Essay on Application of Leadership Theory in Blacks Lives Matter



Essay on Application of Leadership Theory in Blacks Lives Matter

According to Northouse (2016), despite the discordant ways in which leadership has been conceptualized, there are factors that are central to leadership such as leadership involves influence, leadership is a process, leadership occurs in groups and leadership involves common goals. Thus, leadership can be referred to as a process whereby an individual influences a group of people to achieve a common goal (Northouse, 2016). However, as we will see in the Black Lives Matter movement, that process is not restricted only to one individual. In as much as Black Lives Matter was inspired by the 1960’s civil rights or black power movement, the 1980s Pan African/anti-apartheid movement, the 1980s black feminist movement, the late 1980s political hip-hop movement, the LGBT movement in the 2000s, as well as, the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement, the movement utilized newly developed social media to reach multitudes of like-minded individuals across the country to formulate a black social justice movement that rejected a top-down movement and charismatic male-centered structure that defined most previous efforts (Ruffin, 2015).Essay on Application of Leadership Theory in Blacks Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter comprises of a novel generation of activists who favor distributed leadership over following individual leaders (Mcilwain, 2015). This is why the movement has not produced a charismatic leader such as Malcolm X or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who can lead a major movement. Some have argued that organizations emanating from the Black Lives Matter protests are in a way deficient due to their rejection of the old style of leadership. However, this argument misses the main reason that makes Black Lives Matter powerful which is its cultivation of skilled local organizers who are willing to take up distinct issues beyond police violence (Ransby, 2017). This is what Ransby (2017) describes as radical democracy in action. Thus, it is matter of choice rather than deficiency that has resulted in Black Lives Matter to neither produce nor rely on a charismatic leader to lead the movement.Essay on Application of Leadership Theory in Blacks Lives Matter

In as much as Black Live Matter movement does not subscribe to a top-down movement and charismatic leadership structures, it borrows from transformational leadership in the context of the process rather than an individual as a leader. Instead of an individual changing and transforming people, an event or experience unites and transforms people. Transformational leadership theory is concerned with values, emotions, standards, ethics and long-term goals (Northouse, 2016). It also involves assessing the motives of the members of the movement, treating every member as a full and equal human being and helping them achieve their goals and satisfy their needs. Black Lives Matter is a movement that incorporates emotions, ethics, values, standards and long-term goals in its protests against the unjust-treatment of the black community. The Movement for Black Lives; an alliance that includes the global network of Black Lives Matter and other groups came together in response to the high-profile police shootings of black individuals from 2014 to 2017 (Ransby, 2017). Issues regarding racism and discrimination of people of color provoke emotions among immense people who feel that such vile acts should have no place in today’s society but feel inadequate to bring a major change. Black Lives Matter revived the anti-racism drive and 21st century racial-justice movement by offering a different model for social movements that enables people to act rather than wait for a leader to create transformational change.Essay on Application of Leadership Theory in Blacks Lives Matter

The concept behind the model adopted by Black Lives Matter is that individuals on the ground make decisions, express problems and come up with appropriate answers, the outcome is more likely to meet needs which is more sustainable in the long-run than using a top-down and charismatic model (Ransby, 2017). This means that individuals are better equipped to actualize plans and solutions they themselves formulated, rather than carrying out solutions handed down to them by national leaders who are not conversant with the realities in local communities. The advantage of this model is that it allows individuals to take ownership of the political struggles and racial injustices that affect their lives. Previous black movements, including the iconic Civil Rights Movement used the top-down, charismatic and male-centered model of leadership whose main disadvantage was disempowering ordinary individuals, particularly low-income and working people, as well as, women. This is because it made them believe in the need for a particular savior who they followed. However, the movement could be affected significantly by the co-option or assassination of that savior to the point of plunging. Another disadvantage of local leadership is the fact that local leadership could be hierarchical, dominant and self-aggrandizing to the point where leaders in other locations have to adhere to their leadership and follow their plans at the expense of their own plans.

