INTRODUCTIONMartinLuther King Jr. was a social activist who played a major role in the Americancivil rights movement from the mid-1950s until the day he was assassinated in1968. He felt strongly about fighting to achieve equality and human rightsespecially for the African Americans population in America. He also soughtequality to those who are economically poor and all victims of injustice byprotesting peacefully (Hitendra Wadhwa, 2016).
Due to thehistorical march in Washington to support the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he insistedthe government to amend the laws and thus creating a new version of the CivilRights Act and the Voting Rights Act. In 1964, King earnt his highestachievement where he was awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize for all his effortsin trying to strive for a better condition for the people. In honor of hisworks, the country decided to remembered him by giving every year as MartinLuther King Jr.
as a U.S federal holiday since 1986. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15,1929, in Atlanta, Georgia and his father was a pastor while his mother used tobe a school teacher.
King attended segregated public schools and since he was agifted student he was admitted to Morehouse College at the age of 15 where hestudied medicine and law. He never intended to become a pastor following hisfather footsteps but due to the influence of his college’s president Dr.Benjamin Mays, he was interested in becoming an advocate for racial equality. Despiteof his racial background, he managed to won a prestigious fellowship and waselected president for his senior class where the majority of the students are Caucasians.He earned his doctorate in systematic theology in1955 when he enrolled inBoston University. Later on, he and his wife had their wedding in 1953 inAlabama and he became the pastor in the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. He was chosen as a protest leaderand official spokesman for a rally that boycotts Montgomery busses.
Thisincident sparks the interest of the American since Rosa Parks an AfricanAmerican woman, who was the secretary of the NationalAssociation for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had refused to giveher seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus and later was arrested. Theboycott had continued for 381 days which causes a severe economic strain on thepublic transportation system and business owners. Martin Luther King, Jr. becamethe predominant leader in the Civil Rights Movement to end racial segregationand discrimination in America during the 1950s and 1960s and a leadingspokesperson for nonviolent methods of achieving social change. His eloquenceas a speaker and his personal charisma, combined with a deeply rooteddetermination to establish equality among all races despite personal risk wonhim a world-wide following (Benjamin R.
, 2012). He was arrestedover 20 times and his home was bombed. Ultimately, he was assassinated on April4, 1968, on the balcony of a motel where he was staying in Memphis. CHARACTERISTICSTheability to lead others is not a skill that everyone naturally possesses,however people have the ability to have a positive effect on others and within theirorganization. Leadership refers to how an individual managed to influenceothers to share and carry a common vision (Northouse, 2016).
Leadership styleis not conform on one specific approach since leaders are individuals who comesfrom different walks of life, with abundant of experience and insight thatinfluence their decision making process. Usually there is one person within agroup that is willing to take charge and lead. Being a good or bad leader issomething that is subjective since it relies on people’s perception but mostimportantly is a leader need to strive to be the best for his followers.Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. was famous for being persistent in using peaceful measures in his efforts to achieveequality (Hybels B., 2002).
His actions were influenced by thebeliefs that were portrayed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or famously know asMahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was known throughout the world for using nonviolentcivil disobedience to strive for changes in India. King’s adoration towardsGandhi’s beliefs in fighting violence with peace were further strengthen by Gandhi’sprevious success in winning the concessions for Indian immigrants living inSouth Africa’s apartheid system. It was believed that both King and Gandhi hadgone through similar experiences in achieving their cause as both of them hadbeen repeatedly arrested and ultimately were assassinated by a fanatic.Eventhough, Martin Luther King was being opposed and confronted by using violencefrom those who was afraid of the changes that he brings, he never once opted toreact violently.
Even if he and his supporters were beaten, sprayed withhigh-pressure water hoses, tear-gassed, and attacked by police dogs and therewere also serious incidents that took the lives of his supporters both blackand white, the movement still stay strong. Since King was adamant in notresorting to violence, this eventually managed to attract more supportersespecially those who are not actually African American to join his movement.This can be seen during the march in Washington, D.C where King was the mostprominent leader in the drive to register black voters in Atlanta which drew aquarter-million participants. His peaceful beliefs also extended when VietnamWar escalated, King spoke out against America’s involvement in the conflict.
