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Leadership Styles of Martin Luther King Jr

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Biography of Martin Luther King Jr


Martin Luther King Jr. was born in January 15th 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. Hindsight now suggests that his emergence as a civil rights leader, locally and then nationally, was inevitable in that place and at that time. Bellotto, Kubesh & McNeil (2008) noted that like most of the boys Martin liked to play the game Monopoly and basketball with his sister and brother. Martin grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where there were laws of segregation that prohibited black people from doing certain things that white people were allowed to do. After high school, Martin attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and was ordained a minister in 1948.

King adopted a philosophy of nonviolence which in turn became a crucial strategy and hallmark of the civil rights movement. King’s first civil rights activities began in Alabama on a cold December day in 1955 the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the first civil right’s protest that Martin Luther King Jr. participated in. Bellotto, Kubesh & McNeil (2008) said that King did not believe in violence. In 1957, King and other black ministers organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to expand the nonviolent effort against segregation and racism. In April of 1963, King and other members of the SCLC held demonstrations every day for weeks in Birmingham, Alabama one of the South’s most segregated cities (Bellotto, Kubesh & McNeil, 2008).     

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words are known throughout the world I have a dream.  Every year on his birthday, recordings ring out the great leader’s deep voice pronouncing these famous words. A half century beyond the March on Washington, August 28, 2013, history should oblige Americans to make an informed appreciation of the soaring democratic vision Martin Luther King Jr. shared with his nation that day in 1963. Martin Luther King’s creed of nonviolent passive resistance did falter badly after a series of successful confrontations with institutional segregation in the south. Lewis (2013) noted that what had been accomplished appeared to be blocked from duplication outside the former Confederacy and powerful economic and political forces in play at the end of the decade. By 1968, Martin Luther King realized that the cure for racism in America demanded politics that effectively advanced economic democracy (Lewis, 2013).            

Contributions to Society/Organization

Events in Montgomery brought King nationwide fame, as well as the respect of thousands of Americans, both black and white in the entire country. Hatt (2009) said that on 17 May 1957, King made addressed fellow black pilgrims on the subject of voting rights during a prayer pilgrimage in Washington D.C. Through King’s leadership, the 1957 Civil Rights Act committed the federal government to secure and protect the black’s right to vote. Hatt (2009) further said that King also established a Civil Rights Commission to investigate cases in which voter registration was blocked. Through the civil rights movement, King came up with important proposals which enlisted measures to outlaw segregation in public places and give the federal government power to enforce school desegregation. Martin Luther King in association with other African Americans came up with civil rights movements which designed and successfully executed boycotts in different parts of America (Ritzer & Ryan, 2010).   

After his successful struggle against legal segregation, King turned his attention to factor segregation as the kind of racism that existed and was practiced and accepted almost universally in the North. Feagin (2010) said that Martin Luther King made positive contributions to the African Americans society. Early in 1966, King began organizing the Chicago Freedom Movement (CFM). The city had closed to million of blacks, but the people involved in local real estate including bankers, builders and real estate brokers had come up with a system of rules and regulations that prevented blacks from moving into any white neighborhoods. King’s goal through the CFM was to abolish these practices and ensure the adoption of an open-housing law that would allow blacks to live wherever they pleased (Feagin, 2010).

Martin Luther King stimulated the principles of Native Americans and ensured that they understood the effects of racism to the next generations in the country. Roberts & Battle (2005) through his leadership he ensured that the black Americans took control of their lives and the way of thinking beyond their existence in the country. It is impossible to ignore King and contributions he has made about religion and justice. Martin Luther King was extremely modest about his political achievements and rather naive about the intellectual impact he made on the society (Roberts & Battle, 2005).

Martin Luther King Jr. had international stature and influence. He made a huge contribution to the society beyond the particularity of the black American struggle. He influenced liberation movements in China, Ireland, Germany, India, South Africa, Korea, and the Philippines and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (Roberts & Battle, 2005). Martin Luther King helped define many people’s social identity but was silent about the meaning of blackness in a world of white supremacy. He challenged whites to be true to what they said in their political and religious documents of freedom and democracy (Roberts & Battle, 2005).   

