Martin Luther King's Leadership Style

Topics: Leadership, Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery Bus Boycott Pages: 8 (2721 words) Published: December 3, 2012
Martin Luther King, Jr.

A role model leader

Faculty: Business Administration
Course: Leadership
Presented by: Nana Akhobadze

“Leadership is an influence process that assists groups of individuals toward goal attainment” (Peter G. Northouse, 2010). According to the definition in order to accomplish this “process” group of individuals (followers) have to be influenced by an individual (leader) who should motivate, inspire, guide and direct group members towards mutual goal. This is exactly what Sir Martin Luther King, Jr. was doing and what had made him one of the world’s most inspirational leaders. A real role model of a successful leader had been attracting public interest for years and his characters, traits and skills are still inspirational for many of the modern day leaders and for ones interested in this filed. One of the main qualities of King’s as a leader was probably that, he always made it sure, that his followers were aware “why they do what they do”. Before discussing Dr. King’s leadership nature in more details, let’s have a brief look of his biography, which had shaped him as a successful person as well as a leader.


Martin Luther King, Jr. was a clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

He was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia (US). He graduated from segregated high school in Georgia, at the age of fifteen. He received the B.A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College in Atlanta. After that he continued his study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he was elected as a president of a senior class dominated by white students and where he got his B.D. degree in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled at Boston University and received doctorate degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott and he got two sons and two daughters from her.

In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. By this time he was already actively involved in civil rights activities and was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference - an African-American civil rights organization. Apart from struggling for civil rights, King had expanded his focus on poverty and the Vietnam War during last years of his life. Besides his campaigns, he acted as a co-pastor until his death.

Between 1957 and 1968, King spoke over 25 hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action, meanwhile he wrote 5 books and numerous articles. On April 4, 1968, at the age of 39 he was assassinated.


Martin Luther King, Jr. is best known for his role in improving civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. King became a civil rights activist early in his career. In 1955, he held the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration in the United States, the “Montgomery Bus Boycott”. The boycott lasted 382 days and on December 21, 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, which allowed Negroes and whites to take the busses on equal basis. This was the demonstration King first emerged as a Negro leader.

In 1963 King led a massive protest campaign "The Great March on Washington" for Jobs and freedom that caught the attention of the entire world. He directed the peaceful march of 250,000 people on Washington, D.C. Here he delivered his famous speech "l Have a Dream”, which is considered to be the “masterpiece of rhetoric” and which is the best illustration of King’s leadership qualities

At the age of 35, Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the youngest man who had ever received this award. He used the prize money of $54,123 to support further the civil rights...

References: Peter G. Northouse; Leadership Theory and Practice; / Fifth edition (2010)
Michael Hyatt; Eight Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr. / International Leadership (2010)
Peter J Ling; Martin Luther King 's Style of Leadership (2003)
Priya Ramesh; Five Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr. (2012)
Rosabeth Moss Kanter; Leadership and Martin Luther King 's Dream (2010)
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