Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Characteristics of Good Leadership

BOND: Well, how can — well, I’m going to get this question later so let me skip by that for a minute and ask you a question about your own legitimacy as a leader. Is it grounded in your ability to persuade people to follow your vision or in your ability to articulate the agenda of a movement?

MOORE: Well, I —

BOND: Or it could be a combination?

MOORE: Right. You know, Chairman Bond, that’s a really important question. I think that it’s extremely important for a leader to be very, very connected to the needs of the masses and at the same time, it’s important for that leader to be able to articulate those things in a concise manner and to be able to make some judgments about what needs to be done when the collective can’t necessarily weigh in on an individual decision. I take that very seriously.

I have a vision obviously but it is not at all disconnected from where people are. I spend a lot of time trying to keep my ear to the ground and to stay in touch with where people are, and then I use my God-given talent and ability, my good book learning, all the information that I can get on a subject at any time and make some judgments. And they’re not always in sync with — you know, I don’t go out and take a poll and say, "I’m going to do this because 52 percent of the people want that," but I try to figure out what’s the greatest good for the greatest number and to not avoid people who don’t agree with me but go to them and walk them through the decision-making process as I experience it.

BOND: I wonder if there’s ever been an occasion in your public life where 80 percent of the people thought this and you said, "No, that’s wrong. I think this."

MOORE: Well, you know, there are some very contentious issues in my life. I mean, right now I think we’re on the threshold as a society and as a community of trying to figure out what we’re going to do. Politically, about gay rights, about immigration and, again, I have my organizing principle which says that equality is really important, that being humane is very, very important, that connecting people to families is very, very important and that’s an organizing principle that I can’t really compromise. And people know who I am. They understand who I am. And so I am going to look at those issues. I don’t walk into a community and say — with my pastors and say, "I’m against gay people because I know that’s what you expect me to say." I say that I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and gay people have rights.