MLK Day Quote

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of words. He used them to inspire, to rally, and to ultimately bring change. The change he brought is the reason we remember him on this day every year.

Many of his words are broadly applicable, well beyond the worlds he occupied.

This quote strikes a nerve for me as we work with many founders and leaders:

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Leading is knowing where you want to go and working to get others to want to go there too. That could be your team, your board and investors, your customers, or the entire world.

Molding is the word I like most in that quote. It describes the work of leading correctly. You can’t will people to follow you. You can’t expect people to follow you. You need to work to get them there.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Pointsandfigures

    And if you can’t get them on board, you have to let them go

  2. BillMcNeely

    Went to Memphis last fall and stopped by the hotel where MLK was shot They have done a great job preserving the area and ading the museum to educate https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Good for Memphis. I was glad to get out of there and want to make sure I don’t go back. Still, good for Memphis.

  3. kidmercury

    the HSCA files on MLK’s assassination should be declassified. a great way to honor MLK today is to read up a bit about the assassination including the 1999 court case about it.

  4. DJL

    And you pray to God that the consensus direction you are molding is the right one.

  5. William Mougayar

    Love it and describes aptly what should be done in order to avoid:1/ bad decisions by pure consensus2/ no decisions, gridlock and delays due to lack of consensusPure consensus makes for bad decisions. It might be great for a technical blockchain protocol, but those who are trying to extend it literally into the non-technical realm (e.g. for governance by consensus) are not being entirely realistic.

  6. LE

    In some cases a good way to put it would be ‘a manipulator to consensus’. Rare that anyone has gotten anywhere unless they are selling some dream that is only vaguely achievable or even true.You can see this in any case where a person speaks to others and tries to inspire or lead. You see it in church, synagogue, politics, companies.And it’s not even primarily the words spoken. It’s the delivery of the words and the particular words used.

  7. Kirsten Lambertsen

    If you’re looking for something to binge watch today, Eyes On The Prize is only $4.99 on Prime Video…It’s seriously epic viewing. There are so many stories of leadership, heroism, and sacrifice from the Civil Rights Movement, it’s beyond humbling. It’s also disturbing to fully understand just how hard Black people have had to fight and die for their humanity in the U.S. There’s a Part II after that, as well, that goes into the ’80’s.

    1. creative group

      Kristen Lambertsen:Sad to view the footage of the people a fually beating African Americans during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights Movement. It apowars the same agencies shooting unarmed children.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  8. karen_e

    Related, from the archives: As a founder, bringing on your initial team is more art than science.

  9. JLM

    .The words that a leader speaks are important, but not as important as the underlying logic and reason that gives rise to the words.What we think, we speak. What we speak drives us and others to action. How we act can change the world. It all begins with our thoughts.The problem is that only a few of us are really thinkers. Even fewer care about thinking.MLK was an educated man who harnessed the power of civil disobedience and non-violence to drive change in the arena of civil rights. He is often described as a “civil rights” leader and might be equally described as a political thought leader.In many ways, his efforts were a classic startup with a successful outcome, though not a final one.Though he is never given credit for this because he eschewed politics, he is the father of the black voting bloc in American presidential elections.He was a campaigner, not unlike a military officer, who conducted a series of discrete and compact campaigns that put action to his words driven by his thoughts. Each campaign had a specific targeted injustice and a specific, targeted outcome. This was a critical element of his genius for organizing and execution advantage.It began with the Montgomery bus boycott and ended with the Poor People’s Campaign — bridging the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, the Youth March for integrated schools, the Albany Movement, the Birmingham campaign, the Walk to Freedom, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the St Augustine movement, the Chicago Open Housing Movement, the March Against Fear, and the Memphis sanitation strike.The Birmingham campaign brought us his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and the March on Washington brought us the “I Have a Dream” speech — two history altering communications, one the written word, another the spoken word.The importance of the Letter from Birmingham Jail was its positioning as the manifesto that outlined the commitment to using the law as a tool for change which required the civil rights movement to operate within the legal framework, a brilliant strategy that ultimately worked. It was an intellectual call to arms and a rejection of violence.The Birmingham Movement resulted in the rejection and removal from office of Bull Connor — the Chief of Police in Birmingham who contributed to American history the use of water cannons and German shepherds against peaceful protesters. For the first time, the opponents of civil rights were shown a price tag in the deep South.Behind MLK’s campaigns was a simple objective — bring the opposition to the negotiating table by overpowering the system and thereby forcing the system to change with the power of existing and new laws.He forced the “system” to confront his campaigns by overwhelming it. Arrested 29 times, he filled the jails so full that the system had to incur incredible expenses and operate at the limits of the physical plant.During the Albany Movement, MLK’s bail was paid for by the Chief of Police, Laurie Pritchett (and Billy Graham) in order to get control of his jailhouse which was filled with King’s followers.King used to say that he was the only American civil rights leader who “got kicked out of jail.”He was influenced by a trip to India during which he was exposed to Ghandi’s legacy of civil disobedience and non-violence. When he returned, he made those principles the cornerstone of his intellectual basis for action rejecting those (such as Malcolm X) who wanted to harness the power of violence.King had a PhD from Boston University and had graduated from college at age 19. He was a studied and brilliant orator brought up in a family of preachers. He had content, message, and delivery. You should listen to the I Have a Dream speech. It is brilliant.He was very smart in not aligning himself with any political party and thereby being supported by both at times. Ronald Reagan was the man who made MLK Day a national holiday and it was the northern Republicans who passed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1963/64 while the segregationist Southern Dems and Dixiecrats opposed them.That happened because King was brilliant in steering clear of any Presidential endorsements. It is said by his children that MLK intended to endorse JFK for President in 1964 had both of them not been assassinated.It was Attorney General Robert F Kennedy who sicced J Edgar Hoover and the FBI on King. The FBI tried to drive MLK to suicide with facts and fictions.There was one other thing that King did that was very clever — he named his organization the Southern CHRISTIAN Leadership Conference which made him a natural ally of evangelical organizations like Billy Graham’s that harnessed the religiosity of the South and made the first bridge between whites and blacks through the power of the pulpits of black and white churches.This religious tone, taken together with his personal authority and credibility as an ordained and practicing minister were powerful. [Compare that to the complete lack of authority and credibility oozing from such as The Reverend Al Sharpton.]He did this in 1957 before he really got going showing the strategic nimbleness of his mind.Words do not work until there is a sound basis for why they should. The hard work is the thinking.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Good additional details. More than I knew (A) growing up and going to college in Memphis and (B) in Chapel in college hearing a lecture on Gandhi and Satyagraha, “holding onto truth”.

