5 business lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Published · 2 min read

Every January, we take time as a nation to remember the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a leader in many respects of the word, and his passion and perseverance for fighting for what is right are an inspiration for anyone who is carving out their own path. And while this definitely a day for personal reflection and inspiration, Dr. King’s lessons also resonate professionally.

Here are five inspiring business lessons that you can learn this MLK Day:

Share your dream with passion

Most people remember Dr. King for his “I have a dream” speech, which was delivered at the March on Washington in August 1963. His dream included a vision for living in a country that included true racial equality and called on his fellow citizens as well as government leaders to do the same.

You may not have the oratory skills of the great Dr. King, but sharing your own dream with just as much passion and vision can help you inspire others. With passion, you can inspire those around you to get on board with your dream and understand exactly what it is that you want to achieve.

Persuade instead of push

Dr. King sparked and led a movement that changed the world—and it was all through non-violent civil disobedience. Millions of Americans joined the civil rights movement due to his persuasive and peaceful approach.

As an entrepreneur, there are people that you have to get on your side, from team members to investors to clients. Taking an aggressive, dominating stance with any of these people in your business life can cause problems. You are “the boss,” but you can learn from Dr. King’s example by persuading peacefully.

Seek out strong alliances

As he led the Civil Rights movement, Dr. King formed partnerships and alliances with local leaders, community members and then eventually national leaders. He was excellent at building mutually beneficial alliances with leaders who shared his vision.

Look in your industry and your community for opportunities to similarly form strong alliances. They can help you grow your business, provide feedback and create a sense of camaraderie as you walk your path as an entrepreneur.

Out-think the opposition

Dr. King and his fellow leaders knew that they were up against a lot. Although his public messages were clear, direct and passionate, privately he was a master strategist—he knew exactly what he and other social justice leaders needed to do to stay within the law and practice non-violent protests.

You need to have the same strategic thinking as a successful entrepreneur. You have to anticipate the opposition and understand what your competitors are doing so you can effectively plan ahead.

Roll with the changes

Even with the strategic moves and planning ahead, opponents of social justice were strong and Dr. King experienced multiple setbacks as the protests went into high gear. For example, during the Birmingham campaign alone, King was jailed 29 times.

However, despite these setbacks, he and his team learned to roll with the changes. They updated their tactics, made adaptations and tried a mixture of marches, protests and celebrity involvement.

As an entrepreneur, you may not be jailed for your ideas but you will face your fair share of setbacks. You need to roll with the changes and see these setbacks as an opportunity to adjust and do better.

So…how are you going to use Dr. King’s business lessons and inspiration to change the world?

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