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partnerships in Knowledge

by | Jan 26, 2022 | Knowledge, Martin Luther King Jr, partner

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Knowing how to pick the most important partner

As I rolled into her apartment, I was trying to make some idle chatter as it was clear we were both nervous. It was our first official “date” although we had gone out with our Church group a number of times, and this was the next logical step. The Student Government Group for the Engineering School was hosting a banquet which I had asked her to. I mentioned, “… and we have a really great band for the dance after”. Frozen does not begin to capture the mood that instantly appeared…

… this is supposed to be about leadership, so let me comment first that we were about as different as we could be. She was from the North, and a literal concrete thinker/communicator. I was none of those and had, in fact, neglected to mention the band when I asked her out. She actually tried hard to get out of the date and have her roommate go because “she loved to dance”. I was not excited about that, and eventually got her to come after all. But it was a tense ride after my miscommunication – and not the last one 😉

Life partners that Know you and where you are going…

Dr. King was born into a home where music was a mainstay. His mother, Alberta King, was an extremely talented singer/instrumentalist who served as the director of the choir and church organist at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. So it was natural that while studying at Boston University, he asked a friend from Atlanta who was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music if she knew any nice Southern girls. Coretta Scott had been recognized as a gifted soprano in Lincoln Normal High School’s senior chorus. She also directed a choir at her home church. While in high school, Coretta played the trumpet and piano, and participated in school musicals. During her senior year in high school, she enrolled in Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Now she was on a full scholarship training to be a professional singer…

Scott was not interested in dating preachers but eventually agreed to allow Martin to telephone her based on Powell’s description and vouching. On their first phone call, King told Scott, “I am like Napoleon at Waterloo before your charms,” to which she replied, “You haven’t even met me.” After the second date, MLK was certain Coretta possessed the qualities he sought in a wife. She had been an activist at Antioch in undergrad, where Rod Serling was a schoolmate. She talked about things other than music. King recalled, “I never will forget, the first discussion we had was about the question of racial and economic injustice and the question of peace. She had been actively engaged in movements dealing with these problems. After an hour, my mind was made up. I said, ‘So you can do something else besides sing? You’ve got a good mind also. You have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married someday.’”

Knowing you need someone other than yourself

To have a strong partnership, you need very different people on your team. The diversity of thought, Knowledge, and experiences ensure that you are prepared collectively for whatever may develop. And it really stresses communications as even the meaning of the same words can be interpreted differently by all those different partners. And here it was playing out precisely that way in my personal relationships also. As my date was Baptist, I was afraid it was a matter of conviction. “No – I just don’t know how as I have never done it”. Good enough, so we attempted it a bit, and eventually found a quiet corner away from everyone, and started talking. It was one of the conversations like MLK’s above where the differences were actually engaging as her Knowledge was in such different places than mine. We had a lot more of those conversations, and not much dancing again…

Knowledge of what you share is also critical

As noted, diversity helps teams and partnerships be strong, and also you must have the Knowledge of some common elements that will continually bring you back together. In teams, it is the purpose – the why typically that you hear about. In MLK’s case, you could see that he was looking for someone who shared his passion for the work he was about to take on, and also that she would be a great partner for the areas he was not as good at.

What Knowledge of your partner do you need to fill/refill?

We have all had a lot of time together with partners and families, some of which has been extremely stressful. Particularly in situations where you have different communication preferences or personality styles that require more/less people. And with the normal pace of life, we neglect the time to really focus in on the one most important partnership in most people’s lives. In my work with leaders, I can tell those who have that type of support… and those that do not. While focused on leadership, my experience is it is very complicated to lead well unless that relationship is solid. Knowing that, and acting on it are different things. From Stan Getz’s album of about this time, with Roy Haynes again on drums, Today, what would make that most crucial partner Know that you’ve Still Got them Under Your Skin?

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