Martin Luther King Jr. was the key figure of the American Civil Rights Movement since 1955 until his assassination in 1968. His legacy of service made Luther King Jr. a symbol of commitment, faith, and moral leadership. In addition, his selfless, unwavering dedication to the struggle for reaching equality in America taught people to be more accepting of each other and work towards the achievement of universal good. Born in 1929, Luther King Jr. lived during World War I and in the post-war era of the United States, which was characterized by the severe oppression and segregation of African-Americans within the country. As a leader, Luther King was affiliated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was in office between January 10, 1957 and April 4, 1968 (“About us,” n.d.). The organization was dedicated to the establishment of equal civil rights for the African-American population. It is important to study the leadership contribution of Martin Luther King Jr. because of his persona being at the center of the Civil Rights Movement, which changed US society.
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In terms of the leadership style exhibited by Luther King, opinions on this topic. However, there are many qualities of a transformational leader exhibited by Martin Luther King Jr. For example, he aimed to challenge the status quo and encourage those who follow them to explore new ways in which things can be done (Redziniak, 2016). In terms of his moral intelligence and credibility as a leader, King always taught his followers to tell the “unarmed truth” (Bridges, 2019). During his Novel Peace Prize acceptance speech, King said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality” (as cited in Bridges, 2019, para. 3). Therefore, he strongly suggested that discrimination and oppression could only be eliminated if people were not afraid of speaking the truth. It is notable that finding gaps between King’s espoused values and actual behaviors is impossible as he was always said to keep his word and act in favor of others.
Luther King’s alignment with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) meant that his values supported and contributed to the vision and mission statements of the organization. To this day, SCLC appeals to the leadership legacy of Martin Luther King, with its mission statement communicating the organization’s commitment to bring “the promise of one nation, under God, indivisible” together with the commitment to activate the strength to love within the community of humankind” (“About us,” n.d., para. 1). As Luther King was committed to teaching the growing generation about the need to speak and be heard, the organization aimed to educate society in the areas of personal and political responsibility to ensure economic justice and civil rights.
Lessons to be learned from the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. are associated with honesty and optimism. Despite the social, economic, and political environment that was persisting in the United States, Luther King Jr. was very optimistic about the opportunities of society to achieve equality at some point. He refused to accept that humankind would agree that racism should remain; rather, King believed that people would eventually persevere and reach justice. In terms of honesty, as mentioned previously, Luther King was adamant about speaking the truth however uncomfortable it could be. Applying the principles of honesty and optimism into a personal leadership practice can be a positive contribution since too many leaders focus on goal achievement or competitiveness, which can often be limiting.
About us. (n.d.). Web.
Bridges, F. (2019). Five leadership lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Forbes. Web.
Redziniak, R. (2016). The transformational leader – Martin Luther King Jr. Web.