Leading Inspiration: Q & A About Value-Based Leadership

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Q: Leadership is extremely important, yet it can be challenging to know what “model” of leadership is “best.” What direction can you provide in this area?

A: As you have stated, how we lead others, whether in a formal position of leadership or not, greatly impacts their development and success. All of us need to find our own value system from which we can “walk the talk” as leaders. Below is “A Value System for Leadership” derived from World Heroes of Peace and Robert F. Cram (http://www.modelingfutureheroes.com).

1. Behavior – Govern yourself by never allowing another’s behavior to negatively influence your conduct. Your actions are always your responsibility; they are never another’s fault. Determine your behavior from your values, from the kind of person you want to be – never from how others behave toward you.

Each day is a continued battle for our control; not for our control over others, but for control of our response to them. – Native American, Cheyenne Tribe

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived… – Martin Luther King

2. Change – Encourage positive change, not through criticism, but through your continuous achievements of excellence for all to witness. When criticized by others, offer continual examples of excellence as your only response.

Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing. – Albert Schweitzer

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. – Nelson Mandela

3. Vision – Envision things as wonderful as they can be, not as they are, and then strive to create positive change toward these envisioned goals. All great accomplishments started as a vision in someone’s imagination, a vision that others could not see.

Where there is no vision, there is no hope. George Washington Carver

Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better. – Florence Nightingale

4. Obstacles – Realize that obstacles are not impediments to your goals, but challenges enriched with the rewards of self-confidence and wisdom, welcomed opportunities for growth and occasions to learn and master new skills. A person having reached a goal without overcoming obstacles has learned nothing and accomplished even less. Conquered obstacles are the qualifying credentials of heroes and a measure of one’s commitment and leadership.

I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. – Booker T. Washington

Do not fear the winds of adversity. Remember: A kite rises against the wind rather than with it. – Author Unknown

5. Self-Esteem – Enhance your self-esteem, not from the opinions of others, but from your values, from your abilities, from the compassionate causes you have chosen to embrace, and from the magnitudes of commitment you have expended toward their resolve.

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves. – Mahatma Gandhi

I knew someone had to take the first step and I made up my mind not to move. – Rosa Parks

6. Character – Without regard to consequences, courageously fulfill the obligations of being human by respecting all life, defending the righteous, promoting peace, inspiring compassion, spreading joy and sharing your assets with those less fortunate.

The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball – the further I am rolled the more I gain. – Susan B. Anthony

How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday in life you will have been all of these. – George Washington Carver

7. Courage – Honor and respect fear, for it alone offers you an opportunity to demonstrate courage.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. – Albert Einstein

The only battles we will ever fight are the ones inside us. – Native American, Iroquois Tribe

8. Commitment – Welcome temptations and other choices, for without alternatives your “commitments” have no meaning. Leaders earn trust from perseverance and honoring commitments. Never give up. Most perceived failures are not failures at all, but instead, successfully completed stepping stones toward the completion of a goal. The only time you can fail is if you quit.

The probability that we may fail in struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. – Abraham Lincoln

9. Trust – Honor all commitments and obligations to everyone regardless of their stature. Your pledge should be as meaningful to a king as to a beggar, for the value of a commitment is determined from its source, not to whom it is directed.

You must not lose faith (trust) in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. – Mahatma Gandhi

Trusting only the trustworthy is not trusting at all. – Carol A. Ruggie

10. Conflict – While engaging your adversaries, always maintain their dignity. This is the only road to lasting peace.

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. – Mahatma Gandhi

You cannot prepare for war and peace at the same time. – Albert Einstein

11. Contentment – Enjoy your journeys more than your victories, for your journeys occupy all your life – your victories but a moment.

Satisfaction lies in the effort not the attainment. Full effort is full victory. – Mahatma Gandhi

12. Readiness – Protect your abilities and senses from limiting influences, thus staying alert and in readiness for all of life’s challenges and unexpected encounters.

You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.

– Cesar Chavez

13. Compassion – Give simply to increase the amount of goodness in the world – often without recognition or reward. Give more to others than you receive in return, and carefully sustain this inequity, with humility, as a distinctive characteristic of your leadership.

Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.–  Albert Einstein

There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough. – Mother Teresa

14. Judging – Observe, but never judge. Seek out the differences in others and then celebrate them, for such diversity is the true potpourri of humanity and will enrich you with the knowledge and wisdom of the entire human experience.

…when we allow one group of people to look down upon another, then we may for a short time bring hardship on some particular group of people, but the real hardship and the real wrong is done to democracy and to our nation as a whole. We are then breeding people who cannot live under a democratic form of government but must be controlled by force. We have but to look out into the world to see how easy it is to become stultified, to accept without protest wrongs done to others, and to shift the burden of decision and responsibility for any action onto some vague thing called a government or some individual called a leader. – Eleanor Roosevelt

If you judge people, you have no time to love them. – Mother Teresa

15. Recognition – Serve enthusiastically as a witness and spokesperson for the accomplishments, talents and concerns of others. An attentive leader is committed to his/her people and communicates the issues, ideas and achievements of those less able to speak for themselves and gives ample recognition for their origin.

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up. – Booker T. Washington

We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it. – Abraham Lincoln

16. Values – Uphold this value system, especially under adverse conditions, not to please someone else, but to honor the unfaltering principles within you, to validate your character as the type of person you want to be, and to gradually realize the full potential of being human.

A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else. – Mahatma Gandhi

There is a perpetual battle in your heart between good and evil. Which one will win this conflict? The one you feed. – Native American Indian, Wampanoag Tribe


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