This coming Monday in the US we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born in January of 1929 and killed in 1968 while leading the Civil Rights Movements. Dr. King is someone that we look up to from a personal perspective, but I think we can learn a lot about him from a business perspective as well, which is what we’re going to talk about today.
Start somewhere: Dr. King didn’t start his campaign in front of the Lincoln Memorial, no, he began as a baptist pastor. There are many pastors and spiritual leaders who have done great things for their community, as well as for the world, and anyone, anywhere can be a leader. There’s no rule that says you have to have front page coverage or thousands (or millions) of followers to make a difference, you do however have to start with what you’ve got, be faithful with it and work to grow from there.
Communication: A core part of what Dr. King did and was all about was communication, as you probably know, he’s most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech! There’s no way that the Civil Rights Movement could have achieved the reach it did or made as big of a difference for racial equality as it did without the communication that was central to the movement, both on stage and between all the people and groups involved. The Civil Rights Movement is also noteworthy because of the non-violent focus, instead choosing to use words and peaceful actions to make a statement.
Perfection is not required: I’ll be the first to tell you that I greatly admire Dr. King and am proud that he was an American. But if you take a look at his history, as well as all the details of the Civil Rights Movement, he’s not perfect, and as with any situation that brings lots of people in contact and conflict with each other you’ll find evidence of things that could have been done better or at least done with a bit more care given to how it was played out. The thing is these issues, mistakes and failures didn’t ruin or stop Dr. King or the Civil Rights Movement, they’re accepted as an unfortunate part of the path to victory.
Work hard: With this new year you’ve got the opportunity to build on what you’ve been building, make changes, learn to communicate better, and move on from previous mistakes or failures. The question you have to answer is if you’re ready and willing to do the work that’s required to make a difference. Dr. King was, he was in the trenches marching, speaking, and going to jail for his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, he didn’t leave it to “other people,” but he did understand the value of having people on his team, and those people sharing in the work.
Have a Dream: While the “I Have a Dream” speech was meant to motivate people with regards to issues of race and equality, it’s an important reminder that behind what we’re doing there really has to be vision, passion and purpose. People identify with, understand, connect to and relate to stories, and vision, passion and/or purpose gives people something to feel, experience and envision. Dr. King’s dream speech brought to life for people what could be possible if the Civil Rights Movement was really a success.
I’m thankful Dr. King was the man he was, and I’m thankful for the way he has inspired so many people, including other leaders. Are you following in the leadership shoes of Dr. King, and if so what have you learned from his life and leadership?