Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, a time to reflect back on the life and teachings of the great civil rights leader and activist. While most of us will not be called to engage in social activism on the scale that Dr. King did, we can still have a great impact on the people around us through our actions and behaviors.
Here are three ways to honor the spirit of Dr. King’s message in your corner of the world.
Be inclusive. It’s never a good idea to create artificial divisions between people even though, as humans, we seem to love to do it. People have a fundamental need, and a right, to be included in decisions that affect them. No one likes to be left out. Go out of your way to bring people into the process.
Listen. Once you’ve brought people together, make sure that you take the next step and truly listen to them. One of our favorite reminders for leaders is to occasionally stop and remember the acronym WAIT—Why Am I Talking? And one of our favorite recommendations for leaders is to “listen with the intent of being influenced.” Use both in your interactions with people.
Act with integrity. Even though people may not always agree with the final outcome, it’s important that we always agree with, and respect, the process. Leaders need to be especially conscientious in monitoring the ways that decisions are reached. Resist the tendency to cut corners. Ken Blanchard recommends that leaders hold themselves to a high standard by using a 3-step ethics check with all major decisions. Start with the basics—is it legal and is it fair? Then hold yourself to a higher standard by asking, “Would you be proud if your decision-making process and result was published and widely known?”
As you go back to work this week, take a minute to review the way you are interacting with people. Are you including all stakeholders in the process? Are you truly listening to everyone’s ideas and concerns? Are you being fair and ethical in the way you are making decisions and allocating resources?
Today, more than ever, we need a process that includes, instead of excludes, people. See what you can do in your areas of influence this week. You’ll be surprised at the difference you can make.