Guest Post: Create a Great Leadership Team Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Share Button

Ven­tur­ing away from books a bit, Tripp Braden (web­site | @TrippBraden) has writ­ten a post on his expe­ri­ences with early civil rights lead­ers when attend­ing col­lege. As a lover of his­tory I found this piece inter­est­ing and enlight­ning and would like to share it with you (yes, you!) on this day.

Post first pub­lished as Cre­ate a Great Lead­er­ship Team Like Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. on

Dr. King Jr. embraced a team approach to leadership.

What made Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. such a pow­er­ful serv­ing leader? Can we use the same prin­ci­ples he used to help impact our world today? Dur­ing the 1980’s, I was given an oppor­tu­nity to inter­view his wife and sev­eral of his clos­est asso­ciates about what they felt about the civil rights move­ment and what made Dr. King effec­tive as a man and as a leader.

I met with sev­eral peo­ple in Dr. King’s inner cir­cle. They included Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, Ralph David Aber­nathy Sr., Jesse Jack­son, and James Mered­ith. Each had a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on Dr. King but I believe each can help us bet­ter under­stand the man who changed our world so much.

The first thing you notice about all the peo­ple around Dr. King was that they all were lead­ers in their own right, any one of them could have stood on their own as a leader of the cause. They were all coura­geous and pos­sessed a con­fi­dence about their unique con­tri­bu­tion to the big­ger cause. They knew their strengths and were very con­fi­dent in what they believed about the direc­tion the coun­try was going. Serv­ing lead­ers build strong lead­er­ship teams. They sur­round them­selves with the best peo­ple avail­able, not peo­ple who always say yes.

I met Coretta Scott King first and she set the tone for the sac­ri­fices Dr. King had made for his cause. She took on the man­tle after his death but also played a crit­i­cal role dur­ing the most chal­leng­ing parts of his life. She was a very inde­pen­dent per­son and very effec­tive at giv­ing Dr. King the ground­ing all serv­ing lead­ers must have. She pro­vided sup­port and pro­tec­tion dur­ing the civil rights movement’s most crit­i­cal times. She took care of issues of fam­ily and church while her hus­band was away. Serv­ing lead­ers need good strong part­ners if they hope to chal­lenge the world’s biases.

Andrew Young pro­vided Dr. King with the polit­i­cal and legal skills required to keep the move­ment going. Not such an easy task when you’re chal­leng­ing society’s val­ues. He rose to become the US Ambas­sador to the United Nations where he con­tin­ued using his hard earned nego­ti­at­ing skills to get things done on global basis. He also shared a side of Dr. King that is sel­dom thought of, which was Dr. King’s sense of humor. I also think Andrew Young helped Dr. King remain con­nected to the man that was loved by all in his inner cir­cle. Andrew Young help Dr. King share his sense of humor. Serv­ing lead­ers pos­sess a great sense of humor.

Ralph Aber­nathy Sr. pro­vided Dr. King with a trusted con­fi­dent dur­ing the chal­leng­ing times when he needed one. He pos­sessed a longer view on the move­ment and Dr. King saw him as a per­son who could help keep his dream alive. He was a solid advi­sor who could keep things mov­ing when Dr. King was in jail. I think it’s hard for most peo­ple to real­ize how dif­fi­cult these times were. Today’s serv­ing lead­ers may be incar­cer­ated for 24 hours or less. Dr. King spent sev­eral weeks in jail with lim­ited sup­port to make his point. The hard­ships and attacks were not only from the peo­ple he opposed but peo­ple in his own move­ment that felt his strat­egy of non-violence would not work. Serv­ing lead­ers need peo­ple who sup­port their causes, but are not afraid to chal­lenge them when needed.

Jesse Jack­son pro­vided Dr. King with some­one who was as pas­sion­ate and inspired as he was about the poten­tial of the civil rights move­ment. He needed a man who could inspire oth­ers with their shared mes­sage of equal­ity and lib­erty for all in our soci­ety. Jesse Jack­son also extended Dr. King’s coali­tion to include a wider range of peo­ple in our soci­ety. He has reached beyond our Amer­i­can bor­ders to influ­ence global events with his pas­sion and charisma. Serv­ing lead­ers need peo­ple who can build and expand on the foun­da­tions cre­ated by the move­ments’ founders.

