Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Developing Future Leaders

BOND: A last question in the minute or two we have -- how can we create more leaders in our society? They seem to spring up when they're needed. They seem always to be in abundance. Not always the people you might select, or I might select. But how do we ensure a continuation?

FLAKE: I think part of the problem is when you talk about creating leaders. I think you have to -- the problem we have is when you create them, generally we create them with a sense that they have to be -- they have to abide by the rules we set and that they have to be obedient to the directions we give. We don't want to create leaders. We want leaders to emerge in ways where they have enough of a sense of independence that when they do rise, people automatically see that leadership in them. I was impressed about two years ago when I was in Michigan. I met a young man named Kwame Kilpatrick, thirty-one years old -- he was about twenty-eight then -- and Kwame said to me, "I'm going to run for mayor of this city one day. And what I want you to do is to share with me your ideas about education. Because our schools in Detroit are not performing well. I want to know what it would take to turn them around." We talked about everything from vouchers to charter schools and the like. He ran a race recently against an old line politician in Detroit. At thirty-one years old, he's the mayor. And he took strong positions about alternatives to the traditional education models. He emerged because he was willing to consider not just the historical approaches, but look at new approaches and say, "This is the wave of the future." Leaders will emerge when they begin to think about how to get out of the box. And when they come out of the box, understand that they have broken the bondage of limitation and the bondage of neutrality, and be able to rise and take strong positions about things, realizing that it's confrontational. But in reality, in the end, it's beneficial.

BOND: Dr. Flake, that's a perfect time on which to end. Thank you so much for your ideas.

FLAKE: Thank you. Good to be here.

BOND: Thank you.