Today the United States of America remembers the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. He is a worthy subject for reflection by all people and especially by MBA students.

Dr. King was a transformational leader. Top B-schools give considerable attention to the issues of leadership and especially to the challenges facing those who would make meaningful change. King especially embodied qualities of vision and communication that are essential to effective change leadership. His vision of a racially-integrated society achieved by non-violent activism was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, who practiced non-violent activism to win the independence of India. King’s speeches and writings remain to this day profound expressions of his vision and powerful examples of the art of communication—see, for instance, his Letter from Birmingham Jail and his speech, I have a dream.

King and other leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s changed America fundamentally. King’s values of diversity, inclusiveness, and community are now the dominant wisdom within best-practice corporations. Our corporate partners expect to find at Darden a community that both teaches and lives the values of diversity and inclusiveness. Accordingly, these values animate so many decisions about how we teach and structure the learning experiences at Darden. We recognize that learning in our high-engagement classrooms is richer because of the diversity we achieve. Helping our students grow in confidence and competence for managing in a diverse world is an important developmental objective at Darden: demographic trends including immigration, aging, and social and economic mobility, ensure that the challenges of managing in a diverse world will be even greater in the future than they are today.

King foresaw all of this and offered an approach for dealing with it. Because of that we owe him a moment of reflection this day.

Posted by Robert Bruner at 01/21/2008 10:56:13 AM