The final per­son in Dr. King’s inner cir­cle I met was James Mered­ith. He spent the least amount of time with Dr. King but had a last­ing impact on the move­ment. He was a peace­ful war­rior who made the deci­sion to push the US gov­ern­ment to get his rights granted. He had been shot and sur­vived. He was the only Repub­li­can in this group. He under­stood that polit­i­cal power could increase the speed of change in our coun­try. He believed edu­ca­tion was a right that every cit­i­zen should have access to. He was the first black stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­sis­sippi dur­ing the six­ties. The Kennedy admin­is­tra­tion had to have US Mar­shalls pro­tect him dur­ing the ini­tial days of attend­ing the school. Serv­ing lead­ers believe advanced edu­ca­tion is crit­i­cal to sus­tain­ing a move­ment over gen­er­a­tions and chang­ing cur­rent culture.

These sev­eral peo­ple changed the way I saw the world when I was in col­lege. Each chal­lenged me to become more involved in my com­mu­nity. They forced me to look at the injus­tice in the world and to under­stand that if you are given great strengths and oppor­tu­ni­ties you must be will­ing to use them to make a dif­fer­ence in the world. Serv­ing lead­ers strive to make a dif­fer­ence in the world and are thank­ful to ear­lier gen­er­a­tions who helped build a bridge to the future for them­selves and their children.

About Tripp Braden

I part­ner with cor­po­rate lead­ers to cre­ate suc­cess­ful strate­gic alliances, part­ner­ships and busi­ness devel­op­ment strate­gies. I do this by help­ing my clients to bet­ter under­stand what and how to imple­ment best prac­tices in their rela­tion­ships. Together, we form thriv­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions by focus­ing on the results both part­ners need to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful long term partnership.

I work with clients to define suc­cess in sev­eral key per­for­mance areas, allow­ing for both short and long term suc­cess. By set­ting up strate­gic guide­lines at the begin­ning of the rela­tion­ship, I am able to cre­ate break­through results for my clients.

I work clients on devel­op­ing high per­for­maing teams, lead­er­ship and busi­ness devel­op­ment sys­tems. I’m respon­si­ble for sup­port­ing these projects from con­cept to mar­ket. My respon­si­bil­i­ties include pro­gram devel­op­ment, eval­u­at­ing fund­ing options and strate­gies, and cre­at­ing busi­ness devel­op­ment plans. I also help cre­ate imple­men­ta­tion sched­ules and work with cor­po­rate and strate­gic part­ners to help bring the project to suc­cess­ful completion.

My work includes help­ing clients iden­tify the right part­ners by focus­ing on the tan­gi­ble and intan­gi­ble results they expect from their part­ner­ships. I help them iden­tify their key tar­get mar­kets and the right orga­ni­za­tions that have an inter­est in co-developing their com­mu­nity. I then work with them to recruit and attract the right part­ners from a tar­geted list of poten­tial organizations.

I work with my clients to cre­ate suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing strate­gies that cre­ate results and mea­sure­ments that help part­ners mea­sure ROI for the time and finan­cial invest­ments. I also work with clients to help them inves­ti­gate, eval­u­ate, and nego­ti­ate part­ner­ship arrange­ments for mul­ti­ple year agree­ments. I serve as a facil­i­ta­tor for my clients to bet­ter under­stand the value they cre­ate for part­ners within a strate­gic alliance framework.

My cor­po­rate clients and part­ners include OHSAA, Microsoft, JP Mor­gan Chase, IBM, AEP, Rock­well Automa­tion, Siemens, Ora­cle, Pana­sonic, Bat­telle Insti­tute, Amer­i­can Greet­ings, Berk­shire Hath­away, and many others.

My edu­ca­tion includes a BS from Bald­win Wal­lace Col­lege. I’ve taught mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary classes on the grad­u­ate level at the Dwight D. Eisen­hower School for National Secu­rity and Resource Strat­egy (for­merly the Indus­trial Col­lege of the Armed Forces), Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­sity, Keller Busi­ness School, and Miami Uni­ver­sity in Ohio.

Share Button

Enjoy this post? Why don't you sign up for the RSS feed