As we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, let’s remind ourselves why we hold leaders like MLK in such high esteem.
Many qualities are required in people claiming leadership for them to be true leaders like Dr. King.
Among these qualities is a solid command of language to inspire and motivate others. Dr. King was indeed an accomplished orator and preacher. When asked about MLK, most people point to his “I have a dream” speech, but today I’d ask you to focus on a quote from the letter he wrote while jailed in Birmingham, Alabama. This quote still remains a guiding light:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
To read the complete text of this letter, see:
This command of language as a leadership requirement has now been largely replaced by the work of capable speech writers and word-mincing spinners using flowery language and tricky rhetoric. We have recently witnessed how the misuse of language could be inciting people out of all civility instead of inspiring them toward the better quality of life.
The good news is that the hallmark of true leadership is not a great command of language; it is leading a “life-to-admire,” not a “life-to-envy”: an excellent criterion to use next time someone claims leadership and asks for support. True leaders like Albert Schweitzer, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King Jr. indeed lead lives to admire, not to envy.