• thinking_manMartin Luther King, Jr looks at 20 people around the room in the Gaston Hotel. It’s a special meeting, 8:30am. A nonviolent protest is planned for around noon that day—Good Friday—in Birmingham, the first in what King hopes will be a sustained protest campaign. The day before King learned his organization had no funds left to bail people out of jail. Zero.

And that’s the whole point of the nonviolent march: get protestors arrested, bail them out, and repeat, repeat, repeat, until the local legal system is so clogged up it forces acceptance of their calls for more civil rights. But again: zero money in the bank. Now, King wants this early morning meeting to decide what to do next. (photo is of the inner courtyard of the Gaston Hotel, April 1963, morning of the meeting; the meeting room is inside)


If you’re King, how do you run the meeting? What outcome should the meeting produce? What’s the process for getting there? What’s your role as leader?
This is a real-life situation drawn from history.

Email me your thoughts on what you think King as a leader should do. After you’ve done so, look below at the nature of other people’s responses. Then, head on over to another spot on my website, The Commonplace Book in the “My Writings” section. I’ve written about what King did and what happened next. You’ll be shocked that you may not know the story as well as you think. Thanks much for your effort. All the best, Dan

Steven: “King has to be sure he sets the tone. Everyone will be looking to him. If they see him flinch, they will lose hope and their nerve for sure.”

Denise: “It would be hard not to be upset if you’re King. How did things get to this point (no funds) without someone saying something until just now? I’d be fighting against the temptation to lose my temper with the group. Then again, you don’t want to get bogged down in finger-pointing with so much on the line in just a few hours. He’s got to keep it positive in this meeting.”

Rob: “Focus on the next few hours. As far as King is concerned, that is the whole future. Forget what happened up to now. You need the team to rally and help figure out what to do next. The team will do it, not you.”