I Have a Dream

What’s Your Dream?

Fifty years ago on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Though it was a momentous occasion, King’s prepared speech was just a composite of speeches he had given before. Nothing new. Clarence Jones, King’s speech writer, said that the preparations for the march had been so burdensome that the speech had not been a priority. What made King’s speech one of the greatest of all time was not in what he had prepared.

Off-Script and With-Heart

King started his speech in a somewhat perfunctory manner, initially following the outline that he and Jones had planned. It was a smart, well-delivered speech and yet something was missing. King seemed stiff and his words had a rote quality about them. It wasn’t until Mayhalia Jackson, a friend and gospel singer who had performed earlier, cried, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” that King came alive. King literally and figuratively set aside his prepared remarks, spoke from his heart, and made history.


Amassing Believers

The ripple effects of King’s speech were felt across the country. News of it attracted even more people to the movement he was leading, galvanizing a legion of believers. Two days after the March, King was referred to in a confidential internal memo of the FBI saying: “He stands head and shoulders above all other Negro leaders put together when it comes to influencing great masses of Negroes.”

What is Your Dream?

When someone asks you what your dream is for your company, what do you say? Do you have a script? Does it come from your head or from your heart? Do you come alive when you say it? Are people inspired by what you say? Do they believe in what you are doing? Do they want to be a part of it?

Who Are You Attracting?

Depending upon the leader, a company will attract Believers, Followers, or Compliers. Compliers are people who comply with what they think is expected of them in order to get a paycheck. Followers are people who adhere to the leader’s agenda because they trust he has their backs. Believers are people who join a company because they align with the dreams and hopes and vision of its leader. While the leaders must direct and inspire them, Believers are intrinsically motivated to do what they do. Who are you attracting?

Start a Movement

You might be thinking, “I am not trying to start a movement here. I just sell shirts (or food or software or….). I’m running a for-profit company, with a capitalist intention to make money. I’m not trying to create world peace, solve race inequality or cure cancer. All I want is to have a successful entrepreneurial venture that makes money, provides a return to investors and ideally creates value for me and maybe others.”. OK. And why not start a movement AND make money?

Go Higher

What is the higher purpose of your company? Seth Goldman in his new book, Mission in a Bottle- The Honest Guide To Doing Business Differently and Succeeding, describes the mission of Honest Tea as the democratization of organics. Wow. Would you rather work for, buy from, own, lead a company that sells tea or one that is democratizing organics? You get to choose the kind of company you are creating, who you are attracting, and the higher purpose you are connecting to. EVERY business can be connected to a higher purpose. What is yours?

Your Challenge

What is your dream and how does it connect to a higher purpose?  Put aside the script and access your heart. Tell those close to you the difference you want to make in the world. Then ask them if it inspires them. If not, why not? If so, why?  Speak from your heart and access the “King” in you.

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Author Bio

Alison Whitmire

CEO and Executive Leadership Coach, Advisor and Consultant, “Deeply Committed, Helping CEOs See Clearer, Do More”

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