From the Pages of History

Stories, Pictures, Quotes & Trivia (and more) that tell the story of the world.

Archive for the tag “Harriet Tubman”

Leadership: Certain Trumpets

Garry Wills’ book on leadership, Certain Trumpets, provides stories of famous leaders through history. This post will deal with some of those leaders— what helped them succeed and, in some cases, what made them fail.

​President Franklin D. Roosevelt empathized with people during the Great Depression because he himself was a victim of polio. He learned to overcome that and he was able to effectively encourage Americans that they too would be able to pull through their troubles, and they did.

​The reason for Harriet Tubman’s success in saving slaves during the Civil War can be attributed to an injury that she suffered at the hands of a slave owner and which left her with brain damage. Says Willis, “She had already died once; she had nothing to lose” in her focused quests to bring slaves to freedom (41).

​Andrew Young was not the most well known civil rights leader. However, he possessed a calmness and advocated an openness that diffused potentially explosive situations. He was often able to find middle ground between whites and blacks, rich and poor, and America and the third world.

​Napoleon is considered one of the finest military leaders ever. His military leadership was superb, but when he took the kingship, it was clear that was not where his talents lay. Wills shows that he was a military man, first and foremost; he was not able to adapt to political leadership (97).

​At the time of King David, Israel was a Theocracy. David was ordained by God and therefore accepted and revered by his men. Dashing, heroic, smart, popular, “literally the favored of God” as Wills calls him, he gained quite a following (108). David’s rule was so glorious his son Solomon’s “bureaucratic skills” fell far short of his father’s legacy and Israel was split in two (111).

​Businessman Ross Perot understood the importance of good salesmanship. Certain Trumpets shows how he acted with purpose, “shrewdness and daring” (127). From actively training and encouraging good salespeople, to “piggybacking” on things he’d learned in order to make great what was mediocre, he was enthusiastic about what he did and that contributed to his success in sales (126).

​Pope John XXIII had to follow a set of traditions, but he was able to act for the best as he saw it. Though this angered some in the Catholic Church, it won the people over to him. Certain Trumpets tells us a popular title for him was “Good Pope John” (143).

George Washington shaped history by helping to bring forth the United States of America. He was highly influential and could have used his vast power for selfish ends, but his “virtue” and consideration of the nation before himself enabled the successful development of America into a nation for the good of all (155).

Socrates learned how to juggle thinking and theorizing, with interacting with people. He did not shy away and become a hermit, but actively pursued penetrating conversations, inviting others to join him in his quests for knowledge, and that was what allowed his ideas to become so popular in his time.

Carl Stotz founded Little League baseball. Though developing a junior version of the game, setting up and outfitting teams, and dealing with the bureaucracy that followed was not easy, he did it and mobilized parents and volunteers to help. Thanks to his dedication, many young boys have the chance to take part in the great American tradition that is baseball.

Creating and linking images of black equality to the “familiar,” “old ties and commitments” of American standards like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the flag, Martin Luther King, Jr. became a powerful inspiration for striving together in pursuit of “liberty and justice for all” (222).

Not all good leaders are good people, but even from ruthless and conniving Cesare Borgia lessons can be learned. He had bravado and daring, ready to engage Lady Luck, “cope with the unexpected” and “face the unforeseen” (242). But when all else failed, Borgia could fall back on the loyal followers he had carefully developed.

Dorothy Day was firmly grounded in her Catholic faith—it inspired her to an outpouring of help to the poor and needy. And because she wisely “rarely took a confrontational stance with the church,” she was free to challenge injustice in society (259).

So, through the examples of the leaders in Certain Trumpets, it’s clear that, depending on personal idiosyncrasies and motivations, styles of leadership do vary. Compassion, focus, adaptability, discernment—these are some of the many qualities great leaders must possess or develop, if they are to lead well. The common thread running through their life stories is the consideration of something outside themselves. Whether that something was devotion to religion or sensitivity to followers, the lesson to be learned is that selfishness gets one nowhere. The memorable leaders have a great motivator and a great vision, which makes them effective.

