Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership for the Future

BOND: What kind of leaders does contemporary society demand? What -- how will our future problems demand different leadership styles?

HRABOWSKI: Yes. I think first of all leaders will need to have a much stronger focus on interdisciplinarity than ever before, whether they’re scientists or humanists or social scientists. Problems won’t be solved simply through looking through the lenses of one discipline. We need to be able to have people who can talk across disciplines more than ever, first of all, and so the style will have to be one that’s open to areas beyond one’s expertise, a style that helps to bring people from disparate backgrounds together to -- and to create a tone in which people can have this robust dialogue about problems of poverty or race in our country in a setting or in different settings that will allow us to chip away at the problems because the big problems can’t be solved like that.

The issue of the human genome has been something we’ve been working on for so many years and yet we’re making progress in that, you know, in bioinformatics, but the question of how to educate poor children. The reason we talk so much about No Child Left Behind is because millions of child of all races are indeed being left behind and we’ve become comfortable even saying it -- No Child Left Behind -- and -- but the typical American would say, “Yeah, but a lot of them are being left behind,” but we haven’t gotten to the point of saying, “And this is unacceptable.” There’s the problem. How do we get to the point where Americans say this is unacceptable and bring the level of rigor to the work involving race and poverty that we have brought to anti-cancer strategies. Big difference in the kind of rigor we use in education versus health care.

BOND: Well, how can we foster the more effective leaders for the future?

HRABOWSKI: I think colleges and universities can be far more effective than we’ve been in thinking deliberately and proactively about leadership, about the sticky issues of the day -- education and poverty and race -- and about developing settings in which people can learn from other leaders, can pick apart and analyze what leaders do and don’t do, and finally, I think we clearly will at some point decide in colleges and universities and in our society to think differently about how to have a conversations about race. We have not figured it out. We really have not figured it out. I can give you so many examples during this election when it’s so clear people think so differently and people don’t know how to even begin to get people to come together without having this [gestures] immediately.

We in education have to teach people how not to simply want to get their point of view across, but how to listen more carefully than we do right now, if you think about it, how to listen more carefully.

BOND: Well, you’ve done a great deal toward this here at UMBC. Thank you. Thank you for being with us today.

HRABOWSKI: Thank you for challenging me to think.