business’s most influential leaders. I have been a catalyst for policy and culture change for these businesses, however, my proudest moment was when two little girls in my son’s class asked me what I did for a living. I told them I was the CEO of my own firm. They both looked surprised, like it was the first time they had met a lady who was the boss. They both got up and danced around the lunch table and said I want to be a boss too! I probably will never know what impact I made that day, but I felt my presence showed them that they can be anything they want to be — including a boss lady.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?
My biggest inspiration is Ms. Mamie Hughes. Ms. Hughes is a sweet little lady who is a powerhouse in our community. She serves the community by fighting for equal rights and housing in the urban core. She also has been a major force behind legislation and laws for underrepresented people in the community. She is a trailblazer and I love the fact that in her 80s, she still wears leather pants!
If you could have any person in the world become your mentor, who would you choose and why?
I would choose President Barak Obama. I believe him to be a wise and genuine person. I am sure he could teach me how to better run my firm, but what I’d be most interested in is his perspective on his duality in America. I want to hear his experience as a man from an African father and white American mother. I want to hear about his double-consciousness and the two worlds he lives in. I believe one day I will get the opportunity to meet him and have dinner with him and Mrs. Michelle Obama.