Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Philosophy of Leading: Giving Voice to Others

BOND: Do you have a philosophy of leadership that you follow or have followed, and has it changed over time?

LEFTWICH:  Well, I think at the base of my philosophy is that I’ve been greatly blessed.  I’ve been given a great deal.  And that it’s my responsibility to see that it stands for something.  It’s not going to be good to anybody if I die….and I don’t try to change things….

And in the context of that philosophy I have seen giving voice to those who have things to say but who don’t have a voice is something that I can do.  And so I write, I speak, I can remember my mother always saying – when she would have confrontations with people and  my mother was not a person you would assume anything derogatory about and she would say, If they treat me like that, I wonder how they treat Mrs. So and so…. Who would be someone who – may not have have finished school – who was poor and she wuld take off after them, having nothing to do with what they did to her, but recognizing that if people had the temerity to mistreat her, there were other people they were mistreating on a daily basis.  And that really is one of my guiding forces, that I see injustice, and I know that if I see injustice, and if I am visited by injustice, there are a lot of people out here who are visited by injustice much more frequently than I am.  And I have the voice and the power to try to change it and that’s what I want to do.  It’s really I think as simple as that.  I think I could have stayed in business and made a lot of money, but in the final analysis I want to feel  -- it sounds cliché and trite – but I really do want to feel that I’ve made a difference – that I’ve left the world better than I’ve found it.

Now I’m also savvy enough to know that as soon as you leave things, it reverts to whatever it was before. So I don’t know that the changes would be lasting.  But at least I’ve got that responsibility to try.  And I have tools that other people don’t have.  I write.  I am not uncomfortable in any setting.  And I know a lot of people.

BOND:  Thank you for trying.  Thank you for what you have done.  Thank you for what you will do.  And thank you for being with us. 

LEFTWICH:  Thank you for inviting me.  I’ve enjoyed it.