Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership Philosophy: Confidence, Not Arrogance

BOND: Now, do you have a general philosophy that guides you through life? Is there some general set of philosophical principles that you try to follow or have tried to follow?

PINN: I’m sure there are. I’m not sure I can articulate them. I really don’t. I haven’t really thought about it that way. I guess I’m involved in so many different dimensions that I think in terms of different activities and, again, it just comes down to not doing anything that I feel would be unethical, would go against a sense of being —

BOND: It sounds like the physicians injunction — first, do no harm.

PINN: That’s true. But I guess I sort of was brought up feeling that way long before I became a doctor but, yeah, that’s probably as good a way as any to put it — do no harm.

BOND: Now, how has that sustained you through moments of resistance or alienation or rejection?

PINN: It’s a matter of — I guess if I think about it, feeling that what I’m pursuing — taking stock in what I’m pursuing — is it really worth the effort and the sacrifices or the battles and if it is, then I have no choice but to move forward. And that’s sort of how I approach things. If I’m fighting a battle and I think about it in the larger scope of the world, the larger scope of my world or larger scope of whatever we’re working in, if it’s not worth it, then maybe I need to direct my efforts elsewhere, but if it’s something that’s very important that needs to be done, then I need to hang in there and do it. If nobody else will or if others come along with me, all the better, but you never accomplish things or you never bring about change if you don’t battle forward.

BOND: And if you think you’re right, you’ll go forward by yourself?

PINN: I will, but I have to be careful that I don’t overestimate my own righteousness in feeling I’m right, so I have to make those decisions about whether or not I’m right based on some outside influences, and I am certainly capable and often do say to friends or colleagues, you know, "Tell me, do you think that what I’m trying to pursue is right? Is this something we should be doing because of the resistance, either on a personal level or professional level?" So I don’t try to just make all those decisions myself.

When I talk to young people, I often say you’ve got to have self-confidence but you can’t be arrogant. I don’t like arrogance. I don’t like it in people and in me professionally. I don’t like it in people that I meet personally. I have known professionals who are arrogant that I say, "Okay, I can accept that because they earned it. I know their careers. I know their lives, so I can accept their arrogance. Maybe they deserve to have that degree of arrogance." But I know you don’t have to be arrogant, so when it comes to whether or not I think I’m right in where I’m going, I have to remind myself all the time what I say to others — I can’t be arrogant about it. I need to have the self-confidence but I don’t want to be arrogant about it. If that makes sense —

BOND: Yes, that makes sense.

PINN: — but that’s really how I think about it. I really have a problem with people who are always self-righteous and arrogant in their self-righteousness regardless of what anybody else thinks and so I have to keep myself in check to make sure I don’t assume those same attitudes.