Leadership: The Perceptive Leader

Without question, styles of leadership are different in different times and contexts.

Compare Harriet Tubman with Andrew Young, who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. They both wanted to help their people, the African-Americans. But they did so in very different ways, Tubman going the radical route and Young working diplomatically. Harriet Tubman’s focused, tight leadership during the Civil War was necessary because of the time of war in which she lived; she was willing to risk it all by going all out to help slaves escape. The goal of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young was to win equality for their people in a different way—calmly and deliberately. Young, a diplomat, had to go slower and feel things out because of the turbulent times of the Civil Rights movement in which he was involved. Similar goals, different times, different methods.

Due to the Theocratic society that Israel was, charismatic King David, popular because he was chosen and blessed by God, was extremely influential. Because of what modern business is, with workers rights, unions and trade laws, a modern businessman have to use a different style of leadership than a 19th century factory owner would have used. According to Garry Wills’ book Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership, “leadership must differ from situation to situation.” A leader that understands the times and acts accordingly is most effective.

However, some things stay the same for leaders throughout the ages. Arguably the most essential thing for all leaders, no matter when they live, is that they have to care for and understand their followers. Garry Wills accurately states in Certain Trumpets, “The leader most needs followers.” During the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt understood the need for encouragement in America and worked to boost morale as well as the economy. Harriet Tubman was so concerned with the safety of her operation and “passengers” that on her trips she would rather kill a slave than let him go back, because of the risk of betrayal. Business owners will not be successful unless they take into consideration the needs and wants of their employees. Considering the followers is one thing that must be done by ALL leaders.

Leadership: Right to Rule—Legitimate Authority

I recently finished up a Thomas Edison State College course on Leaders in History. So I though I’d share some of what I learned in the course. Several upcoming posts will be on this topic 🙂

Legitimate authority is the concept of a leader having or attaining a “right” to be in charge. This is addressed in the book Traditional Classics on Leadership, by Wren, Hicks, and Price, which gathers writings from famous and infamous people throughout history on the many facets of and issues relating to leadership.

One leader who exemplified the ideas of legitimate authority was Harriet Tubman. Sure, she could be tough on the people she led; she ran a tight ship because any mistakes could put many people in jeopardy. But the slaves who joined to Harriet’s ranks chose to be there because of the advantages she had as a knowledgable, connected member of the Underground Railroad. Hobbes and Locke (Wren, Hicks & Price) speak of people joining to a leader in order to have an easier, safer time. Though something may be doable on one’s own, it is often desirable to join to a leader.

Although not a traditionally elected leader, Tubman nevertheless fulfilled the requirements Calvin stated, of being a terror to the evil and delivering the poor, oppressed and needy (Wren, Hicks & Price, p. 141). Thus, she had a right to be leading as her goals were ones to which all legitimate leaders should aspire.

However, there were also leaders who were quite popular in their time, but who we know from history as oppressive and tyrannical. How did they gather the followers that they did?

Jim Jones was “charismatic and disturbed,” as says. He started out with noble aims like desegregation and civil rights, but he let his personality and wants overcome those and started to selfishly force people into the way he wanted. By then he had become too powerful for his followers to refuse. The following from says it well:

“Jim Jones attracted a large following to his Peoples Temple through sermons on tolerance, social responsibility and community. As the church grew, however, the sermons on equality and tolerance were belied by his own increasing demands for personal loyalty and obedience. The extent of his authority meant that his eventual breakdown transformed a personal tragedy into one of the largest mass deaths in American history.”

People joined Hitler because he was inspiring, making them feel patriotic and proud of their country. But when he started committing atrocities they refused to see or accept that and turned a blind eye, or continued to perform what they considered their duty, as seen in the Nuremberg trials. It seems that when people started to want to leave, the tyrannical leaders had grown so strong that it was very difficult to do so.

Stories like these demonstrate the importance of followers needing to be careful of who and what they join. People like to join to good causes or to ones that make them feel good. But crafty leaders can lie to gain a following. However, eventually their true colors will show and they will be revealed as tyrants and destroyers.

Traditional Classics on Leadership by Wren, Hicks & Price (2004).

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