The Next Normal: An Interview with Tene Howard and Zareta Ricks

The Next Normal: Tene and Zareta

In this episode, I talk with Tene Howard, Executive Director of the Sadie Nash Leadership Project,  and Zareta Ricks, Executive Director of Opening Act.

Both women stepped into their leadership roles just as the world began to shift. They have both had to navigate getting to know their new roles, their staff, and how the funding landscape works and is shifting, all while navigating a global pandemic and seismic racial unrest.  They have also had to figure out their own leadership style while the way in which we should be leading shifts around them.

Listen in as Tene and Zareta explore what it means to lead in the next normal with no road map, along with what they have come to understand about the meaning of equitable leadership.


What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

·       [3:23] Experiencing leadership in a pandemic: How this monumental change has influenced leadership for Tene and Zareta.

·       [6:50] Carrying the emotional burden of leadership and forging connections in a digital workplace.

·       [10:20] Is there a distinction between what a leader would do and what you would do?

·       [12:32] The impact of the unrest during summer 2020.

·       [22:34] How do you keep going when the world is in upheaval?

·       [31:22] Wisdom for other leaders navigating into the next normal.


Key quotes:

·       “It’s been a lot of recalibration trying to get to know folks, especially as a black woman for me … getting to know people is so core to my leadership.” – Tene

·       “People are looking to you for answers and so I learned that I had to lead and learn and go and grow at the same time.” – Zareta

·       “I was taken aback by the magnitude of what it requires to be a leader. The emotional burden.” – Zareta

·       “The books were not the place I could go to. I had to very quickly learn how to trust myself even more deeply than I ever have before.” – Tene

·       “In the first 90 days, I had decision paralysis. It’s not that I didn’t trust my gut, but there were so many things happening at the same time that I was questioning ‘is this Zareta or is this Zareta the Executive Director?’” – Zareta

·       “I realized this was not a monster, it was a systemic beast.” – Zareta

·       “I know that it was the chemical mixture of our hearts and minds and words together that enabled us to say what was on our hearts, and that has been a guiding energy for me in the months that followed.” – Tene

·       “I give myself permission to pause.” – Zareta

·       “I think that self-talk is really important and evolving it and recognizing that it isn’t going to be there the whole time.” – Tene

·       “The next normal is really deeply believing in and investing in what I possess and it’s worth and value in leadership spaces.” – Tene

·       “Leadership is not a destination … it is a journey.” – Zareta


Resources Mentioned:

·       The Sadie Nash Leadership Project

·       Opening Act