Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Peace Corps and MBA training for leadership

BOND: What parts of your education do you think, back to the college particularly, helped you develop these leadership skills?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think without a doubt my MBA. Wisconsin was an outstanding university and I had a chance to -- And also it was interesting because by that time there were a lot of veterans coming back from Vietnam and these were very determined, very experienced people, really impressive people, and for some reason I was coming back from the Peace Corps and we always used to joke, you were in the Peace Corps, I was over in Vietnam, but I became friends with a lot of Vietnam War vets and so it was kind of a crucible of leadership training. We pushed each other very hard. Our professors pushed us hard and we took on lots of interesting projects and assignments. It was also a great time to be getting an MBA degree because the economy was opening up to MBAs and so it was a good time. I think that's where I started thinking about becoming a leader.

BOND: Did you start thinking about yourself as leader, I am a leader? How did that consciousness come over you?

WILLIAMS: I think, as you know, in graduate school there's a lot of teamwork. You form teams to take on certain projects and I found myself being in a leadership position more and more and I also had become a leader in the Peace Corps within my group. I had stayed on for my third year. I was kind of a volunteer leader. I'd taken on a totally different assignment teaching at a university in the Dominican Republic so I had already started learning how to build teams, how to lead teams, and so it was a pretty natural thing for me.

BOND: I was going to ask you—it seemed natural to you to do this?

WILLIAMS: It did, by that time which was quite a revelation to me because I had never thought about myself that way when I left Chicago at all.

BOND: Do you know why you not had not thought of yourself that way?

WILLIAMS: Because I had never been into contact with people who considered themselves to be leaders, I think, and so you have to be exposed to leadership and exposed to individuals who talk to you about what it means to be a leader and how you can go about being a leader I think, which I try to do in all of my work with the young people that I work with.