Emotionally Committed Leaders

by Judith F Kennedy, PhD

Who was she this southern black girl born in the 5th Ward of Houston, Texas? A president, a governor, congress men and women attended her funeral. “When she walked in the room, she made you want to do something for her” “She embodied the word integrity”.

In a world that sways on the winds of trends and polls and prognostications she was a constant and she was as true as the north star. Barbara Jordan was an American original and a national treasure. And she was my friend.  Ann Richards, Former governor of Texas.

Barbara Jordon was the epitome of the emotionally committed leader. She stood on the platform of integrity and enormous character.  People who heard her speak knew they were listening to someone great. Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal.  No matter what leaders set out to do—whether it’s creating strategy or mobilizing teams to action—their success depends on how they do it. Even if they get everything else just right, if leaders fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.

This emotional task of the leader is primal. First it is the ground of being. You must not be separate from what you believe. You must own it, not to persuade others but to own who you are and what you stand for. It is both the original and the most important act of leadership. When you embody what you believe then you become emotionally compelling. In any moment in history or in the present the leader in any human group has been the one to whom others look for assurance and clarity when facing uncertainty or threat, or when there’s a job to be done.

Enjoy this clip of Barbara Jordon bringing emotional and ethical clarity to the Watergate hearings.