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Leadership & Lessons Learned: Past, Present and Future

I. Introduction

II. Lessons Learned

Chief Joseph


III. Analytical Comparison- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Informal Authority

Principals Vs. Adapting

The Vision

IV Putting it All Together


The purpose of this paper is to extract the essence of the leadership lessons presented in two case studies, and to apply these lessons to a contemporary political leader. In an analysis of a classical historical leader one may find parallels of between the plight of the leaders of old and those of today. The case studies chosen for this paper are: "An Indian's View of Indian Affairs" by Chief Joseph, and Antigone: A Woman Challenges Authority. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be the contemporary leader to which the lessons of leadership will be applied.

Lessons Learned

Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce was known to his people as: "Thunder Traveling to the Loftier Mountain Heights." In 1877, the Nez Perce were ordered to move to a reservation in Idaho. Chief Joseph agreed at first. But after members of his tribe killed a group of settlers, he tried to flee to Canada with his followers, traveling over 1500 miles through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. He led his people in an attempt to resist the takeover of their lands in the Oregon Territory by white settlers. Along the way they fought several battles with the pursuing U.S. Army. Chief Joseph gave the speech presented in this case study, when they finally surrendered on October 5, 1877.

In the case study of Chief Joseph's "An Indian's View of Indian Affairs", Chief Joseph, accounts the relationship between his tribe, the Nez PercÚs, and the Euro-American settlers. He outlines the tragic misunderstandings and failures of communication. Overall, he offers "a vision of the human condition in which diversity and complexity are acknowledged, values, and celebrated."

The lessons to be learned from this case study was that leadership emerges because a problem exists. Without a problem and a need for confrontation, there would be no leaders. The differences between battles and war were emphasized, for a tactic can win a battle, but a strategy is needed to win the war. Knowing when a decision is necessary and what road to take is also an important aspect of leadership. Chief Joseph realized that he was fighting against a stronger and superior force in the American government, and though the motivation of his people was higher, they could never win the war. Therefore, he was forced to negotiate from a point of weakness, and had to lead his people to a reservation. Presenting three types of leadership and the types of organizations - bureaucratic, entrepreneurial, and integrative - with which they are associated, this example of Native American oratory looks at the problems and benefits inherent in each of these structures and related leadership styles.

In his book, Leadership without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz introduces the concepts of equilibrium and disequilibrium. He suggests that when society is in a state of disequilibrium, a leader can accomplish themore than at any other time. It can be argued, that almost all leadership emerges due to a problem that must be confronted The case study illustrates that Chief Joseph's rule was during a time period of great disequilibrium. Despite this disequilibrium however, consitatntly attempted to maintain his personal integrity and morality. He was diligent in trying to adhere to his principles. However, as a leader, he had integrity to know when to bend to the will of the people.

In Leadership and the Quest for Integrity the authors, Joseph Badaracco and Richard Ellsworth, discuss values-driven leadership. Chief Joseph is a prime example of values-driven leadership. In reading his speech it is evident that he truly cared about the fate of his people. He tried to avoid war to avoid bloodshed. Although he later agreed to war, it was simply to allow his people to regain their dignity and honor in the hopes that they would be successful. When he saw that the condition of his people, they exhausted, hungry, and their health was weary. He deemed the condition of his people as a priority over victory and reputation.

Badaracco and Ellsworth also point out the importance of knowing when to push a situation to a confrontation or when to compromise. Chief Joseph's attempts at compromise were repeatedly ignored or unsuccessful. This led to the inevitable point of confrontation. However, at the point when confrontation was no longer necessary passed, this leader, returned to compromise and was able to obtain more concessions for his people.

Chief Joseph emerged as the leader of those within his tribe who were against a treaty with the American government. Throughout his leadership role, he tried to maintain peace between his followers and the Americans. His role as a peaceful leader was difficult to maintain within a culture where raids and violence proved bravery and manliness. Honor and recognition were based on these behaviors.

Antigone by Sophocles

The essence of Antigone is found in her willingness to challenge the authority for equal treatment of dead brother. The play is by Sophocles, is one of many Greek plays, which have sets of human values and permanence in human emotions. Explained Freud's Sophocle's complex of child attraction for parent. And Aristotle's theory of marriage: three times at 15-year intervals. In the play there are five conflicts which can be found: authority vs. dissidence, status quo vs. change, gender conflict, family vs. community, and Creon vs. Antigone, representing conflict between royalty vs. commoner. The way in which Antigone handles herself in these conflicts demonstrate her ability to be an effective leader.

Antigone is an excellent example of leadership for modern studies. To demonstrate this concept one can look at Joseph Badaracco and Richard Ellsworth's attempt to analyze leadership in relation to modern business society in their book, Leadership and the Quest for Integrity. All their points come to the conclusion that a good leader is one who is built out of integrity.

The book introduces concepts, such as the prejudice and dilemmas facing corporate leaders. Prejudice refers to a leader's vision, which inherently causes bias. In the case of Antigone her vision was that the law of the Gods should be higher than those a man. Specifically her goal was to properly bury her brother, Polynices. Throughout the play, her actions were based on that vision. It becomes evident that her prejudice leads her down a path she is forced, but willing to travel alone. Antigone was drive came from her values. Faced with much adversity and personal risk, Antigone chooses her path based on her values and beliefs rather than on the laws of the King.

Antigone is willing to follow the road less traveled, thereby demonstrating true integrity and leadership. While others wouldn't dare to even speak against the king, Antigone took a great Leap and acted against the king. She demonstrated determination, strength and courage.

