Leadership Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Express Blog examines one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. Born in Atlanta, GA, King was one of the major faces of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. This minister-turned-movement leader was a key figure in helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as ending many Jim Crow-era segregation laws.

While some prominent leaders of the time pushed for more physical altercations to bring about change, King followed in the footsteps of his Christian faith, encouraging nonviolent demonstrations and boycotts. His legacy lives on through the people he inspired and the cultural change he helped cultivate.

One truth King lived out in his public life was the acknowledgment that a person’s true character is shown not when met with success, but when faced with opposition. His words on this subject still ring true today.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Whether you’re a CEO with decades of leadership experience or a first-time manager, you’ll face struggles in your career and will be responsible for guiding your team through those challenges. Success isn’t a destination; it’s a journey that great leaders take as they elevate those around them to be the best they can be.

Character, integrity, and values are what separate the true leaders from the rest of the pack. Regardless of your level of expertise or experience, you can start building a career based on these principles. One way King explains this type of focus is on the characteristic of work ethic.

“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”

When faced with opposition or unforeseen variables, when you focus on what you can do today to make a difference within your profession, others will take notice and follow suit. Lead through example, protect your character, and be a leader who turns it up a notch when the going gets tough.

Who are some of your favorite leaders? What have you learned by studying their work? Let us know in the comments section below!

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