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Labor Day Leadership Lessons

Tens of thousands of marchers converged on Washington, D.C. five days ago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” Day in the United States, I reflect on these words.

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Work is important. It uplifts humanity. It should be taken seriously and done with excellence. Too often, work is treated like a necessary evil, as if it has no importance. No matter what kind of work you do, you have the opportunity to touch lives. People are the important part of work. At work, we have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships, to grow and develop people, to celebrate them for their unique gifts. Have you considered the importance of your work? Are you doing it with painstaking excellence?

“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Everyone is a leader. Everyone can be great because anybody can serve. You do not need a position of authority to be a leader; you do not need people reporting to you to be a leader. Leadership is using your influence on others for good. Every individual has influence. Everyone has the opportunity to serve. All you need is a soul that loves the people more than self; a heart full of grace for others. It’s not about college, titles, and power; it’s above love. Have you stopped to consider what love could look like in the workplace? Have you considered how caring for those entrusted to you could yield better results?

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t know if Martin Luther King, Jr. knew Robert Greenleaf, the original thought leader of servant leadership. But they were at least like-minded. Robert Greenleaf said that the test of your leadership is “are the people better off?” And similarly, Martin Luther King, Jr. says “what are you doing for others?”

The leader has a stewardship role. They are to steward the people and the enterprise to a better place. If the leader defaults on this responsibility, the people suffer. It’s laudable to think this way, but more importantly, it is necessary if you want to achieve great outcomes.

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