Sojourner Truth: A 19th Century Transformational Leader

Oct 18, 2021

Sojourner Truth, born Isabella Baumfree, is remembered as a symbol of courage, mental strength, and resilience. But what else can a coach learn from this strong woman who was born over 200 years ago?

The Life of Sojourner Truth

Born a slave in 1797, Isabella Baumfree was bought, sold, and resold multiple times. She was owned, mistreated, and abused by various slave-owners before she finally escaped in 1826 along with her infant daughter. Baumfree had not been able to escape with all her children, because of the law. However, when she later realised that her 5-year-old son Peter had been resold illegally to a cruel slave-owner, she took the issue to court.

She then went on to become one of the first black women to go to court against a white man and win.

On June 1st, 1843, Baumfree renamed herself Sojourner Truth to embody her call to preach the truth of hope and emancipation. So began her journey that lasted the rest of her life. A journey to set the building blocks for an equal society for African-Americans and women. Apart from abolition, Truth also spoke for voting rights, property rights, prison reform, and many other social justice issues.

So…what do we learn from the strong and courageous Sojourner Truth?

What do we take back from her story? A woman who was forced to leave behind her children as she escaped? Who was forced to watch her lover be savagely beaten just for loving her? Who was sold multiple times alongside sheep in markets? What besides courage, mental strength, and resilience can we learn?

The essence of transformational leadership.

Transformational Leadership Model
Transformational Leadership Model

Sojourner Truth as 19th Century Transformational Leader:

Sojourner Truth embodied the 4 core values of Transformational leadership.

Here’s how:

  • Intellectual Stimulation: Truth did not only challenge the unjust norms, but she encouraged her followers to do the same.
  • Individualized Consideration: Truth was known for offering her support, encouragement, and guidance to individuals. She went beyond the crowd and fostered relationships with her followers.
  • Inspirational Motivation:  Truth’s vision was clear, and the orator that she was, could always articulate her ideas and vision to others. She pushed others to free themselves with a passion she could translate to her followers.
  • Idealized Influence:  She served as a role model for others, earning the trust and respect of many as they strived to emulate her ideals.

Truth used her adversity to lead others. While she openly challenged and fought injustice using her words, she also guided individuals to escape slavery, find jobs and build their new homes and lives.

Sojourner Truth’s life is an example to all aspiring transformational leaders out there!

Mala Mathew
Mala Mathew


Mala Annamma Mathew is an educator specializing in media and digital literacy for young students. Currently, she is pursuing her second master’s degree in Digital Media: Education, at University College London, the number one (according to Top University Ranking) university for education-related degrees in the world. She has over 8 years of experience in education and is also an examiner for the International Baccalaureate.

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