LEADER’S FIELD GUIDE
To a certified project manager, everything looks like a project plan. You know it’s bad when even your grocery list has a beta test phase! It was Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, who pointed out that Martin Luther King, Jr. is known not for his I Have a Plan speech, but for his I have a Dream speech. Almost sixty years ago, King’s I Have a Dream speech echoed off the Lincoln Memorial before an audience of almost 250,000. It wasn’t until gospel singer Mahalia Jackson hollered halfway through, “Tell them about the dream!” that King’s rhythmic words of inspiration were improvised.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, explained the importance of “the dream” in his TedTalk. Many people fail to start with a good why. He describes the Golden Circle. The outer ring is WHAT, and everyone knows what they do. The inner circle is HOW, and most everyone knows how to do what they do. The center of the Golden Circle is WHY, and very few people know why they do what they are doing. Think of WHAT as results, HOW as process, and WHY as purpose.
By the way, [Martin Luther King, Jr.] gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech. – Simon Sinek
So, what do dreams have over plans?
- Vision: Plans drive toward results, but dreams create a vision of what is not yet reality. Plans cannot address the culture or the reason why something is important.
- Belief: Plans drive toward next steps, but dreams challenge us to believe in something new. Spontaneous change occurs when the mind believes in a new truth.
- Impact: Plans drive toward small details, but dreams demand big thinking. Dreams mobilize movements with the power to create cultural shifts and traditional norms.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s purpose was to animate Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. One hundred years after the US Government claimed that “all persons held as slaves…shall be free,” King watched over President Lyndon Johnson’s shoulder as Lyndon signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (to end segregation in public places and ban employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin).
King’s inspiring phrase “I have a dream…” was not part of the speech he and his close advisors so carefully crafted into the wee hours of that hot August morning. His improvisation came from the sincere belief in his descriptive vision which will continue to impact people around the world for years to come.
Sources: I Have a Dream Speech (Archive; Full Video, 17:28; History Video, 4:58, Referenced Bible Verses: Amos 5:24, Isaiah 40:4-5, Psalm 30:5, Galatians 3:28); TED Radio Hour Podcast: Inspire To Action (47:54); Simon Sinek’s TedTalk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action (17:49); Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Archive, History)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She founded Synergy Groups, virtual masterminds connecting Christians in leadership around the globe for the purpose of Community, Accountability, and Transformation. She also partners with high-performers and heirs-apparent especially in the STEM industries. Michelle’s formal background in technology, franchise, and project management gives her an edge on implementing best practices and scaling towards sustainable success. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.
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