(First published in February 2013 on www.theclubsv.org/news.)
Leaders come in all forms. Often we think of leaders as those who lead countries, businesses, teams. Those who have “power.” But that is too narrow a definition. One of my childhood heroines was Harriet Tubman. She was, perhaps, an unusual heroine for an East Bay suburban 10-year-old, but her story moved me. She had absolutely no power as society viewed power. Yet, she helped create the Underground Railroad, led hundreds of slaves to freedom and, in the process, affected history in a dramatic way. She didn’t do it for glory or money, or even to change history. She did it because it was the right thing to do. And, she did it in the face of great danger to herself and those she led.
Reading her biography, I remember thinking, “she could have made one run through the railroad and she would have been free.” But she went back. That surprised me. She must have felt a drive beyond herself, to help those who needed her, those who did not have her strength, her resolve. She was absolutely selfless in the face of unfathomable danger.
How did Ms. Tubman succeed? She was the ultimate networker – connecting with other abolitionists who formed the Underground Railroad as well as with those bound by slavery. Working tirelessly, day and night, she gathered information, ensuring the path she charted was safe for her passengers. She figured out logistics. She inspired – and challenged – her followers. Women and men alike trusted her with their lives. No passengers were lost under her leadership. Amazing. She succeeded with so little and against all odds. She overcame unimaginable barriers. All with no conventional “power.”
Our challenge: overcome our barriers to success. We have more power than Ms. Tubman. We have voices that are heard. We have better tools to network. We have support. We can go where we want. What is stopping us? If Harriet Tubman can make such a difference and be such an effective leader with so little, why can’t we?