This is another important week for our great nation. Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, and on Friday our country will inaugurate its 45th President.
Throughout history, we’ve been fortunate to have great leaders emerge at times when our country needed them the most. The life, work, and influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has secured his place in American history as one of these leaders. Only time will tell what kind of legacy and impact our next President’s and his leadership will have on our country and the world.
So how did Dr. King captivate and change the course of a divided, stumbling nation? He articulated a clear vision. He overcame challenges with persistence. And above all, he inspired Americans and their elected officials to overcome their differences and work together.
Dr. King’s words and actions didn’t divide black and white or rich and poor. His mission was to connect people of all backgrounds in order to unite a country toward one, prosperous and peaceful purpose. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was committed to making sure the rights and opportunities of a free society were available to all its citizens. Dr. King was a true leader.
Too often we confuse the word leadership with the word power. Yes, leaders often have an important title and hold a position of great power. But true leadership is actually pretty uncommon. True leadership is about influencing one group of people to get up and follow, and another group of people to stand up and lead. It’s less about power, and more about persuasion. It’s less about ego, and more about humility. And that’s one thing that made Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. great.
Dr. King was inspired by the teachings of two of history’s greatest leaders, Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi. Both were servant leaders whose authority and influence came from a genuine humility and service to others. And all three of these leaders led countless followers; without ever holding an “official” position of power.
When I think about the example that these three leaders set forth, I’ll be the first to admit… applying their style of servant leadership doesn’t seem possible for a “regular person” in the “real world”. Let’s be honest, following in the footsteps of Jesus, Gandhi, and MLK is hard to do in and of itself. And on top of that, “leading as a servant” in a world of increased competition and profit-driven results seems almost impossible.
But if you read the stories of many of the business world’s most successful leaders, a lot of them have another thing in common with these three servant leaders… and that’s love. They love what they do, who they do it with, and ultimately, who they do it for.
As Dr. King and his team planned and organized the March on Washington in August of 1963, many of the event’s organizers were worried that only a few people would show up. But their courage throughout the South and their commitment to achieving equal rights inspired one of the most powerful speeches and movements in U.S. history. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of more than 200,000 people, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. passionately shared his dream… that his 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.”
Now more than ever, our country needs a servant leader with the courage and character to do what’s right for our great nation. As time has shown, it’s rare to find a unifying leader that Dr. King was. But that doesn’t have to stop you from becoming the leader that you are meant to be.
What kind of leader are you striving to become? And more importantly, who will be inspired enough to want to follow?