Today is a national holiday in America to honor the work, the impact and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was just a little kid when Dr. King was changing the face of our nation. I have vague memories of the conversations my parents and others were having during those tumultuous times in the south. Today, with decades to prove his lasting influence, the bright light of history has illuminated his many strengths – Dr. King was an amazing leader.
Why would King qualify as an amazing leader? There are far too many reasons to mention here. However, I think I can make the case with just three attributes few could dispute regarding Dr. King.
He was courageous. As I write this post, I’m finishing a manuscript to be published later in 2013. The title of the book is The Heart of Leadership. It’s a book about character. One of the character traits the best leaders all possess is courage. Of all King’s positive character traits, I think courage was perhaps preeminent. At great risk for his family and himself, King pressed on – to the point of death.
His desire was to serve. I didn’t have the privilege to know Dr. King personally, but I’ve read what many others said about him. I’ve studied what he actually said and did. One of my conclusions: he was more concerned about the well-being of others than his own. This is always the case when you’re discussing the best leaders – it is part of their DNA – they think others first. From my vantage point, King was a serving leader not a self-serving one.
He turned vision into reality. This is the essence of leadership and its ultimate test. Is the leader only a dreamer, or can he or she make the dream come true? King’s I Have a Dream speech catalyzed a nation against a heinous injustice. Then, after all the speeches were finished, he did the heavy lifting required to create a new reality in America.
There is certainly more work to be done in the arena of racial equality, but had it not been for Dr. King, there are many less favorable scenarios which might have played out for African-Americans and our nation. I’m thankful King was a gifted leader.
If you want to deepen your understanding of Dr. King’s approach to leadership, I recommend, A Call to Conscience by Clayborne Carson. In it, you’ll find not only great commentary by King’s contemporaries from Rosa Parks to Andrew Young, you’ll get to read many of his most famous speeches.[GLS_Shield]
If you’ve not visited the King Center and the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, you may want to add both these stops to your itinerary the next time you’re in Atlanta.