History remembers Harriet Tubman as a civil rights leader and a progressive abolitionist in the 19th century. She was born a slave in Maryland and by the age of 9 she was working as a nurse. At the age of 13, she was already plowing fields, driving oxen, and cutting wood. A fateful blow to the head during an escape attempt of another slave made her lose her value as a slave, but little did anyone know just how valuable she could be.
Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad Are Synonymous
What we can learn from the leadership qualities of Harriet Tubman can be seen in the actions she took during the Civil War era to help slaves escape from harsh, brutal working conditions. The blow she took to the head caused her to suffer from random bouts of narcolepsy, where she would simply fall asleep in a conversation. Despite this physical adversity, however, she never gave up. That’s what leaders must do today as well: never give up.
It’s easy to procrastinate or not do something because it seems like it is too hard or the odds are stacked too much against you. Imagine what would have happened to all those lives that Harriet Tubman saved if she felt that helping people get out of unimaginable conditions was too hard or could wait for another day, another week, or another year! Do today what needs to be done today.
Harriet Tubman Defines the Word “Courage”
Many people don’t realize that Tubman wasn’t just involved in the Underground Railroad. She was also actively involved in the Civil War, commanding an intelligence group of spies and river pilots. She and her group would ferry escaping slaves to their freedom and their knowledge of the area was invaluable to the Union army fighting the Confederacy. By relaying this information, she exposed herself to both sides of the war, but the rewards in doing so were great.
It takes great courage to be a leader as well. Anyone can make safe decisions that maintain the status quo. What a great leader does is evaluate the risk/reward scenario of each situation, discover what risks can be tempered, and be courageous enough to step forward, even if there is a chance that failure could happen. There can be fear in a leader, but there must be wisdom and courage to overcome that fear for someone to truly become a leader.
Harriet Tubman Didn’t Stop At Slavery
After the war was over and the slaves were freed, Harriet Tubman turned her attention to a new crusade: women’s rights. She worked in a very private way during her time, receiving very little recognition for what she did despite the amount of adversity she faced every day. Living off a small pension from her war efforts that she had to fight to get, Tubman showed that leadership isn’t about getting recognition. It’s about getting results.
What is your leadership style? And what could you learn today from the example of Harriet Tubman to make a better decision the next time you face a tough choice?