3 Leadership Tips from Bill Moyers

In a recent interview in the Progressive, journalist Bill Moyers offered a lot of wisdom and some insights into his perspective on the current challenges we face in the US. (The whole article is well worth reading: go to it here!) In terms of leadership advice, here are three nuggets that I particularly appreciated:

1. “The most important thing the giant philanthropies could do—Gates, Rockefeller, Ford, Open Society Institute, and new ones emerging—would be to create a $2-to-$3 billion Trust for Independent Journalism. They wouldn’t miss the money, and democracy would still have a fighting chance because of their investment.”

Translation: leaders should make room for other leaders, and for new, challenging perspectives!

2. “There’s hardly a more bitter pill to take than when a President disappoints the people who most believed in him. I can’t forget the anguish of all those people who voted for Lyndon Johnson thinking they were voting against a wider war. So when we were covering the 2008 campaign I told my young African American colleagues that despite the historical significance of victory, [Obama] was going to break their hearts. They didn’t want to hear that, and they refused to believe it. Eighteen months later they started dropping by one by one to say, sadly: “He broke our hearts.” A couple of them even wept.”

Translation: Leaders will always disappoint, especially the ones we raise on a pedestal. Never forget they are human, and subject to greater forces than our dreams. Followers need to keep leading in order to hold leaders accountable as much as possible, in order to stay empowered and deal with our inevitable disappointment.

3. “What today’s activists—the low-wage workers fighting Walmart, the immigrant rights activists, the Moral Monday activists in North Carolina, those fast-food workers who have stirred admiration and collegiality among serfs at large, and many more—have in common is a conviction once expressed by Robert La Follette: “Democracy is a life, and requires daily struggle.” If it weren’t for them, I would despair.”

Translation: Leadership comes from all directions, and the effects are gradual and negotiated. “Democracy is a life, and requires daily struggle.” So does leadership, and courageous followership.

Do you agree with Moyers? Where should progressive money go to support leadership in this country? How do we

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