We were joined on yesterday’s Canopy Cafe by Lettie Johnson, a recognized John C. Maxwell Life & Leadership Coach, speaker, trainer and CEO of Gifted By Design Leadership & Consulting, LLC, a forward-thinking leadership consulting firm that specializes in connecting, consulting, and coaching leadership and success practices to empower adults, youth and organizations. In this episode, she discusses her work with Canopy as well as how local leaders can take action to address the current state of our community. 


Canopy Cafe with Lettie Johnson of Gifted By Design.



Before creating Gifted By Design, Lettie Johnson worked with Dr. Cosby at St. Stephen Church, and it was here that she noticed that many people were not fulfilling their full potential or didn’t even have the opportunity to do so. Thus, the purpose of Gifted By Design is to “disrupt thought patterns as well as behaviors to help people to reach their full potential.” Through Gifted By Design, Johnson’s goal is to create an environment that allows organizations to grow and truly meet that goal.

Working With Canopy

Johnson recently has been working alongside Canopy, helping to create some of the points of inquiry within the Canopy Certified Program. She believes that “it’s really important to frame what we mean when we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s one thing to be diverse, it’s a whole nother thing to be inclusive, and it’s a whole nother platform to be equitable.” So, education is a significant part of the work she is doing to address the racial injustices that exist in our society. Moreover, acknowledgement by the leader of an organization is extremely important: “Before you can get to reparations, first there has to be some acknowledgement that takes place, and not only the acknowledgement of the injustices, but the acknowledgement that we are going to create a very inclusive and intentional culture.”

How Leaders Can Take Actionable Steps

One of the main topics Johnson touches on in this episode is the responsibilities of leaders to commit to working towards a more equitable future: “There has to be some commitment in terms of doing the work. It’s extremely important that where we are now, there is no ‘I’m going to walk in the middle’; we have to commit to do the work.” Johnson stresses that it’s not enough to just be diverse; leaders must empower individuals to establish their voices, support their decisions, and allow them to have input in the decision making process. Leaders must also be able to have tough conversations: “We need to engage more now than ever, invite the conversation, and really own what we’re faced with.” Lastly, Johnson addresses that black-owned businesses often do not have sufficient capital because of the systemic oppressions the African-American community has faced, and she believes we have a duty to invest in these businesses so that we as a society can be more equitable.

Parting Words

Johnson leaves us with some closing thoughts: “This work we get to do every day is a gift to us because we get to show up, we get to impart our wisdom and the small nuggets that we have. We get to share that with other people to make a big difference.” She challenges organizations to reach out and commit to doing the work and taking the necessary steps to making our community more equitable.