Over the span of three decades, Debra Lee has established herself as one of the most distinguished voices in the entertainment industry. In this episode of the Recording Academy x EBONY "Black Music Collective Podcast," host MC Lyte sits down with the former Chairman and CEO of BET Networks. Throughout the episode, Lee takes listeners on a journey across the landscape of her illustrious career, which took her from founding BET's legal department to being the top executive at the largest, global Black-owned cable network. Here's what we learned from the illustrious entertainment powerhouse:
There's Beauty in Service
During her tenure at BET, Lee quickly recognized the heavy expectations that some members of the Black community placed on the shoulders of the network. "You have to be more than an entertainment network. You also have to address our issues," Lee said. Though she initially felt that the expectations were unfair, she eventually came to appreciate them. "I used to think that it was unfair, but then when we started to do original programming and we always tried to do news, I learned that it was a passion," said Lee. "The people care so much about BET and what we represent. It was a burden in some sense, but if we got it right, people would show up in huge numbers and that was always so rewarding."
Women Make Great Leaders
After being promoted to Chairwoman and CEO, Lee noticed different ways that men were keeping women out of boardrooms and C-suites. Despite the different needs and management styles of women in leadership, Lee reminded us that women continue to be very capable leaders.
"Women are different. We manage differently. We have different responsibilities with our families, if we choose to have families," said Lee. "We just have to figure out how to make it work in the corporate world."
We Have a Duty to Help Others Reach Their Potential
"One of the things that I loved most about my job was hiring young people and giving them opportunities to change the world and do as much as they can—whether they were in finance, operations, or doing research analysis," said Lee. "It was always so important to me that BET did that better than anyone else."
Catch more of Lee's gems in the podcast below: