January 21 is Martin Luther King day in the United States. His vision, leadership, wisdom and capacity to be a transformational leader who inspired change is captured in these ten quotes. In our noisy, fast-changing world, his wisdom is more needed than ever.
I imagine that if he were alive today he would want each of us as leaders to look in the mirror and ask ourselves “What is my dream for a better world?” I believe we each have an infinite capacity to be transformational leaders. When we connect with the dreams and purposes that inspire us, we call forth the courage and perseverance that makes a difference, big or small.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” As we stand in the middle of chaos and change, what is a stand you are inspired toward? What is your wish for a better future?
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” Transformational leaders are motivated by creating a positive change in the lives of others. Who are the others you are most inspired to serve?
“If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” These prophetic words by MLK point us to discover our own deeper sense of purpose.
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” MLK reminds us of the power we have as leaders to listen deeply and bring people together in discourse.
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” In a world today that is torn apart by polarized views, we must dig deeper to find the common humanity and aspirations each of us holds.
“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” Failure and disappointment are inevitable companions to any worthy effort. In this quote MLK invites us to expect disappointment, and despite this, to prevail and persevere in our efforts.
“Ten thousand fools proclaim themselves into obscurity, while one wise man forgets himself into immortality.” In our distracted, noisy world where many clamor for attention, MLK reminds us to focus on the quiet inner satisfaction of a small difference made, rather than the hunger of the ego wanting to stand above all others.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.” Speaking truth to power in a way that is non-judgmental is at the core of bringing about change. What is a truth that is important for you to speak?
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” It is not the position of importance, but the painstaking effort to do well what uplifts others, that matters. Transformational leaders are found at every level in an organization. They are the people that find meaning and purpose and a higher calling in their daily endeavors.
As you let these words sink in, what needed change do they inspire in you? My dream for a better world is leaders who are inspired, authentic, moving purposefully toward missions that matter to create a better world for all.
A version of this post first appeared in my Forbes leadership blog.
To discover your dream for a better world and step into the transformational leader within you, check out my course on LinkedIn Learning.