Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Vision

BOND: Mr. Hill, let me ask you, if -- what are the qualities a leader has to have?

HILL: Well, I think the first thing ought to be honesty, and they ought to have confidence in their own ability. And they also have respect for the abilities of others, and as I say, I'm high on personal esteem. And also, I think people should be kind of low on ego. That causes a whole lot of problems. Ego gets in the way, rather than -- and they also should have feelings of brotherhood or sisterhood for your fellow human beings. You don't necessarily want everything for yourself and nothing for the other folks. You know, they used to -- when I was kid, I was taught to avoid people who their prayer was, "Dear Lord, bless me, my wife, our son John, his wife, us four, no more." Think in terms of community. Think in terms of children. You think the village should protect and raise the children, and you also think of communities of ours as providing for the benefit and health of everybody.

BOND: What about the ability of a leader to communicate that leader's vision to other people? How important is that?

HILL: Well, I think it's of great importance. But, the only thing is, that is only helpful when the leader has a good vision. For example, you know, they talked us what "the great communicator," Reagan being a great communicator. But his vision certainly wasn't in the best interest of Negroes. So just because you got a vision, and the ability to persuade people, doesn't necessarily mean anything.

I mean, for example -- let me give you another good example. We were in the midst of the fight for desegregation. Dr. Billy Graham came to Union and made a speech, and it came out of the building. A youngster ran up to me and says to me – all bright-eyed and everything – "What did I think of the speech?" I told him I never heard nothing said so eloquently before, or some such word as that. It might not have been the exact order as those words, but that was the purport of what I said. And that was true. But then I later learned that he had given an interview of -- in some place, where he said he didn't get involved in controversial issues because he didn't want to do anything that interfered with his ability to save souls for God.

But how you going to do anything constructive, and not be controversial when a whole lot of people are burdened with superstition and ignorance? So I just never had any great respect for him for that.