Today marks the official anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that featured the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s now famous “I have a dream” speech, and which solidified the struggle for civil rights in the nation’s collective conscience.
It was an uplifting message from a great leader who believed in his vision of a better tomorrow.
The speech was prepared by a group of seven individuals that gathered with Dr. King at the Willard Hotel to add their input to the upcoming speech. Everyone in the group represented a vision that had a stake in the speech and wanted their voices to be heard.
When a leader has a compelling vision for the future, people will follow.
The next morning King’s speech was finished and copies were delivered to the press. Fast forward a few hours later when King was delivering the speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
As Dr. King spoke, something extraordinary happened after about the seventh paragraph into his speech. King paused. In that brief silence, Mahalia Jackson, a gospel singer and good friend of King’s, shouted “tell ‘em about the ‘dream Doc.” King never had the words, “I have a dream,” in the prepared text.
As witnesses recall, King pushed the text of his prepared remarks to one side of the lectern. He shifted gears in a heartbeat, abandoning the final version he’d prepared and he’d given himself over to the spirit of the moment.
What can we learn from Dr. King and the speech?
Dr. King had a vision for the people he led. “The dream” was the vision many people yearned for equal rights and freedom in this country. Dr. King believed in his “dream.” He believed the dream will become a reality someday.
As a leader it’s important to set forth the path of where you want to lead. The ability to rally people up together through a compelling vision and passion is something that Dr. King had developed and cultivated. Dr. King did not believe violence was the answer. He understood that faith and the power of making a positive difference will change the course of history.
Dr. King understood and believed in the moral values of what this country was founded upon. Documents like the Constitution and the Declaration of independence has shaped his vision and the Dream.
The lesson for leaders? Every company, every organization has a mission statement, but do we live up to the values of our mission? Do we really walk the talk? Are we passionate about our values and share them with others on a daily basis?
These are important questions for every leader. Great leaders like Dr. King have been instrumental as change catalysts to lead courageously in tough times. but Dr. King was not going to give up as he said, “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
Leaders share their dreams with others. It’s a collective vision for a better future. It’s a strong faith and a call to action to make the world a better place. Many of us are caught in the semantics of presentations and where we would like to have a platform but it’s more about what you care about and your passionate vision for yourself and the people you lead.
Ask yourself today, what are people yearning for? What can we do together to make it a better place?
Find your dream by asking yourself this question: What is it about my life that makes my heart sing? The answer will be reflected in your authentic voice and it inspire your listeners on a deeper and more emotional level.