Top 4 Leadership Lessons for HR practitioners from Dr. King

How you do define leadership?  Many of us look to our parents as leadership role models, sometimes we look at sports figures, musicians, politicians and even bosses.  With all these “examples” of leadership it makes you wonder why is it so hard to find examples of good leadership today?  As tempting as it may be, I am going to leave the current president out of this conversation however I will say all leadership models aren’t good leadership models. (Moving on) As our nation observes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and honors his legacy and contributions to civil rights, civil liberties and yes, leadership, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on Dr. King’s top 4 leaderships qualities that you should start practicing TODAY!

1. Speak Out: Dr. King was not a silent leader. He used non-violent protests, e.g. marches, sit-ins, and demonstrations but he was never silent. In fact he made several comments denouncing silence, for example, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” And “Our lives begin to end the day when we become silent about things that matter” Also, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

2. Team-Centric: Dr. King had a squad with him. Not a mob. Not goons. Not thugs. He surrounded himself with very intelligent men and women who weren’t afraid to challenge him, push him, and protect him. He had trusted advisors that he could confide in and relay on. You need a team and not a team of “yes” men and women, a team of folks who will check you.

3. Highly Visible and Approachable: Sure, you have seen the videos of his speeches but Dr. King was a man of the people, he met with and worked with people off the camera – so when I say highly visible, I mean visible among the people. He would go to the picket lines, he would go to the townhall meetings, he would go to the churches, he would go to the people and talk with them. He used the media for historical documentation but he did most of his work off camera and among the people. In fact, he was so accessible that a black lady by the name of Izola Ware Curry stabbed him and nearly killed him and while in the hospital, he prayed for her. Cynics will say, “why on earth would I want to be accessible and get stabbed?” Not the point, plus she had documented mental issues. If you are a leader you need to be accessible plus, you ain’t Dr. King, boo-boo!

4. Love: Dr. King spoke extensively about how love is the only thing that can stop hate. Love can drive out the darkness. Love can transform an enemy into a friend. Lead with love.