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3 Important Leadership Lessons From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today honors one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. What can entrepreneurs learn from him?

By Adam Toren

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Today, we honor the memory of a visionary leader who changed American culture forever. As many people enjoy this long three-day weekend, take some time to really think about the leadership lessons and the legacy that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left behind.

The larger-than-life leadership lessons that King gave the world are as important for entrepreneurs today as they were during his life. It's a great way to remember why the banks are really closed today.

Related: 10 Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Leadership and Purpose

Leadership lesson one: You must have total commitment to your cause

King was a visionary. He was a man who had a dream bigger than the times in which he lived. That is, after all, what real visionary leaders are all about. His "I Have A Dream" speech brought awareness and humanity to the national consciousness about civil rights in America.

King's stance on political activism in a nonviolent way made him a natural leader and an inspirational figure. He led a social movement of equality during a time when he wasn't supported by most. In fact, he was threatened and despised by many. But he stayed committed to the vision he held. Sadly, his leadership and dream ultimately cost King his life.

Related: Slideshow: Inspiring Words From the March on Washington

Even when he knew his cause was unpopular and his life was in danger, King remained committed to his vision. He was arrested upwards of 25 times and assaulted at least four reported times.

Are you bringing that kind of total commitment to your cause? I'm not saying you should get arrested, but are you bringing that level of intensity and dedication to your work? King also required his leadership team and followers to participate in nonviolent protest. He felt strongly that violence, even for their cause, was not just.

How are you ensuring your values sync up with your actions?

Leadership lesson two: Disrupting the status quo is essential for change

King is honored and revered today, but he wasn't embraced by society during his short life. However, King knew that his dream of equality (even when equality was not popular) was more important than the status quo. His actions backed his vision, and he shook up the popular culture of the time. Sometimes doing things completely different is what's necessary for evolution and innovation.

These paradigm shifts are crucial in every aspect of social, cultural and technological change. The same way of thinking always wields the same results. King never accepted that just because things were a certain way, it made them the right way.

How can you shake up the status quo in your industry? How about in your corporate culture or business values? Be a leader and set the new standard by changing an outdated status quo in your life.

Leadership lesson three: Have a dream... then communicate it and do it

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation," King said as he began his address at the Washington Monument. Those were tall words for a leader to proclaim across an audience of over 250,000 people. But King had a dream, and he couldn't be silent about it.

How effective is a dream if you aren't communicating it? Do you have a vision for your company? Is it prominently displayed somewhere your staff can easily see? And do you talk about how your actions, campaigns and products back up that vision?

Dreaming without doing is for childhood. Real leaders have big dreams, take big steps to communicate them and then they go take big actions! King's actions made him one of the great leaders of the 20th century, Time magazine's "Man Of The Year" in 1963 and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964. How do you plan to turn your dreaming into doing?

Related: Daymond John of 'Shark Tank' on the No. 1 Thing Entrepreneurs Need

Adam Toren

Serial entrepreneur, mentor, advisor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com

Adam Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Matthew, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Phoenix, Ariz.

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