His anti-war position was an outgrowth of his belief in nonviolence.Hewas smart to learn and apply the same peaceful approach that Mahatma Gandhi hadused in his efforts in India which was a success (HackmanM, Z. & Johnson C, E, 2004). He saw that was the only way for and oppressedpeople to gain freedom through Gandhi’s vision of non-violence. His message hadsuccessfully moved beyond African Americans and was drawing supporters from allsegments of society, many of them appalled by the violence they saw beingconducted against peaceful protestors night after night on television news. Hereceived many criticism from the members of the Civil Movements who thought hewas moving too slow which reflect that he was weak and needed to take moreaggressive action to get his message across.Asa leader in any given situation, beingintelligent is crucial within an organization since the leader is expectedto know and understand a lot of things. The subordinates or followers look upand seek the leader if they faced difficulties in continuing their work.
Leadersshould always remember that continuous learning process is crucial in order forthem to maintain and enhance their intellectual capabilities. It is importantto educate oneself either formally or informally, so that he or she can educatethe supporters. Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr was acknowledged by all as a successfulleader of the African American civil rights Movement in the United States sincehe was able to lead African Americans in a nonviolent way to the advancement ofcivil rights. He was able to strategically plan on where to hold protests andrallies and rather than shy away from the risk, he focused these rallies inareas of greatest agitation and where the suffering of the African American wasmore apparent. Dr. King was an educated individual, receivinghis Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from Boston University.
Therefore,since he is aware of his abilities, he uses it to his advantage. Having strongverbal ability, perceptual ability, and reasoning appears to make one a betterleader. King had used his intellect and academic skills to compose incrediblespeech, which was apparent in his “I Have a Dream” speech which was deliveredduring the march on Washington where he called for an end to racism (BbcNews Website, 2003). Over 40 years later the powerful speech lives on and hisspeech managed to inspire many. He also had once wrote an article and had usedreferences to Greek philosophers in his message which portrays how vast hisknowledge.Possessingself-confidence is also a majortrait for a leader to possess. Self-confidence here refers to how a personbelieve in his own self, where he knows that he can create something phenomenalwith his skills and capabilities. The process of gaining other people trust himwill be easier without any difficulties since the leader will have no problemin portraying how confidence he feels about his ability to lead (AdamToren, 2016).
Someone who is unsure about himself will absolutely fail tomotivate others to follows and adhere to his guidance as it allows thefollowers to feel doubtful on the leader’s skills and knowledge. As a leader,they must be confident in themselves to make the right decisions at the righttime. Dr. King’s confidence and poise drew followers. He was confident in hisabilities to lead the African American community to one day be treated equal.
IfDr. King lacked self-confidence he would not have been able to change the livesof the African American people. Dr.
King did not let any negativity against himstop him from achieving greatness.Inorder to successfully inspire and motivate others to follow and apply whateverthe leader is preaching about, he needs to first believe it in him. Whateverthe vision that the leader has for the future, he has to be confident in orderto inspire others.
Dr. king had an unwavering view of the future as he calledfor equality amongst all humans, and he believe and held this vision since anearly age and never once gave up on his desire to achieve it. Since peopletruly believe that King was confident in himself that he could create thechange that they desired, millions of people quickly supported his vision. Thisvision was clearly seen in his “I Have a Dream” speech where he outlined hisdesire to live in a world where his children would not be judged by the colorof their skin but rather on the quality of their characters.
Lastly,the level of determination willreflect how good a leader. Determination is the desire to get the job done(Northouse, 2016). Dr.
King was determined to fulfill his dream of one day seeingthe African American community to be given the same freedom as other Americanand also be view as equal. Others are willing to follow his every footstepsince they are inspired with his drive and passion, even when times were roughand he was put into prison, he still did not give up. He continued hisnonviolent journey to have a better future for the African American people andhe constantly put himself in dangerous situations for his people and he gavehis all. His movement still stands strong despite the entire backlash that theyreceive because they are greatly influence by his perseverance. In the end, hepaid the ultimate sacrifice as he fought for freedom as he was assassinated byJames Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee.
Despite the turmoil that he faced, he wasawarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. His achievement and contributions havebeen honored with a national holiday, schools and public buildings named afterhim, and a memorial on Independence Mall in Washington DC. It will beimpossible for Dr.
King to have his achievements if he does not have a strongmindset.Overthe eleven years of his involvement in the Civil Right Movement, Dr. King hastraveled over six million miles and spoke at over twenty-five hundredoccasions.
While he was travelling across the United Stated, he also hadwritten five books and many articles to reach out to a wider audience in orderto share his messages. This shows how determine he is in pursuing and achievinghis goals so that he is able to ensure that American especially AfricanAmerican are able to grasp and support his movement. Since he was determined inhis efforts to achieve equality, he was able to establish the trust of thepeople and through this trust; the people would follow him even when they areunsure of his direction. This sense of trustworthiness was a result of hisstrong determination as the people feel that he really believe in what he isgoing for and he truly does do it for the sake of the people.
