Leadership refers to the capacity to adapt the surroundings so that every individual feels authorized to contribute inventively to solving the problems. There are various ways and styles through which leadership is exercised. The common styles include the democratic style, autocratic style, visionary style and the lazier fair style (Bracey, 2011). The style a leader chooses to use to give direction to his subordinates largely defines whether the leader is successful or not, whether he is an ethical leader and whether he is a servant leader. Fannie Lou Hamer, an American voting rights activist and civil leader, is one of the renowned female leaders in American history (Bracey, 2011). She is importantly known for her achievements in the American states. Like any other leader, Hamer had a few failures in her leadership process. However, this is not to say that she was not an ethical leader whose great emphasis was serving the people. This paper seeks to draw attention on Fannie Lou Hamer as a leader, with basic emphasis on her success, failures, leadership approach and ethical attributes. Consequently, the paper draws lessons from Hamer’s leadership which can be used in contemporary places of work.
Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer was born on 6th of October 1917 on a plantation in Montgomery County, Mississippi (Bracey, 2011). Hamer was a granddaughter of a slave and a last born in a family of twenty children. Mrs. Hamer’s parents were sharecroppers in Mississippi (Bracey, 2011). She started assisting her parents in the cotton plantations at an early age of six years. Owing to the harsh economic condition of her family, Hamer underwent approximately six years of formal education. She was compelled to drop out of school at the age of twelve in order to fully work on the fields and sustain her family. At a grown age she married Perry "Pap" Hamer, who was also a sharecropper and carried on with farming until 1960s (Bracey, 2011).
Accomplishments/major successes of Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer is a renowned figure in the American states owing to her various accomplishments as a leader. Hamer was a fighter in the American Civil Rights Movement (Jordan &Williams, 1972). Regardless of the existing literacy regulations, Hamer fought for the right to vote in 1962 as an affiliate of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (Jordan &Williams, 1972). She held a strong conviction that it was necessary to educate the black Americans on diverse economic and political issues to make them successful.
Apart from championing for the voting rights, Hamer also protested against the relentless poverty conditions within the Black community. This, she did by encouraging economic support for the Black Americans. Notably, she established the Freedom Farms Corporation as one of her projects during her time (Jordan &Williams, 1972). She established the cooperation with a goal that the underprivileged farmers could buy a portion of the farm in due course.
Fannie Lou Hamer is also revered for setting up the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (Jordan &Williams, 1972). Initially, the blacks in Mississippi were not allowed in the Democratic Party of Mississippi. Following this, Hammer established the new Party through which they confronted the all-white composition of political contenders at the Democratic Convention of 1964(Jordan &Williams, 1972). At this point, Mrs. Hamer contested for congress but did not succeed because the existing party did not consent to the placing of her name on the ballot. Nevertheless, Hamer accrued more votes than her rival. In the last decade of Hamer’s life, she was identified by diverse national organizations and learning institutions for her revolutionary work on behalf of Black Americans (Jordan &Williams, 1972).
Failures of Fannie Lou Hamer
Like any other leader, Fannie Lou Hamer had her own weaknesses inspite of her great achievements. First, Fannie Lou Hamer was too mindful of the people, even at her own expense. This was both her strength but also her utmost weakness (Jordan &Williams, 1972) .She got out of her way to fight for the people’s rights even when it meant torture to herself. The leader for instance, was jailed and severely tortured on various occasions. For effective leadership however, there needs to be a balance between the self and others around an individual (Jordan &Williams, 1972). As a leader also, Mrs. Hamer’s works were majorly centered on the Black American’s concerns. Owing to this, some critics have referred to her as a partial and bias leader. They argue that Hamer’s policies were biased against the white people living in America (Jordan &Williams, 1972). True leadership however aims at reinforcing equality in society.
Fannie Lou Hamer; as an ethical leader
Ethics can be defined as the attractive and suitable values and morals of a person or society at large (Spears, 2001). Ethics are indispensable in leadership. Ethical leadership refers to the knowledge of one’s core values and having the courage to live by them in all aspects of an individual’s life, in service of the common good (Spears, 2001). Throughout her experience, Fannie Lou Hamer grew as an ethical leader. She displayed the path of how humanity should exist in the world through her fights for freedom with modesty and justice that constitutes all people (Spears, 2001). Most importantly, Hamer’s experience enabled her to be constant in her fight for good and opposition to evil. She emphasized that people should be commitment in the fight for the good needed in the world and reiterate and support the respect for and commitment to the masses (Spears, 2001). Hamer’s experience also made her responsible for other people’s concerns in society. This explains why Hamer was reluctant to leave Mississippi to any other place, since she felt that residents in Mississippi needed her. Being black. Mrs.Hamer also came to respect her race and taught other people around her on the need to esteem the distinctiveness, dignity and ethical imperative attached to being Black (Spears, 2001).
Fannie Lou Hamer; as a servant leader
Of the many leadership styles, Fannie Lou Hamer exemplified a unique style; servant leadership (Spears, 2001). A servant leader is one who is dedicated to serving others through a cause, a crusade, a movement or a campaign with a charitable but not selfish goal (Spears, 2001). This type of leadership, aims at benefitting those being served. The leader inspires the followers and focuses on instilling confidence in them, by showing an understanding of their concerns (Spears, 2001. Having been raised from the same socioeconomic position with the people of Mississippi, Hamer understood the unspoken plights of the poor. Hitherto, she sought their full involvement in the demonstration towards freedom. A servant leader never belittles people owing to their shortcomings but the leader exercises empathy with the people. firstly, without having an interest in an instituted organizational image to preserve and project, Hamer worked from the standpoint of reciprocally shared responsibility with other black Mississippians in coming up with the methods and means of enfranchisement (Spears,2001). Also, Hamer did not lead by instilling decisions to the people; instead she aimed at making the people take charge for their own liberation.
Generally, Fannie Lou Hammer’s leadership style of a servant leader can be applied in contemporary working places to yield maximum results. Just like Hamer, today managers can desist from sole decision making. Instead they can consult with the other employees to ensure that the decisions they arrive at are inclusive of all people’s interests. In this way, every employee in the work place will be focused towards achieving the organization’s goal. In order to maximize output at the workplace today, the managers can also adopt Hamer’s style of putting herself in the position of others. In this way, the manager can be able to understand the concerns of all people in the organization and therefore address them most effectively.
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