As we all known, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a well-knownleader and he possessed many characteristics as a leader.
Martin Luther King Jr.was an American activist, clergyman and a leader of the African American CivilRights Movement. Born in January 15, 1929, the memory of MLK has remained inthe minds of many because of the role he played in advancing the civil rightsof Americans and people all over the world. All the efforts by MLK were inaccordance to the teachings of Gandhi and he used nonviolent means in hisbattle against the oppression of the white people. Dr. MartinLuther King, Jr. led the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1950s and 1960s.
Through his work, Dr. King is remembered as a pioneer for equality (Cone,1992). A seminary trained minister, Godwin, Houghton,Neck and Mohan (2011)assert that Dr. King “developed his moral, spiritual and leadership values fromthe African-American’s most influential body, the church” (p.
24). As a Baptistminister, Dr. King fought within his community in Alabama to end the Jim Crowlaws that prohibited African Americans from interacting with the whitepopulation (Cones, 1992).
In 1954, a breakthrough occurred with the U.S.Supreme Court’s historical ruling in Brown v.
Board of Education; therefore,finding it unconstitutional to segregate black and white school children(McGuire &Hutchings, 2007).In spite of the ruling, the Southern states didnot desegregate schools immediately until it was forced to desegregate.Following the desegregation of the school systems, the Montgomery Bus Boycottled to the desegregation of the public transportation system. Throughout themid-50s and mid-60s, violence against African Americansincreased as a means to limit the social change that has been instituted in theUnited States for over one hundred year (Cone, 1992). It was under Dr. King’sleadership that the African American community boycotted the public bus systemin Montgomery for over a year until the Supreme Court deemed public segregationunconstitutional (Cone, 1992).
International Journal of Business and SocialResearch (IJBSR), Volume -3, No.-8, August, 2013 immediately after the arrestof Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was asked toserve as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), his firstappointed leadership position (Garrow, 1987). As a result of the arrest of RosaParks, the Montgomery Improvement Association instituted a public bus boycott(Garrow, 1987; Glennon, 1991). The mission of the MIA was to desegregate thepublic buses in Montgomery, Alabama as opposed to having a white section at thefront of the public bus and a black section at the back of the public bus(Garrow, 1987). Originally, Dr.
King and the MIA assumed white officials wouldbe willing to negotiate with the African-American community on desegregation,but after eleven months there public transportation system in Montgomery wasstill segregated (Garrow, 1987; Glennon, 1991). It was not until the U.S.Supreme Court ruling in Browder v Gayle, in June 1956, which deemed publictransportation segregation unconstitutional did Montgomery desegregate thepublic transportation system (Glennon, 1991).
In 1957 Dr. King, alongside hiswife Coretta Scott, instituted the Southern Christian Leadership Conference(McGuire & Hutchings, 2007).The main purpose of Southern ChristianLeadership Conference according to (Laing, 2009), was to foster the influenceof nonviolence as a way of instituting social change The purpose of the SCLC”was to challenge the White hegemony used to legitimize the oppression ofAfrican Americans.” (p. 641) The SCLC, under the leadership of Dr. King, foughtto reform policies and organizational constraints that oppressed AfricanAmerican people (Laing, 2009).
As a member of the National Association for theAdvancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Alabama Council on Human Rights,Dr. King fought tirelessly to bring about social and economic change forAfrican American people (Cone, 1992). At the urging of members of the SouthernChristian Leadership Conference, the student-led sit-ins and non-violentprotests continued with the support of Dr.
King (Carson, 2005). It was the culminationof the events of the mid-1950s through the early 1960s that led to the March onWashington on August 28, 1963. The March on Washington celebrated “theone-hundredth anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and itprotested ongoing racism in American society” (Vander Lei & Miller, 1999,p. 84).
Initially, the “I Have a Dream” speech was intended to send a messageof economic equality; however, Dr. King continued to be plagued by the violentoutbreaks against African Americans during the Civil Rights era (Godwin et al.,2011). Through this monumental moment on American history, one of the greatestsocial leaders delivered one of the most influential speeches of modern time.Considering the steps and actions that Martin Luther used inpushing his dream, it is evident that he was a transformational leader. Lutherhad a powerful and concrete vision, which he clearly expressed to his followersand gave them the inspiration to share and support this dream.
The fact thatLuther had a clear sense of where he was leading his followers made him atransformational leader. As a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Luther was faced bymajor threats and actual danger. However, he is not shaken at any point. As amatter of fact, all this danger was a motivation for him to strive ahead andtell his followers about the reality of the situation they were in. It is alsoimportant to note that Luther openly acknowledged the abilities of hisfollowers, showing them that he believed in them. Luther was not afraid tostate things as they were and at no point in time did he accept to compromisewhat he knew was right. Not only was Luther a figure of influence, but he alsoinspired his followers to be great.
These are the qualities we look at whenconsidering a transformational leader (Chris, 2016).There are also a couple of aspects in King’s leadership style that are drawnfrom follower-focused leadership theories. Luther played a major role inadvocating for the rights of the oppressed African-Americans. Luther’s commitmentto his s followers is evidenced in his historic ‘I have a dream’ speech, wherehe challenges the authors of the nation’s constitution to keep their promise ofa fair America for everyone. King fought for an inclusive change, where no onewould be judged according to his color but by their actions and character.Luther’s leadership can also be seen as authentic because hefocused on molding a consensus. This can be especially seen in the civil rightsmovement, where King managed to bring together multiple organizations withdifferent leaders, and they still achieved a consensus.
King focused onmoderation and this is what to the success of his movement. Another aspect ofking’s follower-focused leadership was seen in his emphasis for peace, where hecalled people not to be buried in the darkness of selfishness but rather, theyremain in the light of selflessness. The concept of leadership is all aboutbeing able to stand up for your followers and fight for their rights, not to beafraid of the opposition faced and above all, to use non-violent means in yourleadership. A leader should be willing to sacrifice for the wellbeing of hisfollowers. Leadership is about setting goals for the followers. All these areaspects that Martin Luther continually expressed throughout his leadership.Luther set a goal for himself that he would not rest until all the black peoplewere free from segregation and unfairness (“Leadershipand Martin Luther King’s Dream”, 2016).
I chose to work on MartinLuther King Jr. specifically because it is very admirable how he took up onsuch a major task by himself without looking back at any point. Another reasonwhy I focused on the leadership style of King is because it was rather uniqueand involved no violent means. King emphasized on the importance of peace inall of his speeches, protests and marches (“LeadershipStyles: Martin Luther King vs. Jim Jones – Alternative Considerations ofJonestown & Peoples Temple”, 2016).