Leadership Series – Defining Leadership & Community

While most are content to assign the title of leader and bestow leadership accolades to those who have achieved success in a specific field or vocation in life, I personally believe that true leaders are not specific to a genre. I believe that leaders are naturally imbued with specific talents or gifts, including insight that allows them to not only benefit a particular area of focus, but instead to benefit humanity at large.



There are several key things that I personally feel are inherent in good leaders. Most will agree that above average intellect is a key factor. I believe intelligence is of importance when tempered with a healthy dose of wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to reason and think (intelligently) in a broader sense. Generally referred to as “common sense”, it is invariably not close to being common. I believe intelligence without wisdom is self-serving. I feel that wisdom combined with intelligence is what motivated Martin Luther King Jr. to march in Selma, instead of in his own backyard of Georgia. The same wisdom is what led Gandhi to create a movement dedicated to non-violence.

I understand that for many who hear the word leader, they are content to ascribe this title to individuals of distinction within a particular industry or from a specific geographic region. As an African American woman, I cannot so easily bestow such a title.

The African American community in the United States is beset on all sides with the ills of poverty, high incarceration rates for black males, high incidence of single parent households, high unemployment and lack of access to quality education. So for me, I cannot in good conscience bestow that title or celebrate “Leaders” who are not somehow connected to my community in some way. The connection resonates whether they have transcended the hurdles and pitfalls that this community has to face on a daily basis. It resonates because there is a silent “knowing” that only one who has been here and “done that”, would be able to understand.

Consequently, there is a measure of respect that is reserved and fused into the title of leader for me. For those who have seen some of what I have seen and who have lived as I have: those who not only made it but who are actively engaged in ways to help others make it as well. That, to me is what a leader is.

The word “Leader” carries so much more significance to me than the various categories and connotations commonly assigned to it. If endowed by one’s creator with a superior skill or gift above and beyond that of others, why then should it be limited to the benefit of oneself?  If one is granted such a superior ability especially in this world, where there are so many people and places that have “need” – true leaders see beyond the betterment of self and feel the need on various levels to help others “do better”.


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