    2. JamesHRH

      Actually, we live in a time where your closing line is not true.Feels is the foundation for the current political climate and until leadership on both sides of the aisle underpin their rhetoric with some logical discipline, the gyre will widen, not close.Non-thinking public speaking is at an all time high.You can see people like Senator Ben Sasse try to do it, but he is failing to break through. His preface to questions now Justice Kavanaugh was exactly what you described: a logical, structured support for why the hearing was so toxic. No one heard it.It is tough to put it all together, the thinking, the oratory and the discipline.Dr. King would be a terror, were he 39 years old today. He’d be the Dems nominee & leave bits of Trump all over the country.

      1. JLM

        .All time lowest black unemployment in US history?Biggest income gains for black families in 40 years?The First Step Act criminal justice bill which Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama could never get done over 30 years?Hell, MLK would be Trump’s running mate.One guy who would acknowledge how the Dems/Dixiecrats opposed the 1963 Civil Rights Act and the 1964 Voting Rights Act is Martin Luther King.Republicans passed those bills, both of them.BTW, Ben Sasse is one of a handful of Senators who have served on the Senate Judicial Committee who is not a lawyer. Always struck me as odd.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. JamesHRH

          Sasse is very bright. Critical variables bright.. That’s how I think he got there.

  10. Rick Mason

    If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk,If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do youhave to keep moving forwardMartin Luther King Jr.

  11. sigmaalgebra

    Sounds like a good quote.I’ve seen some of what look like such cases. More details, examples, measures of effectiveness, etc. would be very welcome.Also it has looked to me like Trump has been doing a lot of that, e.g., it had a lot to do with his getting elected, and is doing that now with The Wall. In particular, as more voters see more clearly that Nancy/Chucky, the Democrat Party, and their propaganda arms NYC MSM ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, and NYC all look like BFF of El Chapo and his buddies and absorb as real the 72,000 US citizens killed in 2017 from overdoses of illegal drugs heavily from Mexico as in the CDC report…we will finally get The Wall, eVerify, etc. and return to our traditional policies, practices, and laws on immigration.For just a little more depth, it appears that in some cases to “mold consensus” have to get the audience to pay attention, be credible and sincere, get the audience concerned and informed, and alleviate fears. For the opposition, respond to their legitimate concerns, nullify their propaganda, and expose their hidden agenda and flows of money.

  12. JamesHRH

    Most of what I know about leadership is by watching people do it badly in startups.It is absolutely the key ingredient.

  13. JLM

    .You would have to argue that point with an English people who, broken by World War I, refused to listen to Churchill (guy who could spin a yarn) who for a decade preached the danger of Hitler to a world, a continent, a country that didn’t want it to be true.When the Germans began to violate the Versailles Treaty and rearm in the early 1930s, the French and English could have stomped out the embers that became World War II in a long weekend, but nobody was listening.When the audience is ready, but not before, the teacher will appear.The second Europe realized that Hitler was a clear and present danger, what did England do? The England who had frozen Churchill out of government for a decade?They put the SOB in charge. Thank God, he was equal to the task.Delivery means everything even when the content is overpowering. Otherwise, you get hope with no change or change with no hope.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  14. Neima