INTRODUCTION injustice by protesting peacefully (Hitendra Wadhwa, 2016).

INTRODUCTION

Martin
Luther King Jr. was a social activist who played a major role in the American
civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until the day he was assassinated in
1968. He felt strongly about fighting to achieve equality and human rights
especially for the African Americans population in America. He also sought
equality to those who are economically poor and all victims of injustice by
protesting peacefully (Hitendra Wadhwa, 2016). Due to the
historical march in Washington to support the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he insisted
the government to amend the laws and thus creating a new version of the Civil
Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. In 1964, King earnt his highest
achievement where he was awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize for all his efforts
in trying to strive for a better condition for the people. In honor of his
works, the country decided to remembered him by giving every year as Martin
Luther 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 to
be a school teacher. King attended segregated public schools and since he was a
gifted student he was admitted to Morehouse College at the age of 15 where he
studied medicine and law. He never intended to become a pastor following his
father footsteps but due to the influence of his college’s president Dr.
Benjamin Mays, he was interested in becoming an advocate for racial equality. Despite
of his racial background, he managed to won a prestigious fellowship and was
elected president for his senior class where the majority of the students are Caucasians.
He earned his doctorate in systematic theology in1955 when he enrolled in
Boston University. Later on, he and his wife had their wedding in 1953 in
Alabama and he became the pastor in the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

            He was chosen as a protest leader
and official spokesman for a rally that boycotts Montgomery busses. This
incident sparks the interest of the American since Rosa Parks an African
American woman, who was the secretary of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had refused to give
her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus and later was arrested. The
boycott had continued for 381 days which causes a severe economic strain on the
public transportation system and business owners. Martin Luther King, Jr. became
the predominant leader in the Civil Rights Movement to end racial segregation
and discrimination in America during the 1950s and 1960s and a leading
spokesperson for nonviolent methods of achieving social change. His eloquence
as a speaker and his personal charisma, combined with a deeply rooted
determination to establish equality among all races despite personal risk won
him a world-wide following (Benjamin R., 2012). He was arrested
over 20 times and his home was bombed. Ultimately, he was assassinated on April
4, 1968, on the balcony of a motel where he was staying in Memphis.

 

CHARACTERISTICS

The
ability 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 their
organization. Leadership refers to how an individual managed to influence
others to share and carry a common vision (Northouse, 2016). Leadership style
is not conform on one specific approach since leaders are individuals who comes
from different walks of life, with abundant of experience and insight that
influence their decision making process. Usually there is one person within a
group that is willing to take charge and lead. Being a good or bad leader is
something that is subjective since it relies on people’s perception but most
importantly 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 achieve
equality (Hybels B., 2002). His actions were influenced by the
beliefs that were portrayed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or famously know as
Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was known throughout the world for using nonviolent
civil disobedience to strive for changes in India. King’s adoration towards
Gandhi’s beliefs in fighting violence with peace were further strengthen by Gandhi’s
previous success in winning the concessions for Indian immigrants living in
South Africa’s apartheid system. It was believed that both King and Gandhi had
gone through similar experiences in achieving their cause as both of them had
been repeatedly arrested and ultimately were assassinated by a fanatic.

Even
though, Martin Luther King was being opposed and confronted by using violence
from those who was afraid of the changes that he brings, he never once opted to
react violently. Even if he and his supporters were beaten, sprayed with
high-pressure water hoses, tear-gassed, and attacked by police dogs and there
were also serious incidents that took the lives of his supporters both black
and white, the movement still stay strong. Since King was adamant in not
resorting to violence, this eventually managed to attract more supporters
especially 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 most
prominent leader in the drive to register black voters in Atlanta which drew a
quarter-million participants. His peaceful beliefs also extended when Vietnam
War escalated, King spoke out against America’s involvement in the conflict.
His anti-war position was an outgrowth of his belief in nonviolence.

He
was smart to learn and apply the same peaceful approach that Mahatma Gandhi had
used in his efforts in India which was a success (Hackman
M, Z. & Johnson C, E, 2004). He saw that was the only way for and oppressed
people to gain freedom through Gandhi’s vision of non-violence. His message had
successfully moved beyond African Americans and was drawing supporters from all
segments of society, many of them appalled by the violence they saw being
conducted against peaceful protestors night after night on television news. He
received many criticism from the members of the Civil Movements who thought he
was moving too slow which reflect that he was weak and needed to take more
aggressive action to get his message across.

