How Franchise Business Owners can Lead Like Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK and Leadership

Here’s Some Leadership Inspiration to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2023

Every third Monday in January, we celebrate Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day to commemorate the civil rights icon’s legacy and birthday. While you may not associate him with franchising, MLK had several important characteristics and skills that all successful franchise business owners should have.  

No matter the industry, franchise business owners need leadership skills to excel. This is true no matter how big or small your team is. With a bigger team, you have to empower others to be leaders themselves. On the other hand, smaller teams thrive with employees who are self-starters.

A degree and technical skills can only take you so far in business. As MLK exemplifies, having soft skills like strong communication and positivity can go a long way. Truly great leaders will constantly challenge themselves to do better. Even if you’re not a natural-born leader like MLK, you can grow into the role over time. Below are four ways franchise business owners can lead like MLK.

The Traits of a Leader: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Be a Visionary

All good leaders have to think critically to solve problems. MLK saw societal issues and worked to fix them. While business owners aren’t leaders of social movements, they see demands in the marketplace and work to meet them. For example, if you see that your community is in need of a restaurant or grocery store, you’ll work to open one and make it successful. Good leaders don’t wait for things to happen; they make them happen, as MLK did with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington.   

Communicate and Listen Effectively

Being an effective communicator and listener goes a long way in a social movement and in business. Anybody who has listened to a speech from MLK knows how strongly communicated ideas can change the world. As a franchise business leader, you present in front of your team, communicate with employees and clients, and listen to what others say. Listening is a powerful skill that takes time to improve. To be an attentive listener, you must maintain eye contact, stay present and avoid distractions. Remember that verbal communication isn’t the only way to be an active listener. Listening is often more important than talking. To listen more effectively, you should actively respond to the speaker while suspending your judgment, so you don’t interrupt. 

Motivate Others

Truly great leaders motivate and inspire those around them to better themselves. A way to encourage someone is to make them feel that they are being heard. MLK was known for his ability to rally others. If you notice that an employee doesn’t have a lot of motivation, speaking with them and acknowledging the good aspects of their work can motivate them to do better. Franchise business owners can improve their leadership skills by listening. They should know when team members are going through tough times, ask how they’re doing, and make them feel like an essential part of the group. 

According to Gallup, only 23% of respondents strongly believe their organization has a system to recognize professional milestones, which increases employee retention and loyalty; 67% of respondents have a strong loyalty to an organization with the right amount of recognition. Additionally, 68% of employees in organizations with a strong culture of recognition would recommend it to others as a good workplace. A little motivation goes a long way. 

Lead by Example

Good leaders are disciplined, lead by example, and practice what they preach — after all, everyone is watching. If you state how important it is to work as a team, you shouldn’t be on the sidelines watching others do the work. MLK walked during the Selma march and never took a backseat for his own personal safety or interests. The same goes for business; if your employees sacrifice time with their families, you may reconsider that next vacation. Good leaders are also flexible and change direction when necessary. According to ASANA, 73% of knowledge workers believe organizations can be more resilient with flexible plans. Leading by example fosters a culture of collaboration and increased productivity.

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Haley Cafarella is a passionate journalist and writer for IFPG. In her role as content and marketing specialist, she creates original articles for FranchiseWire and Franchise Consultant Magazine. Her specialties include educational articles about buying a franchise and franchise consulting. She also reports on franchise professionals who were recently promoted or hired through FranchiseWire’s popular HireWire series.

Haley has contributed to a variety of regional publications, including Quo Vadis, New Brunswick Today, and the Trenton Monitor. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Rutgers University.
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