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5 Lessons for Leaders from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is undoubtedly one of the greatest leaders in American history. From the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, Dr. King has become known as a fearless and inspirational pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement.
There is much to be said for his resilient spirit. As influencers in modern-day corporate America, we can learn volumes about being strong, devoted and moral leaders by looking at how Dr. King rallied those around him to fight for a worthy cause.
1. Know what you represent.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for equality. A fervent believer in his cause, he committed his life to fighting for equal rights. As leaders, we have to clearly define our brands. What do we stand for? Who do we represent? What are our core values? When we can answer all of these questions clearly and concisely, we are more likely to devote our time and energy to supporting and spreading our brands.
2. Communicate your message clearly.
Dr. King utilized every opportunity to communicate his beliefs to others. He spoke about it so passionately, that people saw it as his calling. Do your clients, peers or even employees know what you represent? Are you communicating your brand clearly and strategically? Dr. King delivered a number of speeches and led countless rallies, but he always made sure his core message was known.
3. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
In a time when his beliefs were not popular among the vast majority of people, Dr. King was constantly stepping into the light to lead his supporters in peaceful rallies and boycotts. He could have easily sat back and silently supported the cause, waiting for someone else to take the lead. He courageously chose to take risks – risks that ultimately cost him his life. Are we, as leaders, willing to take risks, even though they are unpopular, in order to benefit our companies? Are we putting ourselves out there and trying new things? We cannot expect to move forward, if we are too afraid to take risks.
4. Don’t let setbacks define you.
If anyone knew setbacks, it was Dr. King. Records show he was arrested more than 20 times. His home was bombed, and he was consistently being harassed by those who did not agree with his way of thinking. Despite facing trial after trial, he pressed on because he truly believed in that for which he was fighting. How do we react when we face setbacks? Are we quick to make excuses or accept defeat? Or do we regroup and find a way to accomplish the task regardless of the circumstances? Dr. King used his setbacks as motivation to continue striving for equal opportunity.
5. Share your vision.
“I have a dream.”
(Need we say more?)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leaves quite a legacy. We would be wise, as leaders, to learn from his courageous example and to develop our skills as communicators and influencers, as we work toward our goals and chase our dreams.