It's Better to Be a Leader With Passion

Can courage propel your vision from a personal cause to national platform?


Leadership expert Troy Jackson speaks about the leadership shown by Fannie Lou Hamer, who was a part of the civil rights movement in 1964. Fannie Lou Hamer was a brave woman who rallied for the right to vote for African Americans. Troy goes on to tell that it doesn’t take a CEO or a manager to be a great leader; Fannie Lou was far from having either of those titles, but still had the bravery and passion to make even the president of the United States feel uneasy.

When I think about bravery and the civil rights movement, there are so many stories that could be told about Dr. King. That could be told about Rosa Parks. That could be told about hundreds and hundreds, many of whose names we don't even know. The story that comes to mind for me was Fannie Lou Hamer. Fannie Lou Hamer tried to go register to vote. An African American sharecropper, poor, poorly educated with a big passion and loads of bravery. She kept going to try to register to vote. And, when that pathway, after beating, after being kicked off her land, losing her job as a sharecropper, she started organizing. She started working with people in her community.

She rallied together with these college students to go to Atlantic City to argue that the votes of people of color in Mississippi should be counted by the Democratic Party at the Atlantic City Convention. She was so courageous and brave that she spoke in front of a national television audience about what was going on. About questioning America, questioning America where she could not vote. Questioning if this was the land of the free and the home of the brave, if she experienced and lived bravery every day and was denied through violence and oppression.

When she started speaking on national television, President Lyndon Johnson was so nervous about her voice. He called a press conference about something absolutely meaningless, so the cameras would not be on Fannie Lou Hammer. Bob Moses recently said about that experience, the Democratic National Convention in 1964, that, "Lyndon Baines Johnson wasn't afraid of Martin Luther King. He was afraid of the voice and bravery of Fannie Lou Hamer and what she represented." Three things about leadership we see from Fannie Lou Hamer. One is that leaders don't have to have doctoral degrees or be CEOs. Leaders can be everyday people who demonstrate bravery. A second lesson from Fannie Lou Hamer is that her leadership was authentic. It was rooted in the experiences she had had. She was able to speak and lead from the gut because she bore the bruises of being courageous and brave for the cause of justice. A third lesson about leadership from Fannie Lou Hamer is that bravery is not primarily defined by a moment. It's defined by a pattern, a persistence, a willingness day after day, week after week, month after month to fight for what needs to change. That's what we as leaders need to pursue.


Troy Jackson

Leadership expert Troy Jackson has been involved in community organizing for four years—first as a volunteer leader and then as a faith organizer in Cincinnati and throughout Ohio. He has been actively involved in calling for comprehe...

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