Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Attributes

BOND: Can you remember a time when you said in your mind, "I am a leader"? I don't mean that you got elected president of a club and said, "Okay, I'm a leader now," but was there a time when you realized that you could be a leader?

NORTON: No, I have never said, "I am a leader." I don't say it today.

BOND: You are a leader today and you have been a leader.

NORTON: Yes, I just think you inculcate -- you understand what's expected about you, and I think part of our problem is the hubris of leadership, thinking "I'm a leader," thinking "I have to make sure that everybody understands I'm a leader." If I am a leader, I think that will become clear.

BOND: Okay. So, there's no magic moment, but this comes out of your family and the image you have of something needing to be done and "I can do it."

NORTON: And the expectations that I think people had of me. Frankly, some of it is quite accidental, like I think there is something to being the first born. Although I must say that my second-born sister, Portia, who was the president of Albany State University has the very same traits I do, so that may -- she's supposed to be the middle one and the middle one is supposed to be caught in the middle, so none of that stuff really matters. What matters is tailoring your life to the circumstances that may in fact make leadership possible for you at a time when you didn't think you were a leader.

BOND: But there are all these studies that you mentioned a moment ago about birth order --

NORTON: Yeah, birth order.

BOND: -- and what effect it has on people. You're the first-born. There're also studies that say the second born has the advantage of being in the middle and therefore has -- absorbs what the first born absorbed and learns lessons and so on, so there're all these stories.

NORTON: A more balanced person and, you know, first-borns have very positive and very negative traits like --

BOND: Is that true about Portia?

NORTON: Is she more balanced that you?

NORTON: No, I think she's just like me. She [might] just as well had been the first-born.

BOND: I've met Portia. I know Portia, and she's very well balanced.