Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential men of his time. In 1965, someone asked him to write something about being the leader that he was to be published in a newspaper the next week. The piece that was presented was complicated and referenced deep philosophical theories and beliefs. The printer was worried that the piece would not reach his mostly uneducated audience, but King told him not to worry. When the piece was published, it was met with success. The man that published the column in 1965, Robert Smith, is still publishing today, and looks back at the leadership lessons that King taught some forty years ago to teach modern day leaders what they need to do. To run their businesses.
Involve Everyone You Can
King inspired people in every community when he spurred on the Civil Rights Movement. Part of the reason it was so successful is because he left no stone unturned, and he appealed to everyone he possibly could along his journey. People loved being part of something bigger than themselves, and it ultimately meant a very successful campaign for King. Smith says “people derive inspiration from involvement,” so you should get your entire office involved in everything that happens.
“Your company’s goal is not only to make a profit, but it is to know your purpose, cause and belief,” says Smith. “I think Dr. King’s biggest leadership lesson that translates to my business is to make sure my team knows why we do what we do.” Instead of telling the millions of people that he had a plan to fix discrimination, King gave a speech about his dream and his purpose. Talk to your employees about what you believe and what you want to see happen at your business, not about the plan you have for them specifically. This can inspire your employees to become something better than they are now.
Find Confidence in Fear
“He used to tell me, ‘If you are not anxious, that means you are not engaged’, that you shouldn’t fear fear, you should go with it,’” says Smith. King wasn’t an expert at hiding his fear. He was never sure if he was going to reach his audience with what he had to say. But that never held him back, and he was always confident in speaking to his audience. He used his fear to become a more powerful figurehead in the Civil Rights Movement, and he was never afraid of change. You can teach your audience to do this very thing in your office. Even when times are tough or a task looks overwhelming, plow on.