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Russell Simmons, co-founder of the Def Comedy Jam hip-hop label and internationally recognized media magnate has

unwittingly performed a miracle, he has raised the dead. By misrepresenting the life, legacy and leadership of Harriet Tubman, the most recognized conductor on the Underground Railroad, he has brought the woman known as the Black Moses back to life. His mis-representation of Ms. Tubman in the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape is beyond words and retribution. Simmons has apologized, yet the stain, stench and stigma remain. Harriet Tubman was one of the greatest leaders in American history. Born a slave named Araminta Harriet Ross, her destiny was seemingly sealed. But she was not satisfied with her circumstance. She dared to step out into the unknown and to lead others as well at a time when she was not a citizen but chattel. Historians do not agree on the number of enslaved Africans Tubman led to freedom but there is consensus on her impact on the institution of slavery. This excerpt from chapter three in the book, Innovate: Lessons from

the Underground Railroad contributes to the conversation about Tubmans


leadership. Harriet

Tubman, originally named Araminta Harriet Ross, was born in 1822. She helped guide hundreds of the enslaved to freedom. Slaveholders offered tens of thousands of dollars for her capture. Tubman met like-minded people whom she could trust in order to realize her goal: freedom for her people. In a sense, she managed her brand, her

reputation, and her desire for the enslaved to be free. She used her instinct and the tools placed in her path. The Black Moses, as she was called, didnt have technology in order to communicate. She was a disruptive force just like the Underground Railroad. She was an out-ofthe-box innovator, Black, female, and an enslaved person implementing creative strategies for success. Harriet Tubmans story isnt chronicled in most leadership books, guides, case studies, websites, or manuals. Tubman is definitely a Jim Collins level five leader, as described in his book Good to Great. Collins level five leader doesnt take credit for initiatives; they operate with integrity, encouraging and empowering the team to succeed as well as acknowledging their contributions. In Tubmans case, she gave the credit to God. She prayed, expected, and received deliverance. She clearly mastered what Collins calls the Stockdale Paradox: believing no matter the situation. Innovators have to believe in the impossible. By speaking directly to her passengers, Tubman embodied true leadership without electronic tools. Face-to-face communication is still the most effective way to convey a message. In her day, part of Tubmans brilliance was due to her mastery of the art of communication. Leaders must exercise the art of listening and sharing information. Instinct, intuition, and the internal voice are valuable characteristics for leaders. Tubman embraced her spirituality and utilized it on the UGRR. In order to innovate, one must have faith it can work; risk takers are fear- less enough to follow a hunch. Tubman led from within and her followers believed in her intuition. The ability not only to hear, but also to heed the voice within, is immensely important; not only for the unofficial leaders on the UGRR, but also for innovators of the information superhighway. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams both credit following hunches for part of their success. This is the case author Malcolm Gladwell makes in the book Blink; in certain instances, having too much data can be a hindrance.
In the documentary Ethnic Notions, the depictions of then Negro women as mammies, pickaninnies and sapphires it is absolutely

unacceptable to see those same images in 2013. The true irony is if Harriet Tubman were alive today, she would have ignored ignorant antics and continued completing the assignment she was given. With death threats and bounties on her head, she did not have time to entertain frivolity. The good news is the resurrection of Ms. Tubman has also jolted other souls to life. The wires in a virtual box to paraphrase the words of the late Edward R. Murrow and paternal figure in broadcast journalism history are not being used to serve the public interest, convenience or necessity. Yet this public debacle just might help to put a necessary movement back on track. After all, the Underground Railroad never formally ceased operation. May the spirit of Harriet Tubman live on purpose.

Sybril Bennett, Ph.D is a Professor of Journalism at Belmont University and the author of Innovate: Lessons from the Underground Railroad a comparative analysis of the UGRR and the Internet as among the most effective, innovative and disruptive networks in US history.