As
a leader in any given situation, being
intelligent is crucial within an organization since the leader is expected
to know and understand a lot of things. The subordinates or followers look up
and seek the leader if they faced difficulties in continuing their work. Leaders
should always remember that continuous learning process is crucial in order for
them to maintain and enhance their intellectual capabilities. It is important
to educate oneself either formally or informally, so that he or she can educate
the supporters. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was acknowledged by all as a successful
leader of the African American civil rights Movement in the United States since
he was able to lead African Americans in a nonviolent way to the advancement of
civil rights. He was able to strategically plan on where to hold protests and
rallies and rather than shy away from the risk, he focused these rallies in
areas of greatest agitation and where the suffering of the African American was
more apparent.

 Dr. King was an educated individual, receiving
his Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from Boston University. Therefore,
since he is aware of his abilities, he uses it to his advantage. Having strong
verbal ability, perceptual ability, and reasoning appears to make one a better
leader. King had used his intellect and academic skills to compose incredible
speech, which was apparent in his “I Have a Dream” speech which was delivered
during the march on Washington where he called for an end to racism (Bbc
News Website, 2003). Over 40 years later the powerful speech lives on and his
speech managed to inspire many. He also had once wrote an article and had used
references to Greek philosophers in his message which portrays how vast his
knowledge.

Possessing
self-confidence is also a major
trait for a leader to possess. Self-confidence here refers to how a person
believe in his own self, where he knows that he can create something phenomenal
with his skills and capabilities. The process of gaining other people trust him
will be easier without any difficulties since the leader will have no problem
in portraying how confidence he feels about his ability to lead (Adam
Toren, 2016). Someone who is unsure about himself will absolutely fail to
motivate others to follows and adhere to his guidance as it allows the
followers 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 right
time. Dr. King’s confidence and poise drew followers. He was confident in his
abilities to lead the African American community to one day be treated equal. If
Dr. King lacked self-confidence he would not have been able to change the lives
of the African American people. Dr. King did not let any negativity against him
stop him from achieving greatness.

In
order to successfully inspire and motivate others to follow and apply whatever
the leader is preaching about, he needs to first believe it in him. Whatever
the vision that the leader has for the future, he has to be confident in order
to inspire others. Dr. king had an unwavering view of the future as he called
for equality amongst all humans, and he believe and held this vision since an
early age and never once gave up on his desire to achieve it. Since people
truly believe that King was confident in himself that he could create the
change that they desired, millions of people quickly supported his vision. This
vision was clearly seen in his “I Have a Dream” speech where he outlined his
desire to live in a world where his children would not be judged by the color
of their skin but rather on the quality of their characters.

Lastly,
the level of determination will
reflect 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 seeing
the African American community to be given the same freedom as other American
and also be view as equal. Others are willing to follow his every footstep
since they are inspired with his drive and passion, even when times were rough
and he was put into prison, he still did not give up. He continued his
nonviolent journey to have a better future for the African American people and
he constantly put himself in dangerous situations for his people and he gave
his all. His movement still stands strong despite the entire backlash that they
receive because they are greatly influence by his perseverance. In the end, he
paid the ultimate sacrifice as he fought for freedom as he was assassinated by
James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. Despite the turmoil that he faced, he was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. His achievement and contributions have
been honored with a national holiday, schools and public buildings named after
him, and a memorial on Independence Mall in Washington DC. It will be
impossible for Dr. King to have his achievements if he does not have a strong
mindset.

Over
the eleven years of his involvement in the Civil Right Movement, Dr. King has
traveled over six million miles and spoke at over twenty-five hundred
occasions. While he was travelling across the United Stated, he also had
written five books and many articles to reach out to a wider audience in order
to share his messages. This shows how determine he is in pursuing and achieving
his goals so that he is able to ensure that American especially African
American are able to grasp and support his movement. Since he was determined in
his efforts to achieve equality, he was able to establish the trust of the
people and through this trust; the people would follow him even when they are
unsure of his direction. This sense of trustworthiness was a result of his
strong determination as the people feel that he really believe in what he is
going for and he truly does do it for the sake of the people.