In his leadership role as the president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Martin made a significant contribution to the organization. Martin Luther King Jr. did not call for disobedience of all laws, only for disobedience of unjust laws (King, 2008). The SCLC was established soon after the Montgomery Improvement Association in order to create peaceful desegregation efforts elsewhere. During his short life, Baptist preacher and social reformer Martin Luther King Jr. transformed the lives of black Americans. As a result of the campaigns he led in the USA during the 1950s and 1960s, black people gained not only new civil rights, but also a new sense of the self-esteem following the bitter era of slavery and segregation.

Analysis of Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Behaviors

Martin Luther King Jr. was a persuasive and charismatic leader with divine energy that grabbed the audience’s attention; moreover, his persuasion helped people change. Junarso (2009) said that Martin Luther King believed in freedom of his people which affected the way he gave many of his speeches and the way he lived his life. A charismatic leader tends to believe more in him than in their team. In the eyes of their followers, success is tied up with the presence of the charismatic leader (Junarso, 2009).

King’s charismatic leadership style inspired loyalty, enthusiasm, and high level of performance. The term charismatic has been applied to many leaders starting from Mother Teresa to Martin Luther King Jr. Therefore, he was a charismatic leader who had an idealized goal and vision, moreover had a strong personal commitment against segregation and displayed self-confidence.

Lussier & Achua (2009) noted that under stressful conditions, charismatic leaders are able to express sentiments that are different from the established order and deeply felt by followers. The most important part for many researchers of charismatic type of leadership is their influence on their teams and the zeal of attaining their goals. Their relationship with their teams is mostly expressed as touching. This fundamental element involves sentiments of accomplishment. The strong expression of what they intent to achieve and what their follower’s belief in them is an important element associated with their success and sets them apart from the other types of leaders. 

As a charismatic leader, Martin Luther King Jr. was considered to be an object of recognition during the civil right movements to their team who purpose to emulate their traits. Lussier & Achua (2009) regarded that the consequence of this type of leadership enables followers to emulate their characteristics, beliefs and moral attributes. King’s has been instituted to have an effect on the universal peril partiality of their groups. The black Americans were eager to undergo anything awaited Martin Luther King Jr. since he fought against segregation. This was the case with Martin Luther King followers because he fought to bring about equality and freedom to all. Lussier & Achua (2009) also noted that on the upside, charismatic leadership can be very effective in encouraging followers to buy into the future vision and potential change in an organization. Focusing on the outcome of these types of leaders on external support for an organization, it was noted that the use of charismatic appeals and leadership may indeed make the organization more attractive for outside stakeholders (Lussier & Achua, 2009).

Martin Luther King Jr. actions altered the social and legal landscape of America and were admired globally. Guthrie & Schuermann (2010) said that his ability to communicate and strategic interventions elevated issues of race relations and civil liberties to the top of the nation’s policy agenda. He learned his leadership style by adapting the nonviolent tenets of Henry Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi. 

Specific Recommendations to Improve Leadership

Martin Luther King Jr. was demonstrated as a person who envisioned a sense of purpose within the civil rights movement. In order to improve leadership, individuals should be able to effectively communicate their vision, the ability to motivate others to join their struggles and movements and be reliable and alert, extremely positive and understood what it take to overcome serious issue in the society (Lussier & Achua, 2009).

Charismatic leaders should coherent a magnificent hallucination that ends up being a fundamental part of a movement. Martin Luther King Jr. had the capability to lucid romanticized goals of the outlook that was considerably enhanced than the present in his famous speech “I have a dream.” Lussier & Achua (2009) indicated that charismatic leaders rapidly identify primary incongruity of the differences between the status quo and the way things should be done.

It is important to note that charismatic leaders should identify their goals by articulating various issues from different areas of an organization.

Within his civil rights organizations, an organization that he personally founded there were followers who routinely criticized his turn the other check philosophy (Guthrie & Schuermann, 2010). Still, despite having maintained a middle ground course of nonviolence, in opposition of some of their followers’ wishes and since enemies of much of the nation’s power structure, leaders adhere to their beliefs and change strategies and ultimately achieved unparalleled success. 

