My grandmother, “Ma-Ma”, would roll over in her grave if I failed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as we near observance of his birthday.
On Ma-Ma’s living room wall hung the pictures of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ. For the southern black Christians who were migrated to Detroit, this trilogy of pictures was a standard in their homes. At Ma-Ma’s, Dr. King’s picture was in the middle of the political and religious trinity, and it represented her hopes and dreams for herself and for her children and grandchildren.
In Ma-Ma’s day, there were not many fancy terms for leadership styles and the leaderships assessments we have today were not available. Even so, Dr. King had an ideal for something better for mankind, acted to manifest that ideal, and inspired to those around them to act in concert. Those three things were the framework of his great leadership. Robert Greenleaf did not coin “Servant Leadership” until 1970. Ma-Ma would have described it as “Lead like King” leadership.
In the 1960’s, Dr. King had a dream for racial equality, marched and protested to awaken a nation to that dream, and inspired the inflicted and inflictors to make that dream a reality. The strategy for the framework was non-violence. Dr. King’s leadership earned him respect of nations, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the coveted space on Ma-Ma’s wall. His picture remained there until my family sold her home a few years after her death.
It’s important as leaders that we never make leadership so academic, or too complicated, or get hung up in trying to name all the nuisances. As Dr. King demonstrated, leadership is simply action in service for mankind. Let’s honor and lead like King.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?‘“ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ma-Ma, Happy King Day!