[Editor’s note: The following article contains edited excerpts of a message delivered by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at the Youth Leadership Meeting held Saturday, October 8, 2011 during the 16th Anniversary of the Million Man March and Holy Day of Atonement commemoration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]


In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.

“Leadership” is undergirded by a Divine Principle. Some of us think that “good looks” make us “good leaders,” and maybe that’s why we’re in the shape that we’re in. “Leadership” is not for the arrogant. Some think that “great articulation of words” and “beautiful speech” is what makes “good leaders,” and maybe that’s why we’re in the condition that we’re in, because we always choose leaders that can speak well, but don’t do well. And we always choose leaders sometimes that appeal to our fancy of what “leadership” is without ever considering the Divine Principle that undergirds real, and true, leadership.

Black people today don’t need leaders who “wanna be”: Who are seeking somebody to carry their bags and to help us live better with finer cars and clothes, and homes in good neighborhoods—Black people don’t need that; enough of that! As the Qur’an says, “Away with” that! But how would we choose? What standard would we use? And this is why the scripture teaches that when God chooses a leader, He does not look without. He looks within. He chooses someone that maybe the people would never choose, because we are made to look upon the outside of a thing because we’re not wise enough to discern the Inner Principles that people have built their lives on! So I want to talk about the characteristics of leaders …

Why does God look at the “heart”? The hearts of people are where their innermost motivations are hidden; people that have hidden agendas and mask it with noble words to enhance their “look” among the people. But God looks at the heart.

And the heart of those who will lead today and tomorrow: Let me describe those hearts, because you don’t want to be like what we have experienced.




Study the Book of John, Chapter 10. In Verse 8 Jesus said, “All that ever came before me were thieves and robbers …”; then in Verse 11 he gives a Principle of Leadership: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Evidently there were a lot of bad shepherds around … “But he that is an hireling”—who’s in it for the money; who’s in it for the lust of power and influence—“… seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” (Verse 12) When “the wolf” comes, that kind of “hireling leadership” runs away. But the good shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep.


So to those who want to be leaders, and those who are currently playing the role and not doing so well: The Casting Director has been watching the “tryouts,” and you know how bad it is when you get “cut”? However, it only takes one person to make The Change, and I hope that you are that one; or, you will be that one, and you will strive to be better than what was before you in order that we can advance our people beyond where they are.

True Leadership is in your worship and honor of God

The greatest characteristic that a leader must have is a four-letter word: Love. Because it’s only love of the people that puts their worth and value above your own! It’s love of the people that will put their lives above your own! It is love of the people that will make you bear the insults of the people that you come to lead. Because Black people are difficult to lead, and if you don’t have love, they’ll wear you out!

So the question I would ask is, “Why do you want to lead?” Have you checked your heart? Do you love enough to suffer at the hands of your own people to advance us? And I’m not talking about this silly “emotion” that we describe as “love,” I’m talking about that Creative Force out of which The Almighty God Allah created the Universe. Think about His Love for what He created: He regulated the affair of everything that He created, and He provided sustenance for everything that He created that it might fulfill its purpose.

True Leadership is in God, because only God loves to that degree! And those of You who would want to lead: We have to lead after God. “Well, I don’t believe in God!” Well, that’s okay, brother. But you won’t lead long. “Well wait a minute, man: Are you tellin’ me that I’ve gotta believe in God?” Well, let me ask you this: How did you get here? What Creative Force brought you here? And Who originated that Force that attracted your mother to your father, and your father to your mother? Who created the sperm? And Who created the egg that brought you here? And if you have any gift at all, did you give it to yourself? Or did God give it to you?

Look at the Principle that Jesus articulated: “Not my will, but Thy Will be done.” So, to “worship God” and to “honor God” is one of the first Principles of Leadership!

According to the Book, he said, “I”—pay attention to his words—“can of myself do nothing; whatsoever the Father bids me to do, that I do.  And whatsoever the Father bids me to say, that I say.” Do you know how powerful that is? When whatever God commands is what you do, and what you say? Have you noticed how people that are in leadership always use the personal pronoun “I,” and they never get anything done because “I can of myself do nothing”?

