Martin Luther King Jr.: A charismatic Leader

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Martin Luther King Jr.:

A Charismatic Leader

Samantha Royér

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A charismatic leader is a person who is able to communicate and behave in ways that reach followers on a basic, emotional level, to inspire and motivate. For example, people like Rosa Parks who stood up for all African-Americans and refused to sit at the back of the bus and others like John F. Kennedy and Obama. A charismatic leader understands their audience and keeps them engaged by appealing to their needs and concerns. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a charismatic leader due to the fact that he is an eloquent speaker, conspicuous, brave and determined and always spoke his mind. His courageousness appealed to white and black people all over. “White leaders valued King's ability to wind down campaigns as much as they dreaded his ability to escalate them” (Ling). This transformational leader was the launch to a worldwide battle of racial segregation and discrimination towards blacks. Martin Luther King Jr. had an ethical side of charisma; he used his power to serve others while putting a stop to racism.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 and died on April 4, 1968 by assassination. He went to segregated public schools in Georgia. At fifteen years old he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and went to Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta. He received the B.A. degree in 1948. He was elected president of a predominantly white senior class at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he studied theological study for three years; he was then awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott. Martin Luther was always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race. He was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. In 1957, he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now growing civil rights movement. “At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement” (Biography).

In 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. joined the bus boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1. On December 5, he was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, making him the official spokesman for the boycott. “King used the leadership abilities he had gained from his religious background and academic training to make a unique protest strategy that involved the mobilization of black churches and skilful appeals for white support. King also became a firm advocate of Mohandas Gandhi’s precepts of nonviolence, which he combined with Christian social gospel ideas. As an ethical leader, he coached, developed and supported his followers” (King). The boycott lasted 382 days. King was the leader of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank. On November 13, 1956 the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation on buses illegal. Blacks began to ride the buses again and they were able to sit anywhere they chose. In 1958, he met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, and Lester Grange on problems affecting black Americans. During the unsuccessful Albany, Georgia movement, King is arrested on July 27 and jailed. He had joined the Albany protests hastily, only to realize that the campaign had too many aims and too many divisions to overcome a cunning local sheriff. The embarrassing failure had damaged his reputation as a leader but, it proved him as a charismatic leader. He knew how to powerfully communicate a compelling vision of the future for others to vividly imagine it themselves. Unlike many other leaders, King passionately believed in his vision and he promoted these beliefs with boundless energy. “While it is customary to judge leaders by their successes, it may be argued that King showed his most heroic leadership after 1965, when he championed a US withdrawal from Vietnam, and the tackling of poverty and deprivation in black ghettos, with little success. It had taken bravery to confront segregation in the South, but it took equal courage to challenge the President on foreign policy and to demand a massive redistribution of wealth and power to the underprivileged” (Ling). Dr. King Jr. proved that he was a charismatic leader because he used power to serve others, aligns his vision with his followers needs and aspirations and he relied on internal moral standards.

“At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement” (Biography). He used all this money to help others instead of keeping it for himself and his family. This proves that Dr. King was not greedy instead he was sharing and loyal to his followers and to what he believed in. Martin Luther King Jr. is an intellectual who promotes intelligence, rationality, and careful problem solving. For example, when he and group of people figured out the problems affecting African Americans and he took action and met with people in high places such as, the President, to tackle poverty and deprivation in black ghettos. Even though it was a failure, he proved himself a transformational leader looking out for others because it is who he is. Martin Luther King Jr. and Adolf Hitler are both charismatic leaders. They had a large number of followers and both left their mark on history, they changed a nation. They were amazing public speakers and the completely believed in what they preached to their followers. The difference between them is that Adolf Hitler had a dark side of charisma. He used his power to oppress a race of people while Martin Luther King Jr. used his power to inspire and uplift a people. Hitler tricked his followers into believing that the Jewish people were the ones to blame for the poverty in Germany. Martin Luther King Jr. truthfully, told the nation that they were being segregated and unfairly treated by white people. Martin’s “I Have a Dream” speech proves this. He was blunt and upfront. He got straight to the point of the important matters and created a visual image for the people during his speech. “I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” (Martin)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was, and still is, an exceptional human being. He was truthful and ethical; he had great charisma and took a firm stance for what he believed. “For King ... leadership meant standing up for what he believed in, and being ‘a drum major for justice’” (Ling). I feel that charismatic leadership is something that not everyone might have but should try to acquire, due to the great possibilities that it brings for many. I feel that charismatic leadership can be good or bad depending on the person and the time. For example, in the early 1900s Hitler was a great charismatic leader in his time. He brought hatred among Jews and killed them without cause. All the while he had millions of supporting followers. He also led Germany into many battles. Now in 2012, Obama is a great charismatic leader because, he is bringing home almost all American soldiers from the war in Iraq and, “The jobless rate in the United States has dropped from more than 10 percent in 2009 to 8.3 percent last month, and President Obama’s rating has risen at the same time” (Gedalyahu). In conclusion, I learned that charisma is very important in life and that was something that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. most definitely had.

Works Cited
"Biography." Martin Luther King -. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. .
Gedalyahu, Tzvi Ben. "Obama's Popularity on the Rise; Gingrich Sinks - Jewish World - News - Israel National News." Israel National News. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. .

"King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929-1968)." King Institute Home. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. .

Ling, Dr. Peter J. "Martin Luther King's Style of Leadership." BBC News. BBC. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. .
"Martin Luther King Jr." BBC News. BBC. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. .
"Martin Luther King, Jr., Biography." Infoplease. Infoplease. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. .
"Martin Luther King's Speech: 'I Have a Dream' - The Full Text." ABC News. Trans. Martin Luther King Jr. ABC News Network, 28 Aug. 1963. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. .
"Timeline of Events in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Life." LSU Libraries. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. .

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