Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Philosophy

BOND: Now, I know the question I'm going to ask you now has an easy answer, and that's faith. But I wonder if you could --

FLAKE: But you don't want my easy answer --

BOND: I don't want your easy answer. What is the philosophy that guides you? What is it that gets you over difficult times and setbacks? And -- what is it?

FLAKE: It is -- and I guess you're clear in the dimension of faith -- but it is a sense that God has a purpose for me. God has defined my destiny, and I don't know what that ultimate destiny is. But I do know that as God keeps revealing new things and creating the opportunities for me to expand, there is a reason for it. And so I don't believe that I'm totally in control of everything that happens in my life. Because the doors that have opened for me have not been doors that I've even seen, let alone been in a position to open. And those doors suddenly appear. And here I am invited to come in and invited to perform. So that I've got to believe that there is a God present, one. There is the faith dynamic. But there's also a spiritual element in my being that says, "If it is in the will of God, I can accomplish it." And therefore, if I believe this is God's will for me, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. And it's worked extremely well. I believe that if I stay in the will of God, that it does not appear what I'm going to be able to accomplish yet in the future.

BOND: Would you describe the leadership that you exhibit as faith-based or values-based? Or are these the same? Are faith and value the same for you?

FLAKE: Faith and value are definitely connected. Because my faith stand and my faith commitment forces me to have to live in a standard whereby I know that there is a kind of modeling that I have to do, because there's a significant body of people, there are significant persons, who are looking to me to have a certain kind of standing. And so that's a part of the guiding factor, and in many ways, the guiding principle. But more than that, I think it is a sense that by adopting a certain lifestyle, I am, in fact, helping to shape the minds of a generation that's behind me in terms of them trying to adopt the reality of what you can do, if you can make the kind of choices that ultimately lends themselves to some measure of success. And getting that success and not losing it, because the choices have made it detrimental for you to be able to either maintain jobs or maintain family or maintain anything else. And even at your best effort, dealing with the reality that I've had my failures. But with every failure, I've considered that as a part of the process of the purging and pruning that is necessary to get rid of the dead weights that all of us carry in life, so that as I move forward, I'm able to be even more productive than in the past. John, Chapter 15, Verse 1, talks about how God sometimes prunes us, not to hurt us, but merely so that we'd be more productive. So I take my purgings as a part of God's processing. And it's allowed me to continue to move in spite of whatever things happen in my life.