Why was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr able to stir the moral conscience of our nation? Why was he able to initiate social changes that were a century overdue? Why was he able to draw hundreds of thousands to the mall in Washington to hear those now famous words, “I have a dream?”
As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s national holiday, I began to think about why people followed him. I’m no historian, and I’m too young to have experienced his leadership first hand, but I have studied his approach to leadership. So, I thought I’d share a few of the things that contributed to King’s effectiveness as a leader. These same attributes will enhance my leadership and yours.
People followed Dr. King because…
He was called to lead.
He was sold out to his cause.
He was passionate about his mission.
He was clear in his communication.
He connected with his audience.
He was consistent in his message.
He lived the values he espoused.
He was willing to sacrifice for the cause.
He was dedicated to serving others.
My challenge and yours is to make these same things true in our leadership.
If you haven’t read any of Dr. King’s messages, I recommend A Call to Conscience, edited by Clayborne Carson. In addition to including his landmark speeches, Carson enlists King’s contemporaries to share the context for each message. I’d also recommend you listen to what some consider King’s greatest speech, I’ve Been to the Mountain Top. It was delivered the night before he was assassinated. If you want to explore King’s legacy, The King Center in Atlanta has these resources and much more.