Inclusivity is vital in leadership theory, especially when it comes to gender and leadership. Sigmund Freud (1965) stated that “when you meet a human being, the first distinction you make is male or female? And you are accustomed to make the distinction with unhesitating certainty.” The ability of women to lead is no longer in question as evident in female leaders such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil (Northouse, 2016). Leadership of the previous black movements was mainly male dominated with women playing minor roles if no roles at all. Black Lives Matter incorporates individuals on the margins of conventional black freedom movements such as women, the disabled, working class, undocumented immigrants, agnostics and atheists, as well as, people who identify as transgender and queer (Ruffin, 2015). Moreover, the lead organizers of the Movement for Black Lives, including the female founders of Black Lives Matter have been impacted by over forty years of work by black L.G.B.T and feminist activists and scholars (Ransby, 2017). Their practices and writings focus on how discordant systems of oppression interact and reinforce each other, the society’s most marginalized individuals and emphasizing the message of collective models of leadership reminiscent to the leader-member exchange theory instead of hierarchical leadership models.

Black Lives Matter is distinctive based on the fact that it defers to the local wisdom of its affiliates and members, instead of trying to dictate from above (Ransby, 2017). Critics of Black Lives Matter argue that the movement needs to have better control of its messaging, shore up its brand and discipline its local affiliates (Ransby, 2017). While I may not agree with two of these arguments, I agree with the argument that the movement needs to have a better control of its messaging. On top of including other groups in the Black Live Matter movement that were in the margins of traditional black freedom movement such as the disabled, working class, undocumented immigrants, agnostics and atheists, feminists, and L.G.B.T.Q, the movement uses technology immensely to push forward its agenda. It is possible that message of Black Lives Matter could be lost or used as a marginal message while pushing forward other messages. Local organizers of Black Lives Matter need to ensure that the movement makes its message vivid, that is, protesting against racism and discrimination of all members of the black community and not pushing forward agendas of individual members.

Black Lives Matter has made progress on many fronts. However, there is still work to do, for instance, the movement needs space for broader policy and ideological discourses, more transparent collective decision-making and an easier way for individuals to get involved in the movement. Black Lives Matter can achieve this through improved coordination between local organizers so as to have uniformed decision-making since they do not have a structure whereby decisions are made from above and members follow. Moreover, local organizers need to organize members of the movement for purposes of having policy and ideological debates rather than just taking part in protests.

Response to my paper-essay on Application of Leadership Theory in Blacks Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is comprised of activists who favor distributed leadership over following individual leaders. The movement has achieved great success in getting justice for black people who have fallen victim to racial injustice and discrimination toward black people since local organizers mobilize members of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as, other people to protest against injustices specific to a certain local community. In as much as the distributed leadership is effective in pushing forward the agendas of Black Lives Matter, centralized leadership is vital and needed in Black Lives Matter as it is what keeps the people united in the movement. Lack of central leadership if not individual leadership may result in loss of the message of the movement since local organizers and members can take advantage of the movement to push forward individual issues that are not the main objectives of Black Lives Matter.

Response to critique of my paper

Black Lives Matter is a movement that was started by individuals who did not insist on becoming leaders of the movement, but encouraged distributed leadership for the movement. The main purpose of having non-specific distributed leadership in the form of local organizers was to encourage members of the black community to protest against racial-injustice and discrimination of blacks and confront the perpetrators without having to wait for a savior to lead such a movement. Moreover, this form of leadership provides the opportunity for every member of the black community irrespective of their gender, sexual orientation, religion or physical disability to take part in the movement as equal human beings rather remain in the margins of the movement. Thus, every member feels the impact of their participation. Finally, Black Lives Movement involves common goals and groups of people. Hence, it is difficult for members or local organizers to advance individual agendas or goals let alone twist or change the message of the movement. Therefore, centralized or individual leadership is neither needed for Black Lives Matter nor does the lack of centralized or individual leadership hinder the success of the movement.











Works Cited

Freud, S. (1965). New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis: Femininity. New York: W.W. Norton.

Mcilwain, C. (2015). The Past, Present, and Future of the Black Lives Matter Network. Pacific Standard. Retrieved 8 February 2018, from

Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.

Ransby, B. (2017). Opinion | Black Lives Matter Is Democracy in Action. Retrieved 8 February 2018, from

Ruffin, H. (2015). Black Lives Matter: The Growth of a New Social Justice Movement | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. Retrieved 8 February 2018, from