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Biographical Details of Leadership
Contemporary Lens on Black Leadership
Leadership Development: Confluence of Events
BOND: Some categorize the making of leaders in three ways. First, great people cause great events. Movements make leaders. And last, the confluence of unpredictable events creates leaders appropriate for the times. Which of these, if any, or a combination of these, fits the path that you’ve followed?
IFILL: Great confluence of events —
IFILL: What are the three again?
BOND: Great people cause great events. Movements make leaders. Or the confluence of unpredictable events creates leaders appropriate for the times.
IFILL: Yes, it’s the confluence part, because I didn’t predict anything about my career. I knew I wanted to be in journalism. I thought I wanted to be a reporter and maybe one day I’d to get to be Mary McGrory. I didn’t think I’d be in television. I didn’t think I’d be an anchor at my own program. I wasn’t even certain I’d be in Washington. I wasn’t certain that I was going to be able to do anything that anybody thought was any good. I didn’t have that much self-confidence, but the confluence of events in my career and my life had put me in position to have an impact which I don’t think I necessarily anticipated.
BOND: So had you been born twenty years earlier, would this have happened, do you believe?
IFILL: No. I don’t believe it would’ve happened. Because for all the reasons we’ve talked about, there were laws in place by the time I came along. Those confluence of events which allowed people to look and see me standing there. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have even gotten to the front door. I mean, I had a — even in high school, I had a guidance counselor who told me, “You’re not going to be able to get into this school, you really shouldn’t apply,” who spent a lot of time discouraging this, and, you know — his name was Mr. McDuffy, so I always think about the Mr. McDuffys in my life who told you, “No, don’t bother, don’t try.” Well, yes, Mr. McDuffy could’ve very easily had an effect on me had I not grown up in the home I grew up in and made me think, "Oh, well, I can’t possibly try that." So the confluence of events — the home I grew up in, the people who told me I could do it. The people who countered the Mr. McDuffys, the Alden Pooles who just without making a big deal of it, assumed that I could do it, and every step along the way, so I don’t really — I’m not one of those people who had a five- or a ten-year plan, but things have worked out.
BOND: Well, and worked out well.