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In Honor of Black History Month: 7 Leadership Lessons we can learn from Black Leaders

Ever since I was a student in elementary school, I have always had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a variety of amazing Black History Month programs. These programs help us to celebrate our culture and remember the leaders and ancestry of our past which has enabled us to have the privileges that we possess today. Although many African Americans will be at the fore front of these Black History Month celebrations throughout our nation, I personally believe that it's extremely important that every American embrace this amazing time of year. The primary reason why I feel so strongly about this is because like several other cultures within our nation, the African American culture has been a key ingredient to the success, prosperity, and advancement of our nation. To help us all celebrate this amazing time of the year, I would like to provide you with seven leadership lessons that we can all learn from past and present leaders within the African American culture.

Leadership Lesson #1
Dr. King teaches us that Great Leaders Create DREAMS Bigger than THEMSELVES

There are several incredible things we can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a leader, but one of the greatest lessons that I have learned from Dr. King over my lifetime is that great leaders not only create big dreams and visions, but they create and pursue visions and dreams that are bigger than themselves. In essence, there focus is not just about self, it's about the present and future generation of people. As leaders, let us all embrace this amazing leadership quality of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Leadership Lesson #2
Rosa Parks teaches us that Great Leaders make an IMPACT because they have COURAGE

There were several men and women who were instrumental during the Civil Rights movement, but one of the reasons I personally believe we celebrate the life of Rosa Parks is because she had the courage to stand up for what she believed regardless of the outcome. In essence, she was able to make an impact because she did not let fear, danger, or negative threats stop her from standing up for what was right. As leaders, it is important that we have the courage to stand for what we believe is right and embrace the amazing leadership qualities of Rosa Parks.

Leadership Lesson #3
George Carver teaches us that Great Leaders must have Personal Responsibility

George Washington Carver has done so many positive things for our nation as a leader, but one of the most powerful quotes that I heard him say was, 99% of failure is because of excuses that people make. In essence, a leader that created peanut butter and several other useful things from the peanut stated that most people fail to obtain success because they are always making excuses for something. As leaders, it is not only important that we take personal responsibility, but it's extremely critical that we focus on the things we can change verses developing a variety of different reasons why we cannot get something accomplished as a leader.

Leadership Lesson #4
Harriett Tubman teaches us that Great Leaders make huge sacrifices for the people they SERVE

Harriet Tubman is not only an amazing woman but also courageous, strong, powerful, and a great leader. Although I can use her life to paint the picture of several qualities that we must all possess as leaders in the 21st Century, one of the greatest things that stand out to me about her life is the fact that she was willing to put her life on the line for the people she served as a leader. In essence, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly Ms. Tubman made sacrifices and put her life on the line for the people she served. As leaders, it is extremely important that we are willing to make sacrifices and go the extra mile for the people we serve as leaders.

Leadership Lesson #5
Frederick Douglass teaches us that adversity, rejection, and challenges are perquisites of GREAT LEADERSHIP.

There are several amazing lessons that we can learn from Frederick Douglass, but one of the greatest lessons that I have learned is, "Without Struggle, there is NO PROGRESS". In essence, Frederick Douglass teaches us that struggle is not only a part of leadership, but without it, you will not reach the progression that each of us can experience when we have the right perspective on challenges, failure, adversity, and rejection. As leaders, let us embrace the leadership lesson of Frederick Douglass by seeing every negative circumstance or challenge as a step closer towards reaching our fullest potential as leaders of the 21st Century.

Leadership Lesson #6
Malcolm X teaches us that Great Leaders must be educated if they desire to succeed in the future.

As you might know, there are several great leadership lessons that we can learn from Malcolm X. One of the greatest lessons I have learned from him is stated in one of his quotes which says, "Education is a passport to success in the Future". In essence, in order to be a great leader, it is important that we have vision, character, courage, and resilience, but it's critical that we are well-educated in our area of expertise. As leaders, let us embrace the leadership lessons of Malcolm X by making sure that we obtain the education, training, development, and expertise required to become a great leader of the 21st Century.

Leadership Lesson #7
President Obama teaches us that Great Leaders believe and pursue the Impossible

Like most of the leaders listed, there are several leadership qualities that we can obtain from President Obama. One of the greatest leadership lessons which stands out to me about President Obama is the fact that he had the faith to believe in doing something that had never been done before. In essence, not only was their never a black president in American History, but what President Obama did was something most people in America probably thought would never happen. Yet, because of President Obama's belief in the overcoming the impossible, he now sits as the first African American President in US History. As leaders, let us embrace this type of attitude that President Obama exemplifies as a leader so that we can create and do things that have never been done in American History.

These are just a few leadership lessons and things we can learn about from the amazing African American leaders of our past and present. Let us all embrace these wonderful lessons and give thanks for the amazing men and women that are communities and entire nation have been blessed with throughout the years. 

Original article published on Vison XY newsletter on 02/08/2012

Joshua Fredenburg is a National Speaker, Author, Leadership Expert, and Generation Y Television Commentator that speaks on current issues and is on a mission as a National Speaker to empower at least 1 BILLION LEADERS WORLDWIDE with effective leadership strategies that will enable them to make a positive impact in their community, nation, and world and become one of America's Next Top Leaders! For the past seven years, not only has Joshua appeared as a television guest on BET, the Wayne Brady Show, the KTLA Morning Show in Los Angeles, and many other familiar radio and television programs throughout the country, but he has also served as a dynamic Keynote Speaker in 40 different states for lectures, leadership conferences, retreats and trainings at high schools, colleges, and corporate events.

In addition to his successful speaking and television career, Joshua has published three books, including most recently "a Call to Action", and has developed an annual national leadership conference, Circle of Change Leadership Conference, that not only prepares student leaders in college for executive-level leadership positions after graduation, but connects student leaders with executives from companies such as Pepsi, Columbia Pictures, Hewlett Packard, CNN, Fox Searchlight Productions, UPS, VH-1, Nestle, and American Airlines to name a few. For more information about Joshua Fredenburg, visit his website at