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Four Actionable Tips for Leaders on MLK Day

A mother and child stand in front of an MLK monument and quotation that says, "If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

According to recent surveys, as many as 94% of companies have made commitments to advancing DEI initiatives in their workplace. This directly relates to the values Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to promoting: inspiring millions to support movements for social and economic progress.

Every year in observance of his birthday, the United States comes together in remembrance and celebration of the incredible accomplishments and dreams of Dr. King.

But this year, January 17th feels different.

The societal and social shift in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Insurrection of 2021 extended to our views on racial diversity and equity in the workplace. After years of diversity and inclusion promises, pledges, and gestures toward change, we want to challenge you to take action on MLK Day this year—not just make more statements.

As teams and organizations plan their commemoration, it’s essential to take special effort to make sure that their statements for Martin Luther King Jr. day are meaningful and genuine. In doing so, we should all take note of this day's significance and importance in regard to messaging and action, as it is often a key opportunity for organizations to convey their values—and the results of their prior commitments—in the process.

Embrace The Spirit of Dr. King's Dream

Martin Luther King's famous dream is centered around the idea of a nation that embraces all people as integral to the success of society and prosperity—including and especially people of color. To that end, studies show that racially-diverse organizations are 35% more likely to outperform their peers. At the end of the day, intentional and effective DEI efforts are good not just for the people who work there, but make good business sense as well.

Use this day as an empowering opportunity to evaluate your reputation as an inclusive workplace aligned with the core values of Dr. King by embracing diversity in all aspects of your organization, from hiring practices to marketing messaging and from the front line to the C-Suite.

Dig Deep and Put Your Best Foot Forward

Before the holiday, organizations should carefully consider their current priorities and focus areas, as MLK day can offer a key opportunity to align messaging with measurable action.

It is important to make sure that an organization's public statements and actions taken on this day are reflective of their core values, and that they are primarily in line with the overall mission of the organization.

Bottom line: Messaging should be aligned with the organization's current focus to ensure this day is primarily a key opportunity for growth and progress rather than a stage for empty promises.

Be Real—and Bring Your Receipts

In order to accurately observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s important to actively make an effort to recognize its importance in a meaningful way.

Acknowledge that bias, racism, and inequity are still prevalent within society, and that they are an unacceptable presence which must be addressed both publicly and privately. Organizations must publicly align themselves with the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. in order to genuinely convey the value and emphasis they put upon this day.

This can be accomplished by making straightforward statements in support of the movement for equality, owning shortcomings, and public accountability for promised change. In other words, come with your receipts or don’t come at all.

Take Measurable Action

Now more than ever, the spotlight is on companies to back up their words with measurable action when it comes to issues of social justice. Consumers are demanding change and will stand with organizations that are at the forefront of it.

While this day is a valuable opportunity for reflection and thought, Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory is best served through actions that fulfill our shared dream of a better world in which to live. As Coretta Scott King stated in The Washington Post in 1983, this day "must be substantive as well as symbolic."

Convey the meaning of the day in messaging, but also through direct actions. This can be done through a multitude of approaches: make investments in efforts for inclusion; take actions to improve organizational equity; if nothing else, make donations to a related cause so they can do their essential work.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day provides organizations with an excellent opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to diversity and equality—think of this day as a vow renewal more than a first-time commitment. It’s okay for organizations to show their cards and engage with people who are looking to do business with those who are able and willing to walk the walk in addition to talking the talk.

With its renowned approach and forward-thinking strategy, The Mentor Method is here to help you transform and maintain your organizational diversity and inclusion. Our double-blind patent-pending algorithm breaks down the barriers of sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, race, job title, and age to create more inclusive and intentional connections across your organization. Let’s start working together now so that next year, you can share your own success story of walking in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr.

If you’re hoping to make a change today, we’re here to help. Schedule a meeting today.


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