Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Fostering New Leaders: Instilling a Sense of Vision

BOND: As a society, how can we foster the most effective leaders for the future?

JEALOUS: You know, I — one is by insisting that people learn how to lead before they learn how to manage. There’re a lot of people who — you know, we train them in Robert’s Rules of Order and we train them in sort of all sorts of management techniques and we haven’t forced them to figure out how to lead first, so I think we need to throw more of young people out of the nest. And that’s, you know — when I went to go see Jesse Jackson’s — when I went to the meeting, because I told my dad when I was fourteen, “Look, I want to go to this meeting that they’re having about Jesse Jackson’s campaign.” He said, “Sure, I’d be happy to take you. I was planning on going myself.” I was sitting there at the meeting and they’re saying, “Oh, and we need somebody to organize the high school students and help with the voter registration drive.” And, you know, they had a vision of having students really drive that and I was kind of looking around waiting. My dad said, “Ben, you’re the only high school student in the room.” I said, “Okay, I’ll do it,” and that was his way of just saying, you know, "Get out and just go do it.” But fundamentally, that’s a decision I had to make for myself and people need to make for themselves.

I think young people have an obligation. My pastor did a similar thing for me when I was nineteen and I was in Harlem and I was referring to myself as a student organizer and he said, “A youth organizer — when are you going to stop sort of qualifying the type of organizer you are?” And he took me out on a porch of the farmhouse that is our rectory at St. Mary’s Church in Harlem and he pointed to the 26th Precinct right across the street, the police precinct, and he said, “Son, depending on the crime, when you’re fourteen, they’ll consider you to be an adult. You need to understand that you’re nineteen and you are an adult. You aren’t a student organizer. You’re a youth organizer. It doesn’t matter who you might be organizing today, but you’re an organizer and you have the responsibilities to behave like one.” And, frankly, what he was talking about was having a bigger vision for society and not just being fixated on campus issues. And he said, “Now, let’s get back to the meeting.”

I think that we’ve developed all these systems for training people, young people, to be leaders and a lot of times, we’re just training them to manage. And leadership takes courage, both on the part of the young person and on the part of the chaperone or the mentor or whatever to just say, "Get out the nest, go do it."

BOND: Mr. Jealous, thank you.

JEALOUS: Thank you.