Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership Development

BOND: Let me ask you about how leaders get made, because people talk about it in three separate ways. One, great people cause great events to happen. Another one, movements make leaders. And the third, unpredictable events create leaders appropriate for the times. Does any of those fit you?

WATSON: Well, I can say this. Let me quote Bishop H. H. Brookins. He used to say that if you call yourself a leader and no one is following you, you're just a man out taking a walk. So I would describe myself as meeting the needs of the moment. And if you can come up with an action plan, then people will follow you. If you stand back and just complain about the fire in that building and you don't call the fire department who can come and put it out, then you're as much as a victim as the people inside there, so if you call the fire department and they come out, you can say you led them to the fire, so there's a fire out there. We try to put out the fire and that's the kind of leader that --

BOND: That's a natural segue to the next question. Are you a leader because you can persuade people to follow your vision or because you can articulate the agenda of a movement?

WATSON: I think that I'm more the latter, and you know -- of course, I'm an elected official and so on and you're a leader just by the --

BOND: By the nature of the position.

WATSON: By the nature of the job that you are responsible for. I like to give people the facts and I like to walk them through the steps of where we can move to change that set of circumstances to our benefit. That's the kind of leader I am.