Adrienne Benton: Building a Legacy Through Community-Driven Leadership

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By Andre LaFontant 

Adrienne Benton is a rare gem within the corporate landscape as a Black woman CEO. She founded Onyx Spectrum Technology Inc. (OST) in 2004, creating a company that has become the 18th fastest-growing inner-city business in America, according to Fortune. Ms. Benton’s leadership style is responsible for the consistent growth of the IT and electronics engineering consulting group. “I believe in what we call compassionate leadership,” she explains. “At Onyx, we consider the entirety of a person that we’re interacting with. We value being able to follow, being able to listen.”

Ms. Benton studied urban planning with a concentration in public health at Rutgers University before attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham to receive her Master’s in Hospital and Health Administration. While she was in school, Ms. Benton had the initiative to apply for an internship with the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. Her experience cultivated her servant leadership style, grounding her in the theory of nonviolent social change and providing an opportunity to work with equally impressive women, like the 18th U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, and of course, Coretta Scott King. “Coretta was very hands-on with an open-door policy,” Ms. Benton explains. “I learned so much from her and the experience solidified that healthcare administration was for me.”

As a Black woman, Ms. Benton faced adversity rivaling what was seen in 2020 for her entire life. Nevertheless, she exudes a positivity that instills welcomed confidence. No matter what, it is clear that she is always looking forward, willing to bring people she cares about along the way. “The bottom line is that I work for everyone,” she goes on to say. “I work for my team members (I don’t like saying employees) and their families that they support. I work for our clients. It’s my job to develop an environment where all the pieces involved can operate at a high level. I love to check in with my team and have them trust that I won’t step on their toes.”

Just like Coretta checked in on her, Ms. Benton adds to a tradition of paying it forward. Bearing witness to the vice-presidential inauguration of her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister Kamala Harris, Ms. Benton beamed at what Harris is doing for future generations. “Her inauguration represented a paradigm shift. I have enormous pride, but also, I really admire her daring. Her willingness to be out there and serve, especially in the midst of such divisiveness. I can understand why that would scare someone who is bigoted. Vice President Harris forces people to question their beliefs. It also excites me to see girls all over the world so energized. They really are seeing that they can go anywhere and do anything. In the midst of all of this stuff going on, there has been an infusion of energy and enthusiasm amongst women that I think we are all going to benefit from in years to come.”

Hear Ms. Benton present at our upcoming webinar, Entrepreneurs of COLOR: Building Opportunity on Thursday, February 11th from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM EST. Register for free HERE.