Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership Emergence

BOND: Very quickly, because our time is about up -- think about leadership in the large sense. Does leadership come out of movements or do leaders themselves create movements, or does it work both ways?

JORDAN: I don't think it's either/or, I think it's both/and. If you remember, Martin did not decide to lead the Montgomery bus boycott. It was E.D. Nixon who called Martin and, in effect, said, "We need a leader who is colleged and articulate and educated." It was not Martin deciding that he wanted to do it, it was the circumstances demanding his talents. And he obviously, positively responded. There are those of us who set out to be leaders in one way or the other, and that has worked out. So it's a combination of the two. There are others who have set out to be leaders, and it didn't work. So I think that it is a combination of factors that creates leadership. What I do know about leadership is that to be a good leader, you have to want to be a leader. You have to like the responsibilities of leadership, you have to understand that the responsibilities of leadership are not often easy. And you have to be prepared to take the hits for being a leader. I mean, I can remember when I was running the VEP, I was viewed as a militant because we were going around registering voters. Registering voters. But when I went to the College Fund, I became a moderate leader because of the nature of the College Fund. I didn't change, my position changed. And so, I think you have to be able -- you have to understand that as a leader, if you -- what's Truman's old saying? "If you can't take the heat, you ought to get out the kitchen." And leadership is not easy. It is -- you know that as well as I do -- it is difficult at times, and at times you know you have to disagree even with your colleagues and be able to take that disagreement and be able to take the slaps up the side the head from time to time as a result of decisions that you've made about being a leadership. And if you're not prepared to do that, you ought not to be in the leadership business.

BOND: I can't think of a better way to end this, thank you for being with us.

JORDAN: Thank you for having me, Julian.

BOND: It's been my pleasure.

JORDAN: Good to be with you.