 

LEADERSHIP STYLE

Martin
Luther King JR’s traits made him not only a great leader but also a
transformational one. He had the ability to provide inspirational motivation to
his followers, for example in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King
JR appeals to his followers using symbols and emotional appeals to focus group
members’ efforts to achieve more than they would in their own self-interest
Gardner,
H. & Laskin E., 1996). “People who exhibit transformational leadership
often have a strong set of internal values and ideals, and they are effective
at motivating followers. He challenged the existing state of segregation and
injustice, suggesting a new pathway to democracy and racial justice (Rhondajaipul,
2013). He forced the nation to see through his eyed the struggles of the
everyday African American man and woman and asked them to come together to
fight for the same cause.

He
was also a charismatic speaker who not only inspired his followers by being a
great orator but a great role model as well. Robert House (1977) stated that
charismatic leaders are those who affect their followers to an unusually high
degree. This means that their followers will perceive the leader’s belief as
correct and accept him without questions. His speeches were exceptional and
many people viewed him as someone who is able to inspire others. As stated by Divine
Agodzo (2015), throughout his fight for racial justice he refused to stoop down
and fough violence with violence against his oppressors. He believes in getting
your point across and gets what you wanted by portraying high moral and ethical
standards of conduct to achieve it, and he definitely led his followers with
strong sense of ethical values. His followers deeply respected and trusted him
to do the right thing which allowed him to provide a vision and a sense of
mission for them to work towards peacefully (Northouse, 2016).

He
was a man who displayed many leadership theories in his style and I believe one
of the most relevant is Servant Leadership. According to Northouse (2016)
Servant Leadership is where the leader naturally have the instinct of wanting
to serve others first, meaning that he will put other people’s as a priority
first before himself. When the leader understands this, it will influence on
how he make conscious decision in leading his followers. A servant makes sure
that the feelings of others are considered first, which is exactly what Martin
Luther King Jr. had done. There are ten main characteristics of a Servant
Leader and they include listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion,
conceptualization, foresight, stewardship and committing to the growth of
people (Northouse,
2016). He displayed and actively embodied each of these traits, day after day
to their full ability. He was a man who wants to initiate change and sought it
out, for the betterment of the people he protects. He made a difference across
the United States and in the immediate lives of many. He educated many individuals
who share the same purpose but unable to seek it since they lack the
understanding on what can they do to make a difference. Dr. King had no issues
with seeking and implementing change as it was something that he truly believed
in. He listened to what others had to say and he genuinely felt empathy toward
what many individuals were going through. With this, he was persistent in his
efforts to heal the pain that many people felt and he understood and wanted to
make everyone aware of his beliefs and why they were the best to believe in.

 The most important thing to remember is that
Dr. King knew that his journey would be a difficult one yet stood by it until
the very end. He wanted people to remember him for the differences he fought
for and the justice he wanted and not recognized and remembered for the awards
he was honored with. He cared more about the cause he was fighting for and the
individuals who were affected by it, than for any reward who could have ever
earned. For these reasons alone, I believe he is the perfect example of a more
modern day Servant Leader. Dr. King proved to be a very strong leader on many
levels. He was a man of his word, cared more about others than himself and
wouldn’t stop until he made a difference.

 

CONCLUSION

In
conclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the value of trust and
building relationship with the community and this is a key goal for many
leaders regardless who they lead, since in order to build positive culture a
leader need to build trust with everyone. Dr. King strongly holds in the value
if you are unhappy with something and wants it to change; the change should
come first from within yourself. Meaning that a person have to take action if
he or she wants to make a difference. Dr. King was a strong and confident man
who managed to empowered a generation and he is a kind of leader who make
things happen. This can be done if the leader has the ability to act quickly
and wisely and these skills come from having the experiences and intellectual capabilities.
Most importantly, every leader needs a clear vision in what they want to
pursue. In the case of Martin Luther King, his vision was not only clear but it
was a vision that was shared by many members of the society which he embodied
passionately in everything that he does. Therefore all leaders who want to
create change or institute a vision, they need to be passionate about the idea
and model the vision for everyone else.

Not
everyone has the natural ability in leading others but it does not stop them
from making a positive change within their organization. One can possess
different leadership traits that will help them to be effective leaders within
their organization. Dr. King was the one person within his group of African
Americans to take charge. He excelled in every aspect to lead his people to
being treated as equal. The leadership traits that he possessed allowed him to
fulfill his dream. Dr. King showed that he was the best leader that he could
be. Even though he is no longer alive, his legacy lives on.

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