In his book On Leadership, John Garner, speaks of renewal, the constant reexamination of the current system. He comments on the importance of questioning the validity of the current system. Antigone was challenging authority, through her violation of his decree. In the case of Antigone her challenge was met by an adversity so great that it led to her eventual death.

Throughout the play, Antigone demonstrates many attribute of a leader, as out outlined by Gardner. For example: her willingness to take responsibility, courage, and assertiveness. Even after she was caught in violation of Creon's decree she remained determined and unyielding.

On Leadership by Ronald Heifetz looks at the difference between formal and informal authority. In Antigone, Creon, would have the formal authority, while Antigone's authority was informal. Despite the opposition she faced, Antigone was able to think and act quickly in accordance with her goals. Her informal authority allowed her to do so. Creon was in the position of a formal leader therefore; his actions were based on the notion that he was being watched. Because Creon was being watched, Antigone became his scapegoat.

Analytical Comparison-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Informal Authority

Ronald Heifetz, author of Leadership Without Easy Answers, defines leadership as an activity, which seeks to bring about change, in conjunction with the conferred authority of those being led. This basic assertion allows Heifetz to explore the similarities and differences between leaders with "formal authority" (officeholders who by their role promise to meet certain expectations), leaders with "informal authority" (those with the promise of meeting the expectations of a coalition of people whom they serve, such as Martin Luther King) and leaders "without authority" (those who work to bring about change without having a formal role nor the support of a group of people being represented").

Leadership is often exercised without formal authority, as seen in the movements mobilized by Martin Luther King Jr. Here, the absence of authority can provide unique opportunities for mobilizing change, "but only for those who recognize and seize" the moment. This is much like what was seen in the play Antigone. In the play it was Creon who acted with formal authority, while Antigone had no formal authority. She, like Dr. King emerged as leader through her own will and determination, rather than obligation. Both Antigone and Dr. King provoked those who do have the formal authority. Although his influence reached far beyond himself, Dr. King became the scapegoat for those having the papers.

During the time of the Civil Rights Movement, it was President Johnson who had the formal authority. For him to get attention for his cause he only need to stand up and people would pay attention. That was not at all the case for Dr. King. It took enormous collaborative effort, not only on the part of King and his supporters, but also on the part of his opponents, for King to get the kind of attention to the problem that he got at the bridge in Selma, Alabama. He had to get his opponents to play their part, too. The absence of authority enables one to deviate from the norms of authoritative decision-making. Leading without authority allows one to focus on a single issue. Operating with little or no authority places one closer to the detailed experiences in the situation. Martin Luther King, had to work extraordinarily hard to get the nation to pay attention to the huge gap between the values that we said we stood for as a country - the values of freedom and equal opportunity - and the reality that was perpetuated, which was far from equal and free.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. scanned the towns and cities of the South for a sheriff and for a governor that predictably could be provoked to brutal response to further is movement. By provoking them in front of the cameras, they brought to the surface the brutality of racism with which his people were living with every day, getting the nation to face it in a dramatic form. Those who lead without authority must adopt strategies and tactics that are more bold and subtle. Without authority, one has little control over the environment. When monitoring levels of distress a leader must find indicators for knowing when to promote an unripe issue and whether or not the stress can be handled. In attracting and directing attention to an issue, a leader without authority has to take into account the vulnerability of becoming a lightning rod. Rather than orchestrate the debate, one become a target.

King was trying to lead society towards change, with no formal authority, while much of the country paid them no mind. Getting people to pay attention required a dramatization and an embodiment of the issues.

Principals Vs. Adapting

Another way in which Antigone and Dr. King can be found in their willingness to stick to their principles vs. adapting. There is no question that both of these individuals were speaking up on behalf of something that was very much against popular belief. Yet neither of them questioned their efforts. They were unwilling to bend to society norms. Both of these leaders faced much adversity in pursuit of their value-driven interest. They were unyielding and motivated to fight for what they felt was right.

The Vision

Chief Joseph, was a leader with formal authority given to him by his people. However, there are still countless similarities between the two leaders. Both Chief Joseph and Dr. King were loved and admired by their people. Their challenge was to face and conquer their adversaries.

Chief Joseph and Dr. King shared the Vision Leadership styles. They shared the gifts of integrity, charisma, and competency. With these combined efforts they were able to communicate their vision of they way life ought to be.

In the case study, of Chief Joseph the reader was able to read the eloquent words of a leader about his people. The following is an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King's speech "I Have a Dream": "

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges."

The dynamics of this leader come across in his words. He made is own people feel assured, while making others listen. Although many opposed the ideas of king he was nonetheless a force to be reckoned with.

Putting it all together

This paper is intended to be a reflection of the various component learned this semester in the subject of leadership. The books, and case studies assigned throughout the semester have been brought together in order to extract the lessons learned and apply them to a contemporary leader. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is in and of himself an excellent example of what it takes to be an effective leader. In comparing him to Antigone and Chief Joseph we see that the qualities of leadership extend from the past to the present and into the future.


Badaracco Jr. Joseph L. and Ellsworth, Richard R. Leadership and the Quest for Integrity. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1989.

Gardner, John W. On Leadership. New York: The Free Press, 1990.

Heifetz, Ronald A Leadership Without Easy Answers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Hartwick Classic Leadership Cases. "An Indian's View of Indian Affairs' By Chief Joseph ". Oneonta: The Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute, 1994.

Hartwick Classic Leadership Cases. "Antigone by Sophocles." Oneonta: The Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute, 1994.