Originally published: January 13, 2023
Pittsburgh Business Times

If Covid has taught us anything, it is that business as usual is not acceptable. Over the last few years, we have seen many leaders step down for a myriad of reasons. Some have realized that the world is changing rapidly, and they are not up to the task. Some have thought about the importance of work/life balance and have said they prefer to opt out of this madness.

However, for those who choose to stay in the game and lead during these uncertain times, one must be focused, innovative and willing to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Leading post-pandemic is not for the faint of heart!

Having just completed my first year as the eighth president in the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh’s 105-year history, I have certainly navigated many challenges. It was not easy hiring and retaining the right staff to transform a culture to further amplify the mission. Staff also had to adjust to my leadership style, expectations and vision.

I’ve also had many rewarding experiences. We served over 20,000 clients during my first year with a key highlight for me in feeding over 900 families during our Annual Thanksgiving Distribution. We were able to distribute toys to hundreds of children during Christmas. Further, I have been inspired and encouraged as I see the Urban League team move many families from poverty to economic self-sufficiency.

For example, I was honored to be able to assist a mother of six who was struggling to keep a roof over her head due to her husband’s recent illness by connecting her with our team. Urban League housing counselors were able to help her catch up with her rent until her husband recovered and went back to work.

2022 has been a year of growth for our Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh team and me. We have shown resiliency as we completed my first year of leadership. We are taking steps, both large and small, toward becoming the best place to work in Pittsburgh as foundational to making Pittsburgh most livable for all. We continue to be blessed with generous support from our donors, board members and various community partners, without whom none of this would be possible. In 2022, we were also blessed to receive a $6 million investment in our mission from MacKenzie Scott. The life-transforming work of the Urban League relies solely on such thoughtfulness and philanthropic investment.

As we embark on 2023, we all need to stay focused on our “why,” always remembering that people are at the center of all that we do. When our focus is on the mission and taking care of our team and clients, we can be assured of a great 2023 and beyond. We all will face challenges this year, but the rewards are great if we stay focused, invest in our people and allow our dreams to be bigger than our fears. Above all else, we must remain committed to excellence in all that we do. Finally, we must be willing to push past the status quo of leadership and operating. We must be committed to doing what it takes to get the job done right! Here’s to another year of extraordinary accomplishments!

Carlos T. Carter is president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.