Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Consensual Model

BOND: I was interested in something you said last night in your public talk, that you talked about the corporate model of governance for your church which surely is radically different from the typical. The typical is autocratic: one person does everything or rules everything. And you described the corporate kind of management. Where does that come from?

FLAKE: I think that comes in part from my history with civil rights, my history as having been a dean at several colleges where I've had administrative responsibilities and budget responsibilities, an early development of work ethic and work discipline. And a sense that as institutions begin to grow that I could not do it all. I mean, I was literally forced to have to deal with a reality that no matter what I had birthed, in the final analysis, it could not grow if I tried to hold onto it. Because --

BOND: Was it entirely a function of size? If you had been back at that church that you took over at nineteen, would you have done the same thing?

FLAKE: No, because I did not have the experiential base to understand that this could be done or had to be done. If it had grown that way -- but it could not have done that in the environment because it was in Ohio, where you did not have the opportunity for that kind of growth. But if the dynamics had worked the same way, it is possible that it would have happened. But the probability is that it would not have. Because my experiences in going through education and going through Xerox and going through these other environments is really what gave me -- and going to business school at Northeastern -- I mean, those kinds of things helped me to understand building systems as opposed to building around myself as an individual without the ability to delegate with some trust and confidence in other people.