There are five essential practices of exemplary leadership, according to the Leadership Challenge. The first aspect of exemplary leadership is “model the way.” Parks modeled the way forward by non-violently but assertively refusing to give up her seat at the front of the bus and move to the back when the bus driver ordered her to, showing people what they could accomplish by using a simple word: “no.” The second practice is to inspire a shared vision, which Parks did as she was arrested. Her arrest sparked counter sit-ins, bus sit-ins, and other nonviolent acts of protest. The third practice of leadership is to challenge the process. Merely sitting in the front of the bus was enough for Parks to challenge the deeply-held beliefs of the day and the status quo discrimination that African-Americans felt every day. Her ability to say “no” when so many others quietly complied was her challenge to the process. The fourth and fifth aspects of exemplary leadership are to enable others to act and to encourage the heart, respectively. Parks paved the way for others who may have been less brave to act in huge numbers. She continued to be active in the Civil Rights Movement after her arrest, encouraging others to participate and recognizing them for their participation.
2. The “empowering moral” of Rosa Parks
According to the author of the article, Rosa Parks was not only a woman who was tired on the bus. The author contends that not only did Parks know exactly what she was doing when she defied the orders of the bus driver when he told her to move to the back of the bus, she may even have planned it. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement prior to her arrest for refusing to move to the back of the bus, and, the author contends, her move was clearly calculated to elicit the response that it garnered from the community.
The empowering moral of Parks' story, then, is not the story of a lone woman standing up for herself as the story has always been presented. Instead, the author suggests that the empowering moral of the story lies in the fact that Parks never gave up. She continued to fight injustice, even though she was unsure of the outcome; she knew that she could be arrested, and being active in the Civil Rights Movement was dangerous for her at times. However, it was her perseverance that is empowering, and this is the narrative that often gets lost when Parks is discussed.
3. Does the author minimize Rosa Parks?
At first glance, it seems like the author is minimizing Parks because he suggests that Parks' sit-in on the bus was not spontaneous and unplanned as the narrative so often says, but was instead a calculated move designed to strike at the heart of the entrenched prejudices of the day. However, upon closer investigation, the author seems to believe that the “spontaneous and unplanned” story of Parks' sit-in is much less impactful than the true story.
Parks, the author writes, began attending meetings about the Civil Rights Movement slowly. She was unsure, at first, about how to proceed, and whether or not the movement would ultimately succeed. However, she persevered through her uncertainty, which, given the risks to her life and health, is a victory in and of itself. The author makes an excellent point when he points out that Rosa Parks’ action of refusing to move to the back of the bus could not have taken place without a series of small and humble steps taken before the grand and visible one. Had they not been working to turn the tide of public opinion before the bus incident, it is entirely possible that Parks’ bravery would have been unnoticed or unimportant to society at large.