Only God has the right to say “I.” But all of us: The principle is “we.” And if as a person striving for leadership you cannot involve others, then you are not a good leader.


The Principle of Leadership is buried in the words that Jesus said, in the Book of Mark, Chapter 12: “… The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”

“Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”—that’s heavy! And why wouldn’t we? That means nobody else gets anything; it’s all for God … Not nine-tenths, not 15 percent; not 99 percent! All of it! And if you can’t “give it all” to Him Who gave it all for us, then leadership is not for you! That’s not for you because in The World to come that is now present in you, you’ve got to give it all up for Him Who gave you life.

“Well, who is ‘He’?” Well, by whatever name you call Him, you know Who I’m talking about! The Originator of it all.

True Leadership is in the love you have for the people

And the Second Commandment is like unto it: “Love your neighbor,” or your brother, “as yourself”. So without love, you can’t lead: You can’t lead if you don’t love Him Who created you; you can’t lead if you don’t love your brother. And you can’t lead if you don’t love yourself!

And if you’re a self-hating Black man or woman, get out of it, because leadership is not for you! How can you be a self-hating Black man or woman, and stand up in front of Black people, with your “light-skinned/dark-skinned,” “up-on-the-hill/down-in-the-valley,” “‘I got it, but you’ve got it to get’” attitude? See, when you love, you take a look at the condition of our people to see how terrible our condition is. But if you’re judging us, saying, “See that Nigga? He ain’t nothin’!” well how can you lead him if he or she is “nothing” in your mind?

As a leader, you have to look beyond, as that song in the church says “He looked beyond my faults and He saw my need!” And if you can’t think like that, get out of leadership because your people have faults, and so do we. So if you can’t look beyond the faults of others; if you can’t forgive and be merciful, compassionate, firm and strong in love, you can’t lead.

In the Book of Matthew, Chapter 20, verses 25-28: “…Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant …”—Boy! That’s a heavy principle. Can you serve people that you think you’re “better” than? Then Jesus said, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (unto others) …”—that means to “serve” others. So a “leader” has to be The Principal Servant of the people!

Now when “we serve,” on the plate that you’re serving your people must be The Answer—not to their “wants,” but to their needs, because every human need is a human right. So when you look at your people and see their needs, then as a “leader” or “one who aspires to leadership,” then you must examine your heart for “love,” and examine your heart for “service.”


But there is another most important characteristic that the leaders of this world do not have, which Jesus had with his Disciples: Big “ego” problems. The Disciples wanted to have the uppermost seats in the building. … You know how pseudo leaders are? They come late, but, they want to come first! I mean, “right up front,” you know? And when they pray, they pray these long, heavy prayers; and when they give, they give to be “seen of men.” See, these kinds of “ego needs” start scratching you off for “leadership.”

Humility has to be a characteristic among leaders. We should not think more of ourselves than we should. And you know how we are: We’re so starved for “appreciation” and “ego gratification,” so we use leadership as a way to satisfy “ego needs.”

The Principle of Leadership is not based on “ego gratification.” The Principle of Leadership is based on serving, and seeing that the people whom you’re serving value the service, benefit from the service and grow from the service; in order, then, that they become that to others as you have become that to them.

Intelligence is the mark of a True Leader

Another example of leadership is in the study of “sperm.” When studied under a microscope, the sperm is observed “wiggling” as it’s going toward The Goal. The sperm’s tail is giving it “mobility,” but it is the head that knows exactly what it has to do. So intelligence is in the head of the sperm.

In “Leadership,” every head that leads must have the intelligence to know where you’re going! You can’t lead somebody else and don’t know where you are going! Where’s your destination? What do you want to lead them to? What is The Goal?

Consider the sperm: It presses on toward The Goal in a hostile environment; yet, never complains, “Damn! This is a rough environment! Look at all these other sperm, man, they’re running toward the same Goal! Only one of us is going to make it. … I better swim, man!” And then they have to swim against gravity. So a lesson in this for leaders is to not complain that your cities are “hard”: “Oh man, Philadelphia’s a hard city!” Yeah, I know it is. … “These are the hardest-headed Negroes I’ve ever seen!” Well, you’re one of them then! Hell, if it’s “too hard” for you, sit down! But if you’re the right man, you don’t care anything about “how hard” the people are; because if you’re the right one, He made you harder than them!

