Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Spread the Credit Around

BOND: This leads to another question, a key question in this interview. What do you see as the difference between vision, philosophy and style? How do these interact for you: vision, philosophy and style?

CLYBURN: Well, my philosophy I think is like anybody's. It may be developed out of experiences. I think I told you what my philosophy is when I said that when the difference between and the other person is five steps. My philosophy is I ought to be willing to take three. Now, as somebody you know very well or knew very well -- when I read his autobiography I got this from it. I don't remember anything else about the rest of the autobiography but this, he says, "There's no limit to what one can accomplish if you don't get hung up on who gets the credit." That's a philosophy of mine.

I don't mind spreading the credit around. I don't care who gets the credit. Let's get it done. That's my philosophy.

Now, vision, to me, is somethng totally different. You can have the greatest philosophy in the world and not be able to see things, and not be able to see the big picture, so to speak. I try to really sit back and see the big picture. And I try very hard to gather -- even when I think I know what is -- I start looking for something. That's why I don't read -- my wife told me I should, but I don't read fiction. I read biographies and that sort of stuff. I shouldn't say I don't read fiction. I did read [Dan] Brown's -- of course, a lot of people think there wasn't a whole lot of fiction in Brown's book, not Demons and Angels, the other one. I'm blocking on that --

But if you look at style, I really believe that style is, in politics, sometimes is just as, if not more, important than the substance, because if people don't like your style, you'll never get a chance to show them what substance there may be to you. People get turned off with style, so I think style is very very important. It's the way you do things, not just what you're willing to do. Not just what you see to do, but it's the way that you do it, the way that you say it, how you really accommodate. That's style. I try to be very accommodating when I deal with people. Now, I can walk away and not accommodate at all, but I won't insult you when I do it. I just walk away.