Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Vision, Philosophy, and Style

BOND: So vision, philosophy, style — how do these work together for you?

PINN: Well, I think you can’t just be outspoken. You can’t just be a leader if you don’t know what you’re leading. You’ve got to have some principles. And I think for me it’s sort of carrying forward what I like to call my own sense of integrity, my own sense of character, and maintaining my own — my credibility with myself. In terms of what I do, what I pursue, and how I do it. And then — in other words, being true to those religious and family and societal principles that my family worked very hard to try to instill in me when I was very young and not forgetting those.

Having a vision to know where you’re going. I like to say when I’m talking to young people you’ve got to dream and you’ve got to reach for the stars because if you don’t reach for the stars, you’re going to be stuck down in the mud and muck, and I made that comment at a commencement address and it’s the one that’s seems to get quoted the most, but it was the best way I could think of to express that concept. You can’t just be satisfied with where you are. You’ve always got to look towards where you want to go whether it’s you personally or in terms of those, whatever you’re working on or those you’re working with, and then trying to figure out the best way to get there, then letting — then really using that vision, direct your efforts and try to take you there whether it’s you personally or some ideal or some practice or some principle or some project. We do a lot of that where I am now in our office — coming up with things we’d like to see happen and then taking the practical approach. "Okay, we’ve got this vision," if you will, say, "We’ve got this idea. What could really make a difference in women’s health, in women’s careers? What can we do to get there, what will it take?" And then kind of figuring out how to get there, so I guess that’s sort of how I operate both in my professional life and in my personal life, but you can’t always direct your personal life. I think I can do a better job in my professional life than always with my personal life.

BOND: Is what you’ve been describing, is that a vision that describes the way you’ve conducted your life both professionally and privately? A vision you talked about — the work you do which essentially is ensuring that women get fair treatment in the larger field of medicine. Is that your vision?

PINN: I think it’s sort of evolved over the years. What is my vision? I guess my vision has a lot of different facets and there’re many areas that I have thought about and continue to think about in terms of life and living, myself, the community at large. I think there’re so many people who have done so much so I don’t really see my life as being that significant except in my small sphere, but I often say I think my greatest accomplishments — and what I hope will be my legacy — are the accomplishments that I see, those that I have taught, my students, those I’ve worked with, those I’ve hopefully had a little bit of influence on, when I see them go to levels of achievement far greater than I would ever get to, that’s when I get really proud.

It’s sort of like all of my former students are sort of like family, students, to me. I don’t have children of my own but I sort of see all my former students. I right now, every year at the National Medical Association meeting have a reunion of students that I taught when I was at Tufts that I was a dean to and I still hear from them. Now, I left Tufts in ’82, so that’s almost twenty-five years ago, and yet students that I taught from the ’70s and ’80s, many of them are still in touch with me and I just rejoice in seeing what they’ve done and when I hear that I may have played a small role in their achievements, so I guess that’s sort of what brings joy to me. And I can think of so many people who contributed to me and I just don’t want to be selfish like so many other people I see who don’t take the time for people that need them. It can take up all your time, but if somebody hadn’t had time to guide me or be there for me when I was going through rough times or to give me advice on what I might do to further my life, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today and I just feel we need more people to do that and that’s sort of how I’ve lived my life.