If their “hardness” is going to melt you down, then, well, you shouldn’t have started! “Oh man, the environment is tough out here, just tough! These some terrible Negroes, you know what I’m saying?” Why are you complaining? The sperm wasn’t complaining: God tried it with a hostile environment, so don’t think that God is going to make it easy for us just because you want to help. You’ve got to set your mind for Struggle!


Intelligence is the mark of a leader. So in the “acquisition of knowledge,” you have got to know something in order to go someplace and take others with you. Allah (God) introduces Himself in the 2nd Surah of the Qur’an as “Alif Lam Mim,” which the scholars translate to mean: “I, Allah, Am The Best Knower.” Well, if you’re going to lead people, you have to know more than the people that you’re trying to lead. You can’t arrogate to yourself that you do know, because your works will bear witness of you.

Now watch the makeup of your body: Your head is the leader of your body, right? I hope … But some people’s bodies lead their head. Well, that’s “bad business,” because the head sees, the head hears, the head thinks, the head visions, the head speaks. And the body follows. You started, and I started, from one cell; and now there are billions of cells in your one body, led by your head, so the Principle of Leadership is that you have to preserve your body.

If Self-Preservation is the First Law of Nature, then what does it take for you to preserve this gift that God has given you, which is life itself? What does it take? See, you have to know what this body needs. You have to know how to get what it needs. You have to use your hands to fashion the thing that will live after you are gone.


Practicalities of Leadership: Sufficing the Needs of the People

Leadership provides the needs of the people. Where Black people live in cities throughout America, there are food deserts. Once the people learn the value of good food, then as a leader, you want to be able to produce food—“if you’re going to lead, you have to feed.” Jesus fed The Multitude! Well, we might as well start! Feed yourself good health, but my point is: Leadership suffices needs.

How are you going to tell me that in Philadelphia young people are dropping out of school? Have you ever studied why? Do you think they’re stupid? Oh, but some of us that have our degrees may say: “These stupid young people are quitting school!” Well, let me ask you a question: What had school done for you? I’m not knockin’ you; I’m asking a question, because if your degree has not made you productive, then it hasn’t served you well.

You have to learn what is requisite knowledge, what is proper knowledge. … Knowledge that suffices for The Time and The Circumstance that we have arrived at is The Knowledge that you have to get! And unfortunately, it’s not in the schools. These schools have been created by The Enemy to serve The Enemy! You can get something out of it, but who wants to go to a restaurant, and in the kitchen it’s dirty; there’s fecal matter from mice and rats, and the service is bad? Well that’s what the schools are! It’s from a dying educational system based on White Supremacy that is finished!

“Well, Minister Farrakhan, what are we going to do?” You create a system of education! You’re not stupid people, you just act that way! But a Leader will arise to say, “Away with this!” and set down a New Educational Paradigm that is fit for The Time in which we live.

“Economic Development”: Do you think because we went out and voted en masse for our brother President Barack Obama, that he is a “magician”? Even Houdini couldn’t get out of the trap that he’s in! He is part of a system; and he’s trying to save it! Sorry .… He’s late. And guess what? They’re not going to let him (President Obama) save them. Even though they need his kind of heart that he came with, that is gradually leaving him. …

Dear politicians, listen: I’m not against “politics,” but I know that you can’t solve the needs of the people. I know that! And the question is: When are you going to find it out? If you know that what you’re in cannot suffice the people’s needs, then what are you going to do? Are you going to still stay there, and think about: “Vote for me! Vote for me! I’ll give you jobs!” You’re a damn liar! You can’t create any jobs for these people—not in that system!

Your political savvy is valuable, but we’ve got to find a way to use it in a way that we can create the jobs that we say we need, because America is finished creating jobs for her millions of unemployed—and us, too? I have to tell you: We cannot sentence another generation of our people to the lie that “this system will work for them” because it’s not working for others! But it can be useful…

So some practicalities of Leadership are: 1) Food, 2) Clothing, 3) Shelter, 4) Jobs, 5) Banking, 6) Trade and 7) Commerce. We have to be Masters of Industry.

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