Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Becoming a Role Model

BOND: But I wonder if that means that in a sense you’re a role model and a leadership figure. That you’re a role model because let’s say young girls can see you and say, “Whoo, a woman just like me” —

IFILL: I very much embrace the idea of being a role model and I guess maybe I embrace that more than the notion of leadership because leadership means that you set out to take people some place, whereas I set out to be and to let you see from what I am that you can be that, too. That, to me, is role model. And I will listen and advise and encourage every opportunity I get young people who’re trying to figure it out for themselves, but there’s nothing more powerful than my just doing it and doing it well.

BOND: And you take people, too, in the job that you do, you’re showing them that there’s a different way to get information than typical, as seen on TV.

IFILL: Yeah.

BOND: And typically seen in some print press. There’s a different way to get information and we’re going to show it to you.

IFILL: Having the time is key. It's — the dirty little secret about television is that most people you interview, you realize, on commercial television that you have five minutes and if they talk for a long time, the five minutes is up whether you’ve gotten to the heart of the story or not, but if you’ve got ten minutes, you’re going to get back to the point. You have a little time to drill down and a little time to make sure that they’re listening to you and that makes all the difference in the world. I don’t fault my commercial colleagues in the commercial world who do morning television or even evening television and can’t quite get to the heart of the story because they don’t have the time to do it. That’s why there have to be all kinds of choices out there for people to pursue.

BOND: And so the knowledge that there’re built-in no choices. Or built-in bad choices has to be distressing.

IFILL: Yes, but what in life isn’t a bunch of choices, some of them bad, some of them good. You just balance them out.

BOND: It just strikes me that we don’t hear enough complaint about the bad choices that are forced upon the profession you practice. You don’t hear enough critiques.

IFILL: Well, we see the bad results.

BOND: Or if we do, they’re internal and those of us on the outside watching don’t ever hear them.

IFILL: Well, we do see the bad results of the bad choices. It’s like the school teacher I was talking about who didn’t feel like he had any choice but to deny someone, these children, access to the President’s speech. He had bad choices that he had to make. We often cover things or don’t cover things because we have bad choices having to do with time or resources, especially resources, but you make the best of it. Whining about it doesn’t really get it done.

BOND: Well, maybe shouting and yelling about it.

IFILL: Well, we do some of that.

BOND: Okay.