Leadership Lessons From Luther (The Movie)

“Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.”   -Martin Luther

In this world, to be a true changemaker will require deep, steadfast belief in the change you are chasing after.  It will necessitate courage, perseverance, endurance, as well as a bit of boldness to face the doubt, fear, and discomfort that will most likely plague your efforts.

Deep commitment towards change begins as an internal feeling, as much as it is pushed from external forces.  It wells up from your innermost being, a feeling from deep inside, a knowing that this is both right, and necessary.

Being a changemaker is not something you aspire to be but, a crusade that is birthed in the core of your being that spurs you onward.

For most often, your plight will not be a pleasant one.  It will be fraught with push-back, rejection, ridicule, even anger.  For great change is seldom embraced, most often, it is quite the opposite.

The status quo will fight and push back every step of the way…

The annals of history are littered with the stories of these changemakers.  Those few souls who were willing to sacrifice it all for their beliefs, and the change they were chasing.

Martin Luther was one of those changemakers.  And from him, there are leadership lessons to be learned.

First, changemakers are not born, they become… Like many changemakers, Luther came out of relative obscurity.  He struggled with doubt, courage and even his own ability, early on.  He faced failure, in his own eyes and the eyes of others.  Yet, he stayed determined and persevered.

Second, changemakers and leaders need mentors… Luther relied on his mentor to get him through his early doubts and fears.  A mentor who saw something in him…who urged and pushed him into experiences that provided for his ongoing growth and learning.  A mentor who both challenged and supported Luther each step of the way.  An example is in the words of his mentor, “God gave us gifts for a purpose.  To change minds, to open eyes, and isn’t that what you want to do, to change things?”

Third, we learn “we preach best, what we need to learn most”… Our ideas and thoughts of change are like seeds.  The more that we nurture and feed them, the more they grow and flourish.  But they don’t come forth fully formed.  Our growth, our learning, comes to us throughout the process.  And it requires reflection.  Change may set sail from the known, but it often takes us into unknown and unchartered waters.

Fourth, when you push on the system, the system pushes back, often swiftly and harshly… Luther did not do what was best for they system rather, he chose to do what was best for the people he led.  He was a servant leader, and as a servant leader, he constantly looked out for the well-being of those he served.  Even when it neither benefitted him or his own well-being.  Luther was willing to stand strong in the face of the current ruling system in order to protect others.  As leaders, we have to stand boldly for those we lead and the wrongs within the system.  Luther was unwilling to sacrifice integrity, character, or ideas of what was right, which has a tendency to exact a toll on leaders.  Which is why leaders must equip themselves with stamina and capacity, if they are to withstand and persevere.

Fifth, as a changemaker, your message and goals may not be interpreted by others in alignment with your intent… As a changemaker, you have to be aware that your message will be internalized by others in many different ways.  You must be ready for your message to be taken out of context and spread in ways that are in direct conflict with what you may be trying to do and say.  Which is why ongoing communication and reiteration are vital to the process.  We are well to remember, that change has unexpected consequences, even in the best of intentions.  As Luther says to his mentor, “That day when yo sent me so boldly to change the world, did you think there would not be a cost?”

And while Martin Luther rose out of quiet obscurity, his impact on the world as a changemaker was enormous.  And while there are many more leadership lessons that can be taken from his life, we may best remember.

There is never full assurance you are right, sometimes there is just courage, courage to keep moving forward in the knowing that you are doing the right thing.


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