“Mr. N.B. Young: Please send into my office by the 16th of Dec. a report showing what progress has been made in dovetailing the academic work into the industrial in the manner that I suggested to you and Mr. J.H. Washington sometime ago.”- “December 4, 1895,” -Booker T. Washington
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Among the many other documented and demonstrated leadership qualities he possessed, Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee University, was consistent, communicative and collaborative. Apparently, Mr. Washington had offered a suggestion or idea in the direction of “dovetailing the academic work into the industrial.” Mr. Washington’s consistency amongst his constituency-great or small, brother or stranger-enabled him to routinely make request of others for he was without respect of those within his charge. Moreover, great leaders do not only make requests but also offer suggestions about how one might carry out such a request. It was clear that he provided guidance about how Mr. Young might proceed. Besides this, great leaders inspect what they expect. One of the cardinal mistakes leaders can make is to make assignments without any regard to checking the progress of completing such assignments. (This was not the case of Booker T. Washington.) For this man would not permit anyone to remark, “I did not know what you expected of me.” Rather, he committed to writing his expectations, and most importantly he communicated a deadline. Lastly, he was collaborative. What some employees consider “extra work,” other employees consider “opportunity.” When a supervisor gives an employee an opportunity to demonstrate his or her value to the organization, it is an opportunity to take heed to. For it provides a documentable opportunity to “let your light shine.” For lights are not designed to nor ever can be hidden. And Booker T. Washington was such a light during his 34-year long tenure at Tuskegee Institute (University), and he had a great many other lights to come along to assist him.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.