Thursday, May 30, 2024

It Takes a Village to Raise and Sustain a Leader…

September 25, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( It’s always hard when one of us falls from the height of power to the pit of shame. Actually it’s pretty devastating on a number of levels.

And when that bough breaks, it becomes a spiraling public spectacle, as layer after layer is pried away from a highly polished veneer.

The semblance of what was gathers a new velocity and swirls like a funnel cloud out of control. We all know what happens when a funnel cloud touches the ground – it becomes a tornado. The devastation that remains in its aftermath can be incalculable.

In Detroit, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has become part of that spiraling public spectacle. In Los Angeles it’s Service Employees International Union (SEIU) chapter president Tyrone Freeman.

Both are young, gifted, black and bright lights in their respective jurisdictions. They are individuals who held great promise as leaders. Both made real advances in improving the quality of life for their constituents.

Kwame has pleaded guilty to two felony counts of obstructing justice by committing perjury for attempting to hide his extramarital relationship with a staffer. He will spend four months in jail, pay up to $1 million in restitution, and serve five years’ probation.

Freeman is currently being investigated by the SEIU national office and the U.S. Labor Department for alleged ethics violations and questionable expenditures on the union’s dole. As a result both are no longer in their posts serving their constituents.

It’s a sad day for both cities. It’s fodder for the press who in both cases were all in the mix of the investigations through their brand of watchdog and whistleblower journalism. We can’t blame the press for their fall. They simply shined a light on their incendiary choices and manipulation of power.

We are the biggest losers in all this. We lose jobs when our leaders fall because their administrations are often dismantled. We damage relationships that leader was building with entities that could possibly bring resources to the community. We lose an advocate; we lose a champion, someone who pushes to keep our issues on the radar at a time when our voice is just above a whisper.

Power is intoxicating. We know this. It is seductive. We know this as well. The lines of ethics and impropriety are easily blurred by technicalities, aberrant interpretations and “yes” men and women who don’t yank that proverbial ear when they know they should or before it’s too late. It’s like watching a car careen into a brick wall.

At the end of the day, the aperture will always have a laser focus on African American leaders. They will always be held to a higher standard of excellence and performance. When they have a moral or ethical failure, it will always resound louder, and spiral faster through the media machine. We know this. And when they show a lapse in judgment, the vote of no confidence will always be swift and sure. No kissing, no making up. It’s pretty much adios.

Perhaps we need to take a hard and fast look at how we support our leaders before we experience another casualty. Whether leaders are born or made they have to be raised. They have to be schooled. They need a protective and didactic infrastructure that surrounds them like a cocoon to keep them from falling and to keep them in position. They need accountability to an inner circle of judicious counselors from multiple disciplines whose sole purpose is to groom, nurture, protect and sustain the African American leadership trust. A kind of village counsel if you will, much like our ancestors employed. Iron sharpens iron, is what the good book says.

Maybe it’s too lofty of an idea because those who rise to the heights of leadership would see this as an infringement on their autonomy and ability to lead. Or maybe it’s an idea whose time is come. How many more leaders will we watch fall by the wayside before we realize its takes a village to raise and sustain our leaders?

Written By Veronica Hendrix

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