Thoughts on Leadership: Passion, Martin Luther King Jr., and Leadership Success

What is it about leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. that makes us remember and honor them for generations? What made him stand out from all the great orators of his day who shared his vision? What is it that tipped him from greatness to legends? He, like other leaders share one thing in common: their amazing ability to inspire those around them.

Over the last few weeks, we've been looking at leaders whose inspiration and roots in the why of what they were trying to do led them to success. Like the Wright brothers and Apple founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr. was not alone in his quest at the time. There were others preaching about civil rights and spreading a similar message.

Simon Sinek discusses King's leadership success in his book, "Start With Why." In his book, he cites the reason leaders like King achieve phenomenal success tying back to a simple “golden rule” that he subscribed to that made him different than everyone else.

While most leaders or companies communicate from the perspective of what they do, people like Dr. King communicate around why they do it. They start with a belief. Everything they do and every way they act is built around it. Rather than selling a product they sell a belief which creates deeper, more meaningful connections with people.

Sinek even says that it's not a person's skill or opportunity that creates this type of success; it's the combination of other characteristics that make up a great leader.

Great leaders:

  • Inspire people to act
  • Give people a sense of purpose or belonging
  • Are followed by people whom they have inspired, not swayed

A leader is nothing without followers. You can judge a great leader by how his or her people act. Great leaders inspire people to:

  • Have deep personal motivation to act
  • Be less likely to be swayed by incentives
  • Be willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering
  • Act for the good of the whole because they want to, not because they have to

I hope from this series you have learned that in order to be a great leader you do not need money or fame, the highest skills or best connections, you just need the right intentions and a lot of passion. If you find those things, people will follow you and truly be inspired to act.