Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Models for Leadership

BOND: Some categorize the making of leaders in three ways. A, great people cause events, or B, movements make leaders, or C, the confluence of unpredictable events creates leaders appropriate for the times. Does one of these fit you or a combination of these three? Which is best for you?

JEALOUS: Great leaders make great events. What was the —

BOND: Great people cause great events. Movements make leaders. The confluence of unpredictable events creates leaders appropriate to the times.

JEALOUS: Well, I’d say the second and the third are appropriate. I very much feel like a child of a human rights movement in this country, both the civil rights movement of the twentieth century and the human rights movement that preceded it or movements that preceded it, including the movement to abolish slavery. I guess that’s the nurture, and the nature, the reality, is that kind of who your parents are and how they meet and who your teachers are and who you bump into, you know, at some point in your life are all — they’re either completely random or preordained, but whatever, you couldn’t — so that speaks to me, too, so confluence and coincidence.

BOND: Okay. Do you see your legitimacy as a leader grounded in your ability to persuade people to follow your vision or in your ability to articulate the agenda of a movement?

JEALOUS: Both. You have to be able to —

BOND: Both? One more than the other?

JEALOUS: I think you have to do the latter to achieve the former. People have to trust that if we make a decision collectively that, you know, the CEO or the president or the leader or the chairman is going to respect that and be able to articulate that and defend that. At the same time, when you get in the room, those people expect that if they’ve elected you or chosen you or simply lined up behind you to lead on something, that you’re going to have a vision and you’re going to argue the point, that you’re going to push it, you’re going to challenge it, and that you show that same set of skills once the decision is made in pursuing the agreed-upon agenda. I think it’s both. I think that if you’re sort of too much — you know, if you’re not a company man at all, people find it hard to trust you and to stick with you for very long, but if you’re only a company man, it’s kind of hard to inspire folks.