Last Monday, the world again celebrated the Martin Luther king Jr. Day which is habitually celebrated every third Monday of January. As an eloquent preacher, Dr. King was the orator and leader of the non-aggressive civil rights movement of the 1960s. His I have a Dream speech has remained a phenomenal point of reference for leaders all over the world. Let’s draw some lessons from his speech and outstanding leadership approach.
Lesson #1 Great leaders don’t keep quiet on issues that matter.
When we keep quiet on important national or personal issues, we give permission to the oppressor. We deny ourselves the opportunity for freedom. Martin Luther King said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” During the course of the week, a couple of social media giants in the country decided to raise the issue of dying one-thousand-five-hundred children of Bagega in Nigeria’s Zamfara State. Within a short time, the awareness went viral on social media.
These kids have been afflicted by Lead poison, and their life is in danger. Restoration and remediation of the environment has been unnecessarily delayed by the government. Speaking up for these kids brought the issue to the desk and minds of the government officials concerned. People were made to see the reality of losing these young ones if the prevailing deafening silence wasn’t crushed.
Lesson #2 Leaders know how to communicate their vision to the mind and heart of their followers.
Leadership in the real sense goes beyond just having a plan and knowing how to execute it. The work of a true leader lies in his ability to have a vision, share the vision, lay the path to achieve the vision, and then inspire others to follow the vision while he takes the lead role. Martin Luther King knows how to engage the heart of his followers. He does that by harnessing the use of stories and metaphor.
Lesson #3 Brave enough to reject the status quo and not be indifferent about it.
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference, says Elie Wiesel. Refusing to be indifferent is a defining characteristic of great leaders. They are not passive people. They are reactive and sometimes proactive, depending on the circumstance. They always take a stand and they ventilate it openly without fear. “But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” were the brave words of Martin Luther King.
Lesson #4 Fight your course on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
Good leaders know how to struggle out their course within the boundary of dignity, ethics and morality.. And this is one area where I so much respect Martin Luther King. It’s quite difficult to imagine how to lead so much people in a struggle against injustice and segregation and yet eschew violence “But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must ever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Martin Luther King said.
Lesson #5 Use picture words to articulate the desired end.
Another quality lesson from MLK is that he harnessed the power of what I call picture words. Words that make followers see beyond today’s struggle but the benefit of the struggle, and how posterity will be pleased with their actions. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!”
Do have a nice weekend!
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