Besides having communicators who can pass through significant clear goals, this types of leaders are good communicators who can produce important ideas that all people within the organization understand their message. Their eloquence and confidence empowers their teams and followers to identify and assert their leaders vision. Also, tThey encourage people to come out of their normal conditions to change fundamental issues within organizations.

Charismatic leaders have over the time built confidence in their teams their self belief and faith towards achieving liberations within the society or in organizations. Lussier & Achua (2009) said the importance of self belief in leaders enables other people to join them. As indicated by Lussier & Achua (2009) hopefulness is an indispensable constituent at the back magnetic leaders since their teams have a sense of being behind positive individuals. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech is an example of how a leader’s self confidence, faith, optimism, and strong moral conviction can inspire hope and faith in a better future and move the entire nation (Lussier & Achua, 2009). Martin Luther King Jr.’s optimism was demonstrated when he engaged in civil disobedience, in an effort to secure racial justice and equal rights. Guthrie & Schuermann (2010) considered that this was a conscious action taken in pursuit of a larger goal.

Martin Luther King Jr. possessed both charismatic and servant leadership qualities. He has been described as a leader who put interests of others over self interests earned and kept the trust of followers. He listened carefully to others problems and concerns and inspired followers to believe in their own inner strength and spirit during the non-violent demonstrations.

Issues of Ethical Leadership

Many ethical concerns have been raised about the dangers of charismatic leadership. Walden & Thoms (2007) noted that one of the most serious objections has to do with the ethics of the charismatic influence process. Many business ethicists are concerned that the power of charisma can be easily used for the wrong purposes. They warn that followers of charismatic leaders can easily fall under the spell of charismatic leaders and become too dependent on them. Walden & Thoms (2007) noted that although there has been little social scientific research, throughout history, there have been many examples of personalized charismatic leaders who have established a cult of personality.

Critics contend that charismatic leaders encourage follower dependence and demand blind obedience which can lead to tragic results. A movement’s followers also may attribute special powers to their leaders. This process may produce additional myths about the leader’s powers and add to whatever personal magnetism the leader originally possessed. Lingering ethical concerns about charismatic leadership also trouble some people. They stem from the fact that some charismatic leaders inspire such blind faith in their followers that they may engage in inappropriate, unethical or even illegal behavior just because the leader instructed them to do so.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Martin Luther King Jr

King not only accounted for the relation between character and material context but also for the relation between individuals in an oppressive social order. King reminds people that oppressive and unjust social conditions have terrible moral consequences for everyone involved including those who in some sense benefit from injustice. Judging from commentaries of those who lived through the Civil Rights Movement, King can be regarded as an exemplary public educator. It is important to note that King was able to envision and articulate the direction of the civil rights movement in America. The major strength was that King had a persuasive strength and ability to speak and communicate clearly in large crowds. Martin Luther King Jr. set overarching goals, provide followers with high performance expectations and exhibited confidences in the follower’s possibilities to gain these expectations.   

The weakness of charismatic leadership style is that sometimes leaders tend to believe more in themselves than their team. This created the risk that without Martin Luther King Jr. the entire civil rights movement might collapse if he was to leave. In the eyes of his followers, success was tied up with the presence of Martin Luther King Jr. (Junarso, 2009).

Summary and Conclusions

In conclusion, the personal traits of being visionary, having a strong desire to influence others to end racism, being self confident and having a strong sense of his own moral values made Martin Luther King Jr. successful in his struggle against segregation in the nation. He was a strong role model for the belief and values he wanted his followers to adopt. King demonstrated that he had total dedication to the course he shared with his followers.

Coming into the movement at the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went on to become one of the most prominent national leaders of the civil rights movement. Therefore, King fits the definition of the charismatic leader. He was most known for his powerful speeches. King became a focus for the media, thereby increasing visibility for the struggle every time he led a march, was arrested or spoke out on civil rights. King’s adoption of nonviolent principles infused the quality of his leadership, and he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1964.

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