Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Philosophy, Vision, and Style

BOND: What do you see as the difference between vision, philosophy, and style? Can you tell me how these three interact for you? Vision, philosophy, and style.

JEALOUS: Style is something to me that you get from your grandfather or you get — you know, it's sort of subtle decisions that you make about how you comport yourself, how you treat other people, how you dress, how you manage, how you respond to crises or to tough situations. Philosophy is much more intentional, you know. Style, in other words, is an accumulation of little decisions you make throughout your life and then you just sort of put on autopilot. Philosophy is much more intentional. It’s a result of really wrestling often with making tough decisions and committing to a way of life, a way of being in the world, a certain set of risks.

Vision, in my experience, is what you feel compelled to do. It's in that sort of context of your philosophy and your style which are, I think, ultimately quite deliberate — you know, even if there're smaller things over time, it's decisions you make, philosophy in things you choose. Vision, you know, and calling to me are very spiritual and often spontaneous or inspired, and in my experience, come with a sense of being compelled. You know, that once you see something is possible -- you see that it's possible to, in your own mind, to save the financial aid program or it's possible to actually assemble a set of facts, perform the investigation as a reporter to exonerate a man who's being framed for arson in Mississippi or whatever. It's the vision that compels you to follow through. And that's -- you know, I think that's one of the things that has been great about this country is that there's a —

We accept a certain kind of prophetic tradition amongst leaders, white, black, throughout American history. The influence of, I don't know, religious zeal in this country is that we sort of tolerate leaders who are audacious, who put really big visions out there, and then who work themselves often to death pursuing them and we as Americans are willing to follow those folks and that’s one of the things that keeps us on the edge. I mean, you saw that with the Obama campaign. Clearly, Barack Obama had a vision. It was, I think, objectively no more compelling than Ron Paul's vision, but he himself was compelling in the way that he pursued it and in his individual belief in his vision. And that became infectious.