5 Great Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr.

January 21, 2019 Staples Business Advantage

In the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is held annually the third Monday in January. This holiday celebrates the life and achievements of this influential civil rights activist. A man who once referred to Canada as “Heaven,” Martin Luther left behind a wealth of leadership lessons that all businesses can benefit from.

Speak from the Heart

Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech continues to inspire individuals since 1963. Some of the most-well remembered lines were those that were ad-libbed and spoken from the heart. When it’s time to address employees, great leaders should consider giving powerful speeches that bring teams together and provide optimism.

Show Empathy for Others

To connect with customers and employees, you have to understand what situations they are in and know what their desires, fears, and frustrations are. Feelings of empathy make it easier to become an effective advocate. Consider the four attributes of showing empathy.

  • See the world as others see it
  • Understand another’s feelings
  • Avoid judging other’s feelings and situations
  • Communicate the understanding of others

​Paint a Clear Picture of Tomorrow 

Again, King painted a clear picture of how he envisioned tomorrow would be with his iconic speech. Articulate your vision for your company to make it easier for your followers to see what you dream for the future. This way employees will know what they are working towards.

Develop Excellent Communication Skills

Martin Luther King Jr. spent a great deal of time talking to the people he was leading and fighting for. He held numerous town meetings where he engaged in constant communication with his team. As a leader, you should engage in meaningful conversations with employees. Listen and act on complaints and talk about your current plans. To become an effective communicator:

  • Focus on the issue at hand and not the person
  • Be genuine
  • Empathize rather than detached
  • Be flexible towards the issues
  • Value yourself and your own experiences
  • Use affirming responses

​Never Stop Learning

Dr. King received his doctorate in theology from Boston University when he was 26 years old. Many of his ideas on theology that made him a transformation leader came from philosophers and historical thinkers. Study the success of others in your industry and use that to grow your business and lead.

By focusing your energy on developing your skills and taking advice from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., you can learn to be an excellent leader to push your company to greatness.

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