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Martin Luther King LeadershipMartin Luther King Leadership


Martin Luther King (1929-68)

Leader of the civil rights movement in America, which ended racial segregation and discrimination.

A Baptist minister in Birmingham, Alabama, he (pictured right) believed in non-violent action and became a national hero, winning the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.

Tragically assassinated in 1968.


For more detail see... 

The March on Washington in the History Highlights section.


Why was he a great leader?


1. Integrity

He was a good and honest man, who practised his ideals of freedom, love and justice.

He was no saint (his affairs, prompted by long absences from home, tortured him). Martin Luther King Leadership

But his family always loved and respected him enormously for his love, forgiveness and total dedication to racial equality.

“His spirit will never die”, his wife, Coretta (pictured right together in 1964), said after his death.



2. Communication

He was an inspirational speaker, who could communicate his message simply and powerfully, appealing to the consciences of both blacks and whites.

 Martin Luther King Leadership

2. Vision

Before a rally of 210,000 people in Washington in 1963, he famously said, “I have a dream” of blacks and whites living peacefully and lovingly together (pictured right).


4. Purpose

He was a devout Christian, who believed that a person must love and serve God and other people, above anything else. So he totally believed in non-violent action and racial equality.


5. Courage and determination

He faced enormous hatred from many whites in the south of America, which had a long history of racial discrimination, cruelty and lynchings (murders) of blacks.

The lives of him and his family were constantly threatened until he was finally killed.Martin Luther King Leadership

King (pictured right in 1964 with another civil rights leader, Malcolm X) endured:

  • bombings at his home.
  • one stabbing.
  • jail sentences.
  • continuous death threats and obscenities.

But he never despaired and believed that everyone should have a “tough mind” as well as a “tender heart”.


6. Humility

Just before he died, he said not to mention all his awards at his funeral but just to say,

“Martin Luther King tried to give his life serving others”.


martin luther king leadership

7. Lifelong learner

He never stopped learning from other people and reading. He was particularly influenced by:

  • Gandhi’s (pictured right) policy of non- violent action.

 Martin Luther King Leadership


8. Prepared to change

In 1967 he began fighting for better jobs, housing and education not only for blacks but also for poor whites as well.

 Martin Luther King Leadership


9. Support

He was helped by:

  • his belief in God.Martin Luther King Leadership
  • other civil rights campaigners (particularly Ralph Abernathy, pictured right above, and Andrew Young, pictured right
  • support from his family and friends, particularly his wife, Coretta.

He was also greatly influenced by:

  • his mother (who told him after experiencing racism as a boy, “You must never feel that you are less than anybody else”) Martin Luther King Leadership
  • his father, also a Baptist minister (who taught him the importance of love and how it conquers fear).

 His parents are pictured right.




Key quotes on leadership

I have a dream.

A genuine leader is...a moulder of consensus.


Key quote on America

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.


Key quote on ethics

The time is always right to do what’s right

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity

We shall have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.


Key quote on love

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.

Forgiveness is God’s command.


Key quotes on influencing people

If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live

The ultimate measure of a man is...where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.


Key quote on success

A strong man must be a realist as well as an idealist.


Key quote on law and justice

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.


Key quotes on empowerment

Power... is the ability to achieve purpose.

Power at best is love implementing the demands of justice.


Key quotes on society

A great nation is a compassionate nation

A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.



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