Archetypes: Leon Sharpe
An interview with Leon Sharpe, founder and principal of the Praxis Group, a strategic consulting firm that specializes in leveraging workforce diversity, building inclusive communities, coaching effective leaders and advancing institutional change for universities, school districts, corporations and nonprofit organizations. Sharpe is an adjunct professor at Webster University’s School of Communications and a consultant to FOCUS Leadership St. Louis. Last month, he and co-author, Linda Holtzman, published the second edition of “Media Messages: What Film, Television, and Popular Music Teach Us About Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation.” He also serves on the boards of Neighborhood Houses, the Ethics Project, and the Griot Museum of Black History, where this interview took place.
What is your current frame of mind? Upbeat.
What is your favorite smell? Fresh baked dough; a burst of fragrance when a woman brushes past; the smell of an infant—unless they need a new diaper.
What is one word that describes you? Unflappable in most situations, inquisitive, attentive, attuned.
What did you eat for breakfast today? I had some yogurt with pears and walnuts, though I wanted pancakes.
What is your most marked characteristic? I can walk into most rooms where people are engaged and read the dynamics of interaction in a short time.
What is your greatest weakness? I battle with time. I try to fit too many things into finite temporal space.
What trait do you most admire in others? I admire people who treat others well and don’t feel the need to be grumpy and short just because they’re talented or powerful. People who own the space they occupy and yet also respect what others have to offer. People who regularly make the effort to do things with integrity.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life? The presence of God. I’m reminded of it every single day.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I accept my imperfections, but I would like to be better at being me; I relish the potential that resides in that.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being a father; raising my children.
Which living person do you most admire? Muhammad Ali for the stance he took and the way he faced down his fears.
With which historical figure do you most identify? W.E.B. Du Bois.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing,who or what would it be? An eagle on a higher perch, or a scientist.
What is your most treasured possession? My sense of humor.
What is your greatest fear? My fear is that we as a society will let current trends toward increased social and economic disparities continue unchecked without doing what we can to interrupt them. We’ve already allowed an imperfect democracy to become even less than that.
Who are your favorite writers? Langston Hughes, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende, Alice Monroe, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and August Wilson.
Which artists do you admire most? I admire the big band guys like Duke Ellington and Count Basie for their savvy, creative leadership. Also, the jazz innovators–Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Contrane–who dared to break new ground.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be? With my parents, who are no longer here. I have some wonderful pictures I’d like to show them.
What is one thing you wish would happen? That we would stop the madness and get serious about protecting our planet before any more species go extinct or we extinguish ourselves. That as humans we begin to get some of the primitive “isms” out of the way so we can fulfill our evolutionary potential.
What is one thing you want to do before you die? To watch my grandkids grow to adulthood and become who they are called to be. To have a few more really good adventures in the time I have left.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be? Listen to that inner voice, young man; take heed.
Photo credit: Wesley Law