Mary Mcleod Bethune

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Mary McLeod Bethune was an innovative leader because she took a story which was largely latent in the population, equal education rights for black children, and brought it to national prominence through the creation of the Bethune-Cookman college. She was also a visionary leader because of the incredible success she was able to attain in advancing the cause of equal education.

Bethune was such an effective leader because both she completely embodied her story and it became completely central to her life and persona. Bethune was able to embark on her incredible quest because of the educational opportunities she was provided by missionary teachers and therefore dedicated her life to ensuring that every black child had the opportunity to advance and prove themselves through education. In Leading Minds, Howard Gardner describes the many characteristics which comprise his cognitive model of leadership. In this brief biographical excerpt, Bethune meets them all.

One of the characteristics Gardner uses to quantify cognitive leadership is the acquisition of power and the use of this power to implement policy. The segregated and patriarchical nature of the society Bethune lived in made it extremely difficult for her advance herself or her vision of equal opportunity education. However, despite these challenges, she was able to rise to a position of national prominence as a director of the division of Negro affairs of the National Youth Administration and a President and trustee of the school she created from its creation to her own death. This alone would not qualify as cognitive leadership, but because her rise to power was so closely linked with her ideology, she was able to empower the equal education movement on a national level.

The trait theory of leadership states that leaders often exude certain traits that make them successful. While there isn't any physical description of Bethune in this biography, it is clear that her intense determination was a...
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