Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Vision, Philosophy, and Style

BOND: Now, let me ask you some questions about leadership and what your own philosophy of leadership is. What is the difference between a vision a leader may have, or you may have; a philosophy a leader may have, or you may have; and a style – or is there a difference? Are there contradictions between these three?

GRAVES: I think you start off with a vision. I had a vision for the magazine and then I had to write philosophically how I was going to make that vision take shape, all right. I thought about this. What was the magazine going to represent? What was it going to stand for? It was going to be for quality. It was going to be, if you will, an economic and moral compass to the extent I wasn't going to try to tell people how is I live my life. I was just going to -- by example. I was going to have a publisher's page – which I've had every month since the magazine's been in business and that's thirty-one years – then if that did that by example, it was going to be by example. When people meet me they say, "I'm doing just what you said to do, and now I've got a kid going to college," and the kid read my magazine, so they're there. So I think you need to have – so my vision are those same goals that I talked about before. Philosophically I've got a moral compass that says I'm doing things a certain way. I'm going to be honest about what I'm about. I can look at a banker today, shake his hand and say, "Here's what I'm prepared to do," or do a real estate deal on a hand shake. It doesn't mean it eventually has to be not committed to paper. But it certainly can be on a handshake. So there's a philosophy where people know that if I say to them "I'm doing X," they can go to the bank with that. And then in terms of – I've done the vision part, I've done the – what was the third part you asked me about? I apologize.

BOND: Style.

GRAVES: The style. It's the style in which you do it. I mean I don't think you've got to walk with a sign on your chest that says, you know, "I'm morally right." Or that everyone in my office has got to wear a tie. I mean the way that you and I are dressed. We don't have dress-down days in my office. I think it's absurd. I think this society has gone completely in the wrong direction. This nonsense about if you walk around in a pair of sandals, you can be much more relaxed and it makes your mind work better. I've never seen anything that's proven in any statistical data I've read that wearing relaxed shoes is going to make you be any smarter in business. I think you look smart. You look a certain way. I think that our society has slipped in a significant way. Like I said to you, growing up we were not poor. We just didn't have much money. But in that environment I had school clothes, play clothes and church clothes, or Sunday clothes, which you wore when you went to church. Never got it mixed up. I didn't have six different wardrobes but at least we knew. Again it's a style in which you do things. That style was taught to me at an early age. And today, my sons again, if you look in their closet they've got X number of suits and X number of ties and they know how they're coming to work. There's no earrings in the ears in my office. You don't dress like that. There’s no extreme hairstyle in terms of what happens in our office and that's the way it is. And I don't run a democracy. It's a business, you know, and there's leadership in that office that makes it very clear "here's how we do things."

We had a TV camera crew come in just this week to do an interview with me. I looked up and here was a black guy in the office with his cap on, backwards. Well, he had that hat off his head so quick he didn't know what hit him. I just said to him, "Look, if you had to do an interview that's fine. If you had to make a delivery, go down to the street and make it, because you're not wearing a hat in here. He almost swallowed his hat because someone had said to him, "You don't wear a hat in front of ladies. You don't wear a hat in the building. It's not raining. You're not going to do it here." If I was at the school this afternoon where I'm going to lecture, and there are students in that lecture – so somebody can kick this word forward – and there's someone sitting there with a hat, either they're taking off the hat or I'm leaving. I'm not lecturing in a room with people unless they can prove to me physically they have to wear their hat for some reason.

BOND: I think you'll find these students don't wear hats indoors.


BOND: Not at Darden. Go down to the undergraduate college. It's a different picture.