“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In times of challenge and controversy, it is the leaders in our lives that we look to for guidance. It is the voices that motivate and inspire us that we turn to for help. And during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, there was one particularly important man whom people and activists alike aspired to. A man whose determination and vision made him one of the greatest leaders and orators in American history.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, here are four leadership lessons we can learn from MLK.
1. Know Your Cause.
One of the most important lessons to be learned from Dr. King is to always know the why behind what you’re doing. Part of what made the “I Have a Dream” speech so inspirational was that it painted a picture of what Dr. King saw for the future. Everything he was doing was in the name of achieving that vision.
2. Embrace Fear.
A good leader doesn’t have to be fearless – they only have to be willing to face their fear. Journalist Robert Ellis Smith revealed that King often felt scared or worried before a speech that he would be misunderstood or met with violent protests, but he always carried on. He told Smith, “If you are not anxious, you are not engaged.”
3. Get People Involved.
Making a difference is a team effort. Without the communities and audiences he inspired, Dr. King’s words would never have had the impact they did. He did more than just be heard – he asked people to join him. People want to be a part of something special and he inspired them to be involved in something bigger than themselves.
Achieving Dr. King’s dream was not an instant success. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, King faced countless setbacks and moments of failure. He was arrested over 20 times, his house was bombed and set aflame, and he was even stabbed. But King never let these obstacles stand in his way. He had a dream and he was determined to see it through.