Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (For some communication lessons we can all gain from the speech, check this out.) As I watched the speech again several times to write that piece on communication, I was struck by another, perhaps less obvious lesson.
That speech is never given without a whole series of decisions. Dr. King decided to attend Morehouse College, and he decided to go to seminary. He decided to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, and he decided to continue his work even after being stabbed and having his house bombed. He decided help organize the March on Washington, and then, in the moment decided to change his speech. The first seven paragraphs of the speech were from his prepared notes. The phrase and ideas for the famous “I have a dream” sequence had been in an earlier speech, and with his advisors, Dr. King had decided to leave it out on that day. But, by several accounts, during a pause in the speech, Matalia Jackson, a gospel singer and friend who was among those on the stage said “Tell them about the dream, Martin, tell them about the dream.”
Dr. King put aside the prepared notes and decided to tell the world about the dream.
The decisions you make as a leader won’t all lead to momentous occasions or outcomes, and yet, you never know, they might.
Here’s what I know for sure: If you don’t make decisions, you definitely won’t make the kind of difference Dr. King made.
Every decision is a building block to the next one.
Have you ever looked at your current situation and thought back to the decisions that lead you to that point? When you look at decisions with that perspective, you see that even the small ones have an impact, sometimes much larger than you might have imagined.
They all matter and that is why we must get better at making them and more confident in the process.
I’ve found that when I am at my best as a leader and a human being I am decisive. When I am wishy-washy, uncertain or retract from decisions, my energy is lower, my tentativeness shows in many ways, and my effectiveness is severely impacted.
What about you?
How does your decisiveness (or lack thereof) impact you in ways greater than the decisions themselves?
What are the factors that spur your decision-making confidence?
Once you have answered those questions, you are in a better position to benefit from this issue and this month’s focus.
So that is my challenge to you today. Think about your overall decision-making prowess and your current willingness to make decisions. Consider how you make them, when you make them and when you step back in hesitancy. Then consider all of that as a part of yourchallenge for the coming days.
That decision will definitely make a difference.