LEADERSHIP STYLEMartinLuther King JR’s traits made him not only a great leader but also atransformational one. He had the ability to provide inspirational motivation tohis followers, for example in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther KingJR appeals to his followers using symbols and emotional appeals to focus groupmembers’ efforts to achieve more than they would in their own self-interestGardner,H. & Laskin E.
, 1996). “People who exhibit transformational leadershipoften have a strong set of internal values and ideals, and they are effectiveat motivating followers. He challenged the existing state of segregation andinjustice, suggesting a new pathway to democracy and racial justice (Rhondajaipul,2013).
He forced the nation to see through his eyed the struggles of theeveryday African American man and woman and asked them to come together tofight for the same cause. Hewas also a charismatic speaker who not only inspired his followers by being agreat orator but a great role model as well. Robert House (1977) stated thatcharismatic leaders are those who affect their followers to an unusually highdegree. This means that their followers will perceive the leader’s belief ascorrect and accept him without questions. His speeches were exceptional andmany people viewed him as someone who is able to inspire others. As stated by DivineAgodzo (2015), throughout his fight for racial justice he refused to stoop downand fough violence with violence against his oppressors.
He believes in gettingyour point across and gets what you wanted by portraying high moral and ethicalstandards of conduct to achieve it, and he definitely led his followers withstrong sense of ethical values. His followers deeply respected and trusted himto do the right thing which allowed him to provide a vision and a sense ofmission for them to work towards peacefully (Northouse, 2016).Hewas a man who displayed many leadership theories in his style and I believe oneof the most relevant is Servant Leadership. According to Northouse (2016)Servant Leadership is where the leader naturally have the instinct of wantingto serve others first, meaning that he will put other people’s as a priorityfirst before himself. When the leader understands this, it will influence onhow he make conscious decision in leading his followers. A servant makes surethat the feelings of others are considered first, which is exactly what MartinLuther King Jr. had done.
There are ten main characteristics of a ServantLeader and they include listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion,conceptualization, foresight, stewardship and committing to the growth ofpeople (Northouse,2016). He displayed and actively embodied each of these traits, day after dayto their full ability. He was a man who wants to initiate change and sought itout, for the betterment of the people he protects. He made a difference acrossthe United States and in the immediate lives of many. He educated many individualswho share the same purpose but unable to seek it since they lack theunderstanding on what can they do to make a difference. Dr. King had no issueswith seeking and implementing change as it was something that he truly believedin.
He listened to what others had to say and he genuinely felt empathy towardwhat many individuals were going through. With this, he was persistent in hisefforts to heal the pain that many people felt and he understood and wanted tomake everyone aware of his beliefs and why they were the best to believe in. The most important thing to remember is thatDr. King knew that his journey would be a difficult one yet stood by it untilthe very end. He wanted people to remember him for the differences he foughtfor and the justice he wanted and not recognized and remembered for the awardshe was honored with. He cared more about the cause he was fighting for and theindividuals who were affected by it, than for any reward who could have everearned. For these reasons alone, I believe he is the perfect example of a moremodern day Servant Leader. Dr.
King proved to be a very strong leader on manylevels. He was a man of his word, cared more about others than himself andwouldn’t stop until he made a difference. CONCLUSIONInconclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the value of trust andbuilding relationship with the community and this is a key goal for manyleaders regardless who they lead, since in order to build positive culture aleader need to build trust with everyone. Dr. King strongly holds in the valueif you are unhappy with something and wants it to change; the change shouldcome first from within yourself. Meaning that a person have to take action ifhe or she wants to make a difference.
Dr. King was a strong and confident manwho managed to empowered a generation and he is a kind of leader who makethings happen. This can be done if the leader has the ability to act quicklyand wisely and these skills come from having the experiences and intellectual capabilities.Most importantly, every leader needs a clear vision in what they want topursue. In the case of Martin Luther King, his vision was not only clear but itwas a vision that was shared by many members of the society which he embodiedpassionately in everything that he does. Therefore all leaders who want tocreate change or institute a vision, they need to be passionate about the ideaand model the vision for everyone else. Noteveryone has the natural ability in leading others but it does not stop themfrom making a positive change within their organization. One can possessdifferent leadership traits that will help them to be effective leaders withintheir organization.
Dr. King was the one person within his group of AfricanAmericans to take charge. He excelled in every aspect to lead his people tobeing treated as equal. The leadership traits that he possessed allowed him tofulfill his dream. Dr.
King showed that he was the best leader that he couldbe. Even though he is no longer alive, his legacy lives on.