This past Thursday, January 15, was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday (it will be observed this coming Monday, the 20th). In remembrance of the great civil rights leader, we dedicate this week’s Friday Five to some of King’s most memorable leadership quotes.
1) A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
Leadership takes true dedication, vision and humility. It is easy to lead a group of people who already have the same views as you and agree with your every point. A true leader is one who can educate, inspire and work with people to create a consensus.
Before you start leading, find the right people to lead. Do not simply find others who agree with you. This will take time and effort but is necessary if you hope to find true leadership success.
2) Small groups of creative and dedicated people make the world better.
Modern corporate America holds innovation and outside-the-box thinking in high regard – but that hasn’t always been the case. In King’s time, the “company man” was celebrated and homogenous thinking ruled the day.
That King’s message resonated despite his status as an iconoclast speaks to the value of his ideals. Strive to adopt a similar attitude: Don’t be afraid to do the right thing, even if it puts you at odds with the powers that be.
3) Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.
The traps of bitterness and negative thinking are easy to fall into. But neither provides a benefit – not for you and not for the world at large. Harness your feelings for positive ends – work to create, inspire and preserve.
4) The quality of your years matters more than the quantity.
Many of us hope to live a long and healthy life. While health and longevity are important, they aren’t the be-all of life. Instead, it is how we live that matters.
Whom do we inspire, motivate or mentor? The positive things you bring to your life and those around you on a daily basis are what is important.
5) Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.
While we may believe we see the entire picture, you almost always do not. Instead, you only see a small piece of what is going on. Keep this in mind when making decisions, listening to feedback and try to open your eyes to those pieces you might be missing.
What are some of your favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.? Please share them in the comments below.
Originally published Jan 17, 2014, updated Dec 30, 2022