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MLK Jr.: An Example of Persistent Servant Leadership

At 28 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. already had turned the Montgomery bus boycott into a national campaign for desegregation. He had been elected to lead the inaugural Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and had become an international figure in the civil rights movement.

He could have stopped there; he arguably had already done more than his share to propel civil rights forward. Privately, his family preferred he leave the public eye for safety – a man in a mob had thrown an explosive device at his home, flattening a section of his house. Millions of Americans viewed him as an evil instigator; some even calling him a communist agent. He had been arrested and threatened, and 11 years later, he would be assassinated for his beliefs.

He had every opportunity to quit, but instead, he focused his thoughts on one pristine goal which he succinctly stated in a speech that changed the nation's trajectory: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"

This is a perfect example of Servant Leadership in action, and begs us to think, what are we doing for others? Are we looking out for the safety of other Partners – and other companies' employees – on the jobsite? Are we volunteering for worthy causes? Are we helping people improve their lots in life through training and your experience? What can we do better to help more people, or fix inequities?

Another key aspect of that speech: Dr. King said doing, not "will do" or "have done." Past deeds are great, and planning is better, but actively participating as a Servant Leader is crucial to a community's success.

So, we ask again, what are you doing to help others today? We may never make a world-altering change, but we can do our part to make our own communities a little better every week.

As we remember his commitment to civil rights more than 50 years ago, let's all take some time today to practice Servant Leadership both at TD and outside. We encourage you to volunteer in your community; it will strengthen your group and your relationships. The Corporation for National & Community Service has a great page with ideas for your local community. To see a short video on their connection to Dr. King, click here.

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