Yesterday I was Blogging about Status and being true to your authentic status. Great leaders come in high status individuals (Martin Luther King Jr.) or low status (Gandhi). http://animatingyourlife.com/2013/01/21/status-part-i/
What about times when a higher status character intentionally lowers her status to move into a supporting role. Here comes one of my favorite moments in history.
Of the many brilliant and inspiring things Martin Luther King Jr. said, the most famous and stirring may have been his “I have a dream” speech on August 28th 1963. His original intention was to speak about how America had defaulted on her promises to people of color. He spoke brilliantly and with great energy (very high status). Then he finishes and starts to sit down.
From the crowd his friend and coworker Mahalia Jackson shouts to him “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” He looks up from his notes, this is a speech he’s given before, it’s not quite ready for an event this important. He starts to speak about his dream….and changes history.
Mahalia Jackson was the greatest gospel singer of her age; possibly the greatest of all time. She was without question a high status individual commanding audiences with passion and energy. She sang earlier in the event and the pressure is now off; she gave up the stage and the status and moved to a lower status support position. With the pressure off, she could see (or feel) that the world needed a different message and she spoke aloud what she knew to be true.
Millions of people were encouraged and uplifted by King’s dream that day. Hundreds of thousands had tuned in to hear what this “upstart” had to say for himself and were changed as a result of the dream they heard. They heard about the dream because a high status person choose to move to a supporting role and did it with utter integrity and strength.
When we are in leadership positions, can we be humble and open enough to hear the voices of wisdom that come from our supporters, when we are following, can we be open enough to truly support and brave enough to speak up.
“Tell them about the dream Martin!”