Harriet Tubman was a champion of the Underground Railroad. As a “conductor” on the Railroad, she led roughly 13 trips to rescue family and friends. Born into slavery in Maryland in the 1820’s, Harriet endured more than twenty years as a slave. In 1849 she decided to attempt an escape, and took off with two of her brothers, but on the way the boys got cold feet and returned to the plantation. Determined to make it to freedom, Harriet continued on and eventually arrived in the free state of Pennsylvania.

Finally free after years of slavery, Harriet had a difficult choice to make: stay free and start a new life, or risk losing it all by going back to save her family and friends. Harriet bravely chose the latter.

“…there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land; and my home, after all, was down in Maryland, because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. But I was free, and they should be free.” -Harriet Tubman

The Fugitive Slave Law—which passed a year after Harriet escaped—made rescuing the people she loved in Maryland a little more difficult. The new law made freedom harder to find because it required law enforcement in the northern states to capture and return escaped slaves to the south. Harriet wasn’t about to let the law stop her, she decided to extend the escape route all the way up to Canada, where the law didn’t apply.

A Firm Yet Loving Leader
Harriet Tubman lacked any kind of formal education. She couldn’t write, and she wasn’t the most eloquent speaker- but when it came to leadership and ingenuity, Harriet was one of the best in the business.

Harriet knew what needed to be done and executed with precision even if it meant pulling a gun on her own people.

Harriet-Tubman_640x200“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” -Harriet Tubman 

Harriet carried a pistol on all her trips. The pistol served as protection, but it was also used it to motivate the slaves. On the long, uncertain journey from Maryland to Canada, some of the escaped slaves would become distraught. On the Underground Railroad they barely slept, and they never knew whom they could trust or when their next warm meal would be. If the uncertainty became too much and a slave threatened to turn back, Harriet was forced to pull out the gun and keep them going.

If someone left the group, they would certainly be coerced to give away the people and the safe houses that supported the Underground Railroad. A defector could crumble the whole operation and put many good people into dangerous situations. Harriet was not going to let that happen.

On the other hand, Harriet also understood the importance of being a source of inspiration to the slaves she was guiding. She would tell stories to make them laugh or to remind them of their past difficulties as a slave to keep them focused on finding freedom. She knew the importance of giving the people hope. Even when something didn’t seem right or when she was navigating through unknown territory, Harriet always made an effort to hide her fear or concern. She would never have saved as many people as she did had she not calmed her fears and led with confidence.

A Well-Oiled Machine
Harriet Tubman concocted perfectly orchestrated escape plans. She would mimic bird sounds or sing songs at varying tempos to let slaves know if it was safe to escape out of their cabins at night. She eventually learned that Saturday night was prime time to lead escapes because print shops were not open on Sundays. That meant that even though slave owners knew the slaves had escaped, they couldn’t get the word out until Monday when the reward posters could be printed and distributed.

Harriet was a brilliant leader who was the perfect combination of firmness and love. Though uneducated, her dedication to freeing her friends and family forced her to acquire a specific and valuable set of skills. Ultimately those skills, combined with her leadership qualities, brought about the freedom of roughly 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad. In addition to saving slaves, when the Civil War broke out, Harriet jumped right in as a spy for the Union army. One of her greatest achievements in the war was aiding in the rescue of 700 slaves from South Carolina. Harriet dedicated her life to helping people, and fought to save others until the day she died.

We can all take a page from Harriet Tubman’s book. Whether we want to be a better, more loving friend and family member or a more effective leader, Harriet’s story is one worth digging into a little bit deeper to discover a great example of dedication, leadership, and success.

What are your thoughts on leadership style? What works best for you? Leave a comment below and tell us! You can find Braden on Twitter.

Employees are learning differently than they were 10 years ago, and it’s time for L&D leaders to listen to the crowd and change some things. That may be uncomfortable for a lot of people in L&D, but it is unavoidable. The good news is you have choices too: You can try to change everyone else’s preferences and habits or you can change how enterprise learning works. Here are 7 stats that show why learning isn’t limited to L&D anymore to help you decide:

Almost 70% of the people we asked told us the first thing they do when they need to learn something new for their jobs is Google it and read or watch what they find. We are all “just Googling it”, and not just because it’s expedient. We’re doing it because, in many cases, Google is all we really need. 

– Less than 50% say they look specifically for a course, but they’re inclined to do so on their own.

– Fewer than 12% said they ask their L&D or HR department for courses or other resources.

– By a 3.5 to 1 margin, people tell us they believe their own self-directed learning is more effective in helping them be successful at work than the training provided by their employers. 

– More than 70% of the people we’ve surveyed say they’ve learned something for their job from an article, a video or a book in the last 24 hours.

-Informal learning needs to be valued more highly. Most workers told us they believe that up to 60% of the knowledge and skills they use at work come from informal learning.

4 of the top 10 learning tools are consumer social networks.  Additionally, only 4 the top 25 tools for learning are enterprise products, and only one is an LMS.

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Learning is not limited to L&D anymore. Learners are adults who have a good idea of what they need. In many cases, they say they don’t need a day-long course or even a 2-hour workshop or a 1-hour video. They just need some targeted articles and a few short video clips — just enough to get started. It’s time to start embracing the ‘random’, ‘just in time’, and ‘just because learning’ and open our learning and development tools to include the entire learning ecosystem.

Learn how Degreed can help you leverage the entire learning ecosystem here.

 

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