Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership Development

LEFFLER: Now some would say that leaders are made because they're just great people. That they're great people and therefore they become leaders. Some would say that movements make the leaders. And some would simply say it's the confluence of unpredictable events that create leaders for their times. Which is the case for you?

BOND: Well, I -- you know, I can't say well, of course, "I'm great person." That's --

LEFFLER: Sure, you can. We hold with that.

BOND: But, I think it's a combination of the circumstances and seeing an opportunity and being able to put them together and being ready at the moment, being prepared at the moment. I was someplace and a fire engine came by and I thought, you know, maybe there's -- it was at a construction site at the library. I thought what if something has fallen on somebody and somebody is hurt? Is there something I can do? Well, luckily there's nothing I could do. I wasn't called upon to do something, but I felt as if I could do something. Whatever it was I could do it. So I like to think I'm ready to do it. I may not be always ready to do this thing. But I'm ready to jump in there and do something.

LEFFLER: Do you think being the age you were and in the place you were in the early 60's had something to do with your future leadership? Would you say that those circumstances -- ?

BOND: Absolutely. Now who can say if I'd been born ten years earlier or ten years later what would have -- we can't say. But I think having been born when I was and being where I was when I was had everything to do with it. We're -- young people are doing this all over the South. They're popping up every day sitting in someplace new. They're people very much like me, black college students in the South doing something I know I can do. I never tried to do it, but I knew I could do it. I was frightened about it, scared about it. But I knew I could do it. I think that was a common feeling among all of us. We knew we could do this.

LEFFLER: So there was something about that historical moment --

BOND: Yes.

LEFFLER: -- that created a whole generation of leaders? So when you sort of talk about where does leadership come from, there was something about that moment that gave people the opportunity to find out that they could do it.

BOND: Yes. I think nine times out of ten, movement throws up leadership. The tenth time someone comes along and says, "I want to be a leader and I'm going to become a leader." We can look around us today and see figures who fit both these models.