Servant Leadership Profile: Harriet Tubman – Black History Month

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery & became an abolitionist. Later, she also became a Union spy during the American Civil War. She was a true servant leader

Note: In honor of Black History Month, I am highlighting great servant leaders from African American history. Today’s recognition goes to Harriet Tubman.

Who Was Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and became an abolitionist after escaping to the free states. Later, she also fought for the rights of elderly African-Americans and became a Union spy during the American Civil War. Harriet was beaten terribly by different masters as a child. In one instance, she received a tramatic blow to her head, when she refused help a slave master detain a runaway slave. Suffering from that injury included headaches, seizures and what modern docters attributed as powerful dreams and visions. These symptoms never ended throughout her  life. Tubman, however, ascribed the source of her visions and dreams to messages from God.

Harriet Tubman Servant LeaderWhat Harriet Did

Through her actions to free other slaves, Tubman became known as “Moses” and attracted the attenion of southern slave owners who had bounties on her totaling approximately $40,000. She is accredited with at least thirteen missions that freed more than 70 slaves, through the Underground Railroad. She was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition early in the civil war, which freed an estimated 700 slaves. Included among her accomplishments are:

  • Escaped slavery to Pennsylvania
  • Freed her family from slavery in Baltimore
  • Freed at least 70 slaves through the underground railroad
  • Established a home for eldery Black Americans (in which she later resided at the end of her days)
  • Following the Fugitive Slave Law, escorted runaway slaves all the way North to Canada
  • Served the Union army as a cook, nurse and eventually an armed scout and spy
  • Lead a Union military effort that freed approximately 700 slaves
  • Was a women’s suffrage activist
  • Helped to start a home for elderly African-Americans

Servant Leadership Quotes by Harriet Tubman

  • “I can’t die but once.”
  • “I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”
  • “I never lost a passenger.” (on the Underground Railroad)
  • “I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.”
  • “Lord, I’m going to hold steady on to You and You’ve got to see me through.”
  • “Never wound a snake; kill it.”
  • “Quakers almost as good as colored. They call themselves friends and you can trust them every time.”
  • “You’ll be free or die!”
  • “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Why Harriet Tubman is a Servant Leader

Harriet’s risk of harm to herself did not deter from an unending battle of freedom for slaves. Whether risk her life for a single slave or hundreds at a time, Harriet did whatever she could to free others. Freedom for herself only seemed to motivate her further in the struggle against slavery. The personal afflications suffered in her childhood were not treated as an excuse but a driving force behind her mission. She served those she loved and she loved a great many. These and other attributes of Harriet Tubman’s character and life reflected many servant leader attributes, including: Healing, Empathy, Persuasion, Foresight, Stewardship, Conceptualization, Building Community and Comitment to the Growth of People.

Further Reading on HarrietTubman


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

3 thoughts on “Servant Leadership Profile: Harriet Tubman – Black History Month”

  1. I appreciate your article on Harriet Tubman. I admire her servant leadership so much I wrote a book about it, 30 Lessons in Love, Leadership, and Legacy from Harriet Tubman. I hope you and everyone will one day see Harriet Tubman as a Great American Leader and not just highlight her life and accomplishments during Black History month, but at anytime you want to highlight a Great Leader. Karol

  2. This is true leadership. I am forever impacted by her dedication to women suffrage. I will replicate her strength and compassion in my leadership roles.

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