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From Montgomery to Memphis: Lessons on Leadership from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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From Montgomery to Memphis: Lessons on Leadership from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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From humble beginnings, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a nation – and the world – out of the chains of societal slavery. How did he achieve such lasting results? Leadership is a skill …

From humble beginnings, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a nation – and the world – out of the chains of societal slavery. How did he achieve such lasting results? Leadership is a skill few individuals master. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of those individuals. This presentation explores King’s success and presents a framework in which anyone can learn to become a great leader.

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  • 1. From humble beginnings, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a nation – and the world – out of the chains of societal slavery. How did he achieve such lasting results? Leadership is a skill few individuals master. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of those individuals. This presentation explores King’s success and presents a framework in which anyone can learn to become a great leader. Based on a Paper Written by Matthew A. Gilbert Reproduced and Published April 4, 2009 From Montgomery to Memphis: Lessons on Leadership from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • 2. I. Overview and Objectives
    • From humble beginnings Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the world out of the chains of societal slavery.
    • How did he achieve such lasting, significant results?
    • Leadership is a skill that very few individuals master. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of those individuals.
    • This presentation explores King’s success as a leader and presents a framework through which anyone can learn to become a great leader.
  • 3. II. Confluence of Influence: Leadership Defined
    • “The only real power a leader may possess is the power to persuade,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 61).
    • “A leader…has followers. Leaders are those from whom we learn. They influence… society’s agenda. They offer hope,” (DePree, 2000, p. 4).
    • “Leadership is influence,” (Maxwell, 1998, p. 17).
    • King was influenced to accept a nonviolent strategy after studying Ghandi. The start of the civil rights movement was influenced by Rosa Parks.
  • 4. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Humility: A Reluctant Reverend
      • Lao Tzu cautions “ Do not intrude. Do not control,” (Heider, 1985, p. 33).
      • King only reluctantly agreed to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. “Because he had not sought the point… Martin may have been the best possible leader,” (Philips, 1998, p. 42).
      • A humble leader is more open to alternative viewpoints and can modify, then satisfy, expectations. Retreating (even slightly) often yields greater gains.
  • 5. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Listening: An Ear Without Fear
      • “The leader listens to the ideas, needs, aspirations, and wishes of the followers and then…responds,” (DePree, 1998, p. xxi).
      • “King…listened while others argued… and…would calmly sum up the debate and identify a way forward,” (Ling, 2003, p. 2).
      • Listening to and integrating the desires of others develops trust, which renders respect, which creates community.
  • 6. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Communication: The Strength of Storytelling
      • “ Good leaders…have stories. Stories help us learn and remember whom we are, where we have been, where we are going,” (DePree, 2000, p. 1).
      • King, “spoke in the shared language of the community,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 90).
      • Using a mixture of metaphors, movements, similes, imagery, alliteration, rhythm, cadence and repetition, King held audiences spellbound.
  • 7. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Education: A Yearn to Learn
      • “Leaders are learners," (Maxwell, 1998, p. 23).
      • “Martin…learned from experience – so that he could do better the next time around,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 77).
      • “’We in this generation must stimulate our children to learn,’” he is quoted as saying (Phillips, 1998, p. 208).
  • 8. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Compassion: Lovers Share Soup
      • “Lovers share soup,” (DePree, 2000, p. 6).
      • “Let us not…satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred…we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force,” (Western Michigan, 2003, p. 2).
      • King “became the…leader of the…movement…because he combined a deep-seated compassion and empathy with oratorical skill,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 96).
  • 9. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Empowerment: Involving Others and Sharing Success
      • “Only empowered people can reach their potential…the greatest things happen only when you give others the credit,” (Maxwell, 1998, p. 126-127).
      • Recognizing that “nonviolent direct action…had to be taught,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 204-205), King recruited future leaders early and involved them in the cause.
      • A Succession Strategy: “Develop new leaders from… existing ranks who could take over when the current leaders were long gone,” (Philips, 1998, p. 206).
  • 10. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Management: Administration of Inspiration
      • Leadership is about inspiration. Management is about administration. Leadership ignites a fire, but effective management keeps it burning.
      • “Strong leadership with weak management is no better, and is sometimes actually worse, than the reverse,” (Kotter, 1998, p. 39).
      • “For every major initiative during the…civil rights movement there were frequent planning and strategy sessions,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 160).
  • 11. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Consistency: Practicing What You Preach
      • “The Secret of success is constancy of purpose,” Benjamin Disraeli.
      • “People will respect and follow leaders who do what they advise others to do, who display courage in the face of adversity, who act and behave as they are expected to,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 119).
      • After being punched by member of the Nazi party, King proclaimed, “I’m not interested in pressing charges. I’m interested in changing the kind of system that produces this kind of man,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 100).
  • 12. III. An Assessment of Attitude & Aptitude
    • Optimism: Heal with Hope
      • “Hope is a sustaining element, not only in leadership, but in life. Hope motivates and inspires. It causes people to take action,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 279).
      • Hope is future focused, hate is anchored to the past. “Though he had private doubts, Martin maintained an outwardly optimistic attitude,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 46).
      • Shawshank: “‘Hope is a good thing…no good thing ever dies.’ (Conklin and Wayman, 2002, p. 1-2).
  • 13. IV. Conclusion: Creating Lasting Change
    • “Change is what leadership is all about…Leaders blaze new trails,” (Philips, 1998, p. 263).
    • King created lasting change because he “portrayed the cause as bigger than any one person,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 337).
    • He was a humanist with an undying spirit, who had “an indescribable capacity for empathy that is the touchstone of leadership,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 287).
  • 14. IV. Conclusion: Creating Lasting Change
    • “People…followed him…because he articulated their longings, their hopes, their aspirations, and their dreams…he experienced what they experienced,” (Phillips, 1998, p. 287).
    • King inspired his followers to a collective independence : confidence in themselves and a lasting commitment to each other.
    • He made a difference in his world and new worlds to come. King’s dream is alive today as it ever was.
  • 15. References
    • Conklin, H. and Wayman, D. (2002). Cinema in Focus: Shawshank Redemption. Downloaded July 7, 2003 from http://www.cinemainfocus.com/Shawshank%20Redemption_3.htm
    • DePree, M. (1989). Leadership is an Art. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.
    • DePree, M. (2000). Does Leadership Have a Future? Pasadena, CA: DePree Leadership Center.
    • Heider, J. (1985). The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching Adapted for a New Age. Atlanta, GA: Humanics Limited.
    • Jewish Publication Society. (1985). Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures, According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society
    • Kotter, J. (1998). What Leaders Really Do. Harvard Business Review on Leadership, 37-60. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.
  • 16. References
    • Ling, P. (2003, January 14). Martin Luther King’s Style of Leadership. Downloaded July 5, 2003 from http://bbc.co.uk/society_culture/protest_reform/martin_luther_king_print.html.
    • Maxwell, J. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
    • Phillips, D. (1998). Martin Luther King, Jr. On Leadership: Inspiration and Wisdom for Challenging Times. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.
    • Western Michigan University. (2003). I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. Downloaded July 6, 2003 from http://www.wmich.edu/politics/mlk/dream.html.

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