Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Reaching Different Groups: Authenticity

BOND: You know, you can’t know this, but you’re predicting questions I want to ask and the next is, do you have a different leadership style when you deal with groups that are all black, that are mixed, or all white, as in the example you just used?

HRABOWSKI: That's very interesting. I’m going to change the question slightly and then I’ll answer yours. When I’m dealing with a student, I’m just giving myself. I’m just authentic. I’m just me. That’s my greatest strength, just to be able to be sincere with people and I care about people and I certainly care about my students and I can connect with them because our emotions are so much the same whether a student is concerned about his or her girlfriend or about a boyfriend or about a parent or about not doing well in school, we have the same issues -- our health, or not being comfortable speaking in front of people. These are just issues, right?

When it’s a group, it will depend. I still give authenticity. The style may change. If I’m speaking in a black church it’s going to be very different from when I’m speaking at the National Academy of Sciences. Good speakers, effective speakers, want to connect appropriately to their audiences and audiences expect different things. If I’m speaking in a church or an all-black situation, in most cases, they’re going to want me to speak with some emotion, much more so, all right? When I’m speaking to a group of scientists, regardless of color, they’re going to be less respectful of the emotion. They want to know the facts, the analysis, you know. So it just depends on the group is what I’m saying. The message may be the same, the approach may change between a group of twenty-one-year-olds and I’m thinking twenty-one-year-olds versus fifty-year-olds, so you change your approach to some extent depending on the group. In every case, people will feel my passion. Even when I’m being analytical, it’s still going to come through. I can’t stop it.