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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Influence on Business Leadership

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Alex Rivera

Chief Editor at EduNow.me

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Influence on Business Leadership

Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified two leadership styles essential in today’s business environment, according to Christopher Neck and Jeffrey Godwin’s 2022 paper published by Journal of Leadership and Management. These included minister, activist, civil rights leader, speaker extraordinaire who famously delivered his “I Have a Dream” address: ministerial activism civil rights leadership public speaking according to Christopher Neck and Jeffrey Godwin in 2022 paper for Journal of Leadership and Management


Civil Rights was more than six decades ago, yet MLK’s lessons still hold relevance today in business leadership. Leaders can use his teachings to cultivate authentic leadership that positively contributes to both their organization and society in meaningful ways.

MLK’s disruptive authentic leadership model can be applied in any business setting. To be an effective authentic leader, leaders must exhibit four distinctive characteristics. These are:

Authenticity refers to communicating openly and honestly with your team, such as disclosing your true values and beliefs and showing vulnerability when necessary. Furthermore, authentic communication entails empowering your team members as you share your vision for the company together.

MLK was an epitome of authenticity in his pursuit of civil rights and equality for all. While understanding the complexity of his cause, he never faltered in his dedication to racial unity and justice – this was evident through his iconic “I have a dream” speech wherein King painted a vision for future that included both justice and equality as goals in its future vision.

MLK was famous for being deeply self-aware. This could be seen through his willingness to share his inner emotions and fears with others and his commitment to improving himself as a leader, by looking closely at both his strengths and weaknesses; using these insights to inspire audiences and encourage them to follow him.

MLK demonstrated his self-awareness through his understanding and respect for the beliefs of his audience, evidenced by his ability to reach all people regardless of background or race in his speech audiences. He connected emotionally with them by employing rhetorical tools like logos and ethos in his speeches such as using iconic images that his listeners could relate to concretely.


Thinking back on MLK makes it clear how influential he would be on business leadership – his life’s work focused on creating equality for all, so his large legacy speaks volumes and provides lessons that apply across many types of businesses.

Dr. King may be best remembered for his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech and as leader of the Civil Rights movement, but he had many other invaluable leadership abilities that are essential for success in any endeavor. MLK knew how to lead through positive communication – something any successful business needs for success. He understood the value of active listening and encouraging teamwork from others, while using ethos and pathos to motivate an audience through his speeches. He utilized emotional appeals to engage his audience and presented hard facts about social injustices to encourage others to work toward change. Furthermore, he managed to channel anger into something constructive and transformative – an essential trait in any business setting.

King was arrested numerous times during the civil rights movement and his home was bombed, yet never gave up his mission and continued protesting. This serves as an inspiring lesson to business leaders as it illustrates how perseverance can help overcome any challenges that come your way.

Though not an immediately applicable skill for business leaders, this trait must be developed. Focusing on your goal and not getting sidetracked by obstacles along the way are two hallmarks of effective leadership.


King was an extraordinary leader who extended beyond civil rights activism to encompass many areas of business. His passion for equality inspired him to take action and open new paths for the future, believing that “mankind’s inhumanity to man chimes not only for black or white people.”

Action-taking leadership skills are integral for business success. Establishing and implementing new business strategies requires teamwork to overcome any potential roadblocks; another crucial aspect of transformational leadership. King frequently emphasized unity as another valuable trait that business leaders could implement into their management practices to boost morale among employees and reduce staff attrition rates.

As both a pastor and activist, King was adept at adhering to leadership principles such as those pertaining to trust-building and relationships-forming. He understood the value of forming coalitions to advance his civil rights goals while making effective use of community resources for progress. Furthermore, King displayed his ability to communicate clearly and relatably with diverse audiences.

King is an excellent example of someone able to work across groups and perspectives without compromising the integrity of any movement, something all business leaders should strive for as they work toward their business goals. When the Montgomery bus boycott was under threat by white protesters, he collaborated with town leaders in Montgomery to devise a plan that would avoid violence while still permitting it to proceed. This shows his ability to negotiate among different perspectives without compromise the integrity of any movement – something which all business leaders should strive for when working towards their own business goals.

Transformational Leadership

MLK may have made his mark during the civil rights movement more than 60 years ago, yet his lessons on leadership remain relevant today. Workers often remain with one company for 20-30 years and authoritarian management practices remain prevalent; thus business leaders could learn from his legacy on how to foster change while simultaneously encouraging innovation.

MLK demonstrated the transformative leadership style, one of the most effective and potency leadership styles today. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate others towards adopting specific visions of future, leading them towards change that ultimately brings success within any workplace.

As a leader, Martin Luther King understood the significance of community. Through his speeches – such as his famous “I Have a Dream” address – he encouraged a sense of belonging among individuals. For instance, this iconic statement focused on ending racism and envisioning a world in which everyone’s character alone should determine evaluation.

Communication is key in transformational leadership; it allows business leaders to forge strong bonds with employees and foster a sense of community that drives productivity. King also demonstrated the value of using rhetorical speeches with symbolic images or symbols to convey universal messages that resonate with audience members.

King was an exceptionally powerful and transformative speaker who used rhetorical devices like logos, analogies and historical references to reach his audiences more directly. Furthermore, this type of communication proved instrumental in building high-performing teams in business environments.

Servant Leadership

Though King was best-known for his civil rights work in politics, many of his principles still resonate in business settings today. In particular, transformational and servant leadership styles epitomized by King are ideal models to follow for increasing business success and growth.

King advocated nonviolence as a method for fighting oppression in his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, drawing people together and ultimately leading to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Leaders should strive to create an encouraging and supportive culture among their teams – this will foster feelings of support and motivation among employees.

Servant leaders are committed to the personal and professional growth of their team members, taking time to get acquainted with individuals and teams before introducing changes. Furthermore, these leaders prioritize ethical business practices that create more morally responsible companies with increased employee satisfaction – according to an Ethisphere survey, companies who prioritize ethics outperformed those that did not.

King was an exceptional example of both these leadership styles in action throughout his career. As both a servant leader who put effort into understanding his audience, and transformational leader who created an inspiring vision and lofty goals that inspired others – both traits which King demonstrated no matter the challenges he encountered or setbacks he endured on his path toward ending oppression – business leaders should remain passionate about their cause and adhere to their mission while remembering that positive change takes time to take effect.

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