Leadership Lesson from MLK

I am going to start this post just as 83.9% of people have started their posts today: Today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

I have the day off because, and only because I have every Monday off.  I am absolutely appalled by the number of churches that do not recognizing Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s birthday as a holiday (for better thoughts on this than I could write, check out this blog).  I don’t want to say that to bash these churches.  Many of them do outstanding ministry, but I question this one decision.  However, the way a church chooses to honor Martin Luther King Jr. is not the topic of discussion today on this blog.

Last night, I watched s clip from the last speech that he made.  If you have not seen it, it is posted at the bottom, and I would encourage you to check it out.  I spent some time thinking about it, and other speeches that he made wondering to myself, “What made Martin Luther King such a great leader and so powerful?”  Here is what I came up with:

1)   Passion.  His life’s work was equality.  He cared about this so much that he gave his life and died for it.  In his final speech, I can’t help but to think that he knew somehow that his death was coming soon; either by the divine warning, receiving of death threats, or warning from the authorities.  Nevertheless, he went forward.  He feared neither death, nor anything else above his passion.

2)   Vision.  Not only was his passion compelling and filled every word of every speech, but he was able to share with his followers what the world would like once they accomplished their /goal.  His shared it so clearly that everyone who heard him speak saw what he imagined.

3)   Message.  A clearly communicated message is unforgettable.  I’ve heard probably hundreds of speakers deliver thousands of messages.  Some are memorable for a time, others are not memorable for more than a few hours and some are indiscernible.  Very few are clear enough to remember for more than a couple of months.  The key to it all is simplicity.  Martin Luther King’s message was simple: love and equality.  Love everyone, and treat everyone equal.

4)   Leadership.  Of course all of these things are a part of leadership, and leadership can be an ambiguous word at times.  What I am talking about here is how he literally led the people.  He never asked his people to go where he did not go.  Martin Luther King was arrested, faced the police dogs, fire hoses, and whatever unsavory tactics the police used to break up the protests.

The world is a much better place because of the work that Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished.  I hope you take a few minutes today to honor him in some way.  Perhaps watch his speech and discuss it with a friend, or do some community service, or reconcile a relationship gone sour.

Here is the video of his last speech:


2 thoughts on “Leadership Lesson from MLK

  1. Brad, I’m one of the 83.9 % today. 🙂

    This was an exceptional video. I have heard bits and pieces of it but never watched him on it. Scott Williams had a great post, didn’t he? I can’t believe how many churches don’t close for Martin Luther King day!

  2. Yeah, I loved what Scott had to say on the issue. I was going to call you back yesterday, but when I went to I remember that I was already 20 minutes late for a meeting… What would be a good time to call you tonight?

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