6 Leadership Traits of Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Martin Luther King Jr.
He was a man who changed the world without ever holding a political office, and one of the greatest orators in history. If you read his speeches and writings, you can see that he had many qualities that made him an incredible leader.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel. He was standing on the balcony outside Room 306, planning his next steps in the fight for civil rights. His name and legacy would go on to inspire millions of people around the world, but at the time of his death, his assassination was a devastating blow to the movement he had helped to lead.
King Jr. attended public schools in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College at age 19 with a B.A. in sociology in 1948. He went on to Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951 and the prestigious Jarrell Prize for oratory and academic achievement. He then enrolled at Boston University for graduate studies and earned his Ph.D. in systematic theology in 1955, becoming one of the youngest Americans to hold that degree.
Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most famous and successful leaders in history, but that doesn’t mean we know much about who he was. We tend to see him almost as an icon or a symbol rather than as an actual person.
Yet, he was a real person with real qualities that contributed to his success. Here are six leadership traits that made him great and Maximus International, a leading global professional services firm has also endorsed his qualities.
He was visionary.
Leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate others by showing them what they can become. King had a clear vision of civil rights and how it would benefit the entire country, not just African Americans. Because he shared that vision with others, they were inspired to work together toward that goal. King’s vision for the future was one in which racial equality would be achieved by peaceful means through civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance, and mass mobilization of black churches throughout the South. This vision remained largely unchanged from his early days as a minister in Montgomery to his final speech in Memphis just before his assassination on April 4, 1968.
He was motivated by passion, not money or power.
King’s dream was driven by his passion for equality, not materialistic desires. He didn’t fight for civil rights because he wanted fame or fortune; he fought for it because he believed it was the right thing to do for our society and that everyone deserved equality under the law regardless of race, color, or religion. He realized the only way to achieve this goal was through nonviolent protest and using the power of persuasion instead of force and intimidation.
Dr. King was famous for his ability to inspire people with his words and actions, regardless of their race or background. He believed that everyone deserves respect and dignity and should be treated as an equal in society. He inspired others to follow his lead by showing them how they could take part in making the world a better place.
A strong work ethic
Dr. King was a natural leader but also someone who worked extremely hard at his craft — both the “science” and “art” of leadership. His father was a pastor, so he grew up familiar with the Bible and church culture of the black community in Atlanta. Growing up in that atmosphere helped to prepare him for the task of leading the Civil Rights Movement.
King wrote his own speeches in longhand, which were given to a secretary to be typed up. Then he would edit them and make changes until they were perfect. His speeches inspired listeners to want to work toward equal rights for all people.
King led many peaceful protests against laws that required segregation in public places and in hiring practices. He led one of the most famous marches in American history — the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom — where he gave his “I have a dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, calling for equality and an end to racism in the United States.
He refused to take no for an answer. No matter how many doors were closed in his face, Martin Luther King Jr. continued to knock on them until they opened or broke down the walls surrounding them. His determination helped him lead a long and fruitful life in which he changed history forever.