Today we honor the legacy of a great man whose mission was larger than his life and whose work endures even today. We laud Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolent activism and promote his ideals of equality and love; however, his methods garnered the dislike and ire of many. According to the last Gallup poll conducted prior to his death, 63% of Americans had an unfavorable view of the Atlanta-born civil rights champion and hero.
More than anything, this fact demonstrates that sometimes standing on the side of right can look and feel like being wrong if we are guided by the wrong measure of importance. Undoubtedly, Dr. King would have preferred the unwavering praise and admiration of his colleagues, peers, and the nation that he sacrificed his life for. However, he ascribed to a higher calling and greater way of living than the world around him and he disregarded the opinions of others. He was pure in his intentions and relentless in his pursuit.
Dr. King was by no means a perfect man, but he was certainly regal in his approach toward his work and in his responsibility as a leader. This majestic lens of leadership was not inspired by the many great leaders he studied in the hallowed halls of his alma mater, Morehouse College, nor did it come from the many potentates and world leaders he encountered in his lifetime. He took a page out of the book he lived by and preached and followed the example of Christ.
As a Christian, Dr. King led with his faith and was guided by moral principles which positively affect us all, regardless of our religious affiliation or doctrinal creed. He did not rule as a tyrant, nor did he command like a dictator. Rather, he invited everyone to the table to discuss, strategize, plan, and review. This type of leadership inspires change and causes us to ask “How can I be better today than I was yesterday? How does the work that I pursue today make a difference in the world tomorrow?”
In honor of one of the greatest Americans who ever lived, challenge yourself to examine the foundation and source of your leadership approach and how you measure success. Regardless of the praise you receive and the criticisms you may draw, have you committed yourself to the work of being a moral leader? Are your markers of success in line with that of a King who seeks to benefit the masses over the few, or that of a tyrant who is only concerned with their personal gain? The answer lies in the choices you make and the culture you create at home, at work, and at school.
Choose to lead with strong moral leadership and a success model that is not dependent on how exclusive you can be. Rather, seek to bring as many people to the table as possible, help others create extra chairs, and let us eat the table of brotherhood and sisterhood, as we all seek to discover the King in us all.