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Martin Luther King as A Leader


Donald T. Phillips in his wonderful book, Martin Luther King on Leadership, does a nice job providing significant detail as to why Martin Luther King (MLK) was a great leader.  We often focus on the rhetoric and powerful speeches that he gave, but there is so much more substance to the man than just what he had to say.   There were many civil rights leaders who were talented with their rhetoric, but only one that had the full package of leadership skills to truly change a nation’s attitudes and its laws.  I took away the following points from Phillip’s book about MLK and his gifts as a leader:

  • He was exceptional at tailoring his rhetoric and communication style to fit the needs or particulars of a given situation;
  • He was a very active listener and was diligent about striving to understand individual motivations and the rationale behind different points of view;
  • He was a unusual student of human nature and knew how to connect with people in a positive and nonthreatening manner;
  • He truly led by example, and never asked his people to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.  He literally put his life on the line for the cause he believed in;
  • He was a talented grass roots organizer, who had an uncanny ability to get groups of people focused and acting on a common cause;
  • He was an amazing alliance builder and could stitch together strategic coalitions that were critical to what he was trying to achieve on a regional and national level;
  • He was a skilled negotiator and managed to win many incremental battles along the way by being fully prepared and compromising as needed to keep things moving in a positive direction;
  • He was a determined goal setter and planner and was very disciplined about putting the linear actions in place that would leave to goal achievement;
  • He was a staunch advocate of creativity and innovation and was always looking for better and more effective way to get things done;
  • He was a tireless learner who never stopped pushing himself to grow his own capabilities (and the skill sets of those around him);
  • When he had to be, he was incredibly decisive and made the tough decisions necessary to move the agenda forward even under extremely difficult circumstances;
  • He had incredible emotional strength and while others of his peers often succumbed to emotional triggers and got sidetracked by personal attacks, he was able to rise above the fray and stay focused on his mission (which must have been very difficult at times);

I’ve always believed that the Unites States has been blessed with incredible leaders at certain points in our history.  Martin Luther King is certainly a prime example of this.  At a time where our country was in social and political disarray and struggling to come to grips with our past, present and uncertain future, he stood up and led us in a way we needed to be led.  He pushed our nation to reexamine and live up to our core principles and values.  He appealed to our better nature both individually and collectively. He was the rare breed of nonviolent revolutionary who ended up sacrificing his own life for a cause he deemed greater than himself.   We are all fortunate that he was such an exceptional leader during this critical time in our history.  Today should be a national holiday and the man and his legacy should always be valued and acknowledged.

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2 Responses

  1. hello, love from finland. your post looks great. Mind if i quote it in my blog?

    • Glad you like it. Feel free to use any of my blogs in your own efforts.

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