Debbie Allen’s Leadership Lessons

Debbie Allen continues to parlay her no-nonsense work ethic and passion for dancing, directing and mentoring into a brilliant career. Her film and stage roles have earned her two Tony Award nominations, three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. She’s one of the few African-American women working as a director-producer in TV and film. Here are some of the lessons in leadership that she’s learned in her life and career:

1. Be a team player. “In speaking to corporate management teams, I stress the importance of how you allow people to work with you. How to allow new ideas to come forth. I use the parallel of me as a choreographer. I might be the leader, but I need dancers and costumes and other elements to create anything. Allow your team to participate, to create.Yes, you need someone who is in charge of the overall vision, but you also need a crew to execute that vision.”

2. Stay centered. “I am always centered. In order to succeed at anything, you have to believe in what you do. If you don’t, you are on the wrong foot. After all, what is business? Isn’t it really an extension and an expression of what you believe?”

3. Find your passion in life, and then spend your lifetime developing and expressing it. “It should happen young, but everyone can find a way to be creative. After all, how you arrange your papers on your desk at work, how you use your space, that all takes creativity. So much in our world and in business has to do with how things look, feel and sound.”

4. Do not lie. “Tell the truth to yourself and to others.”

5. Don’t wear other people’s clothes. “Be true to what fits you. It’s the lesson I learned from my sister, whose footsteps I always followed. It is one of the most valuable life lessons I learned from her.”


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