Milan’s article in Baltimore Sun
Jesse Milan Jr. is an expert on leadership, a leader in the AIDS community and celebrated for his work to control AIDS. He’s a member of our School’s Advisory Council and a thoughtful adviser on race, health disparities and related issues. Following the death of Freddie Gray, he wrote a very moving op-ed in The Baltimore Sun about leadership in the context of upheaval. Milan’s views on leadership are appropriate as a lens for examining how people behaved in Baltimore, but they have much wider applicability. Having served in multiple leadership positions, including ten years as dean, I find myself thinking even more about leadership—how to develop these skills in our students and how to hone them in our faculty and staff. We spend far too little time building leadership skills; yet, they are a critical part of the toolkit for changing the world. I especially like Milan’s comments about authenticity and action.
Lessons about leadership are not theoretical. The disturbing unrest in Baltimore offers a real life case study about who is a leader and who is not.
Who was the leader who urged angry youth to destroy their own neighborhoods? Who was the leader in the police van when Freddie Gray was mortally injured? Who was the leader who inspired over 100 clergy to walk down the middle of the street to stop the violence?
Who were the leaders in City Hall and the capital who recommended setting and lifting the curfew, requesting the National Guard, declaring a state of emergency and locating the state cabinet temporarily to Baltimore? Who were the leaders cleaning up the damage, organizing non-violent rallies and starting fundraisers to repair devastated lives? Who were the leaders driving into Baltimore after the riot to enjoy what the city offers?
The names of some of these leaders are known to all of us, like Stephanie, Larry and Elijah. Most names we may never know.
The lesson that being a leader does not require holding a position of authority is being learned the hard way. Leadership means being authentic about your convictions, having integrity by acting upon them, being cause in the matter and not waiting for someone else to speak or act, and being about something bigger than yourself. These marks of leadership do not require pay, position or power. [Emphasis mine.]
And we learned again how these features of leadership can be used for good or for ill.
Those are powerful thoughts. Barbara