5 Ways to Lead Like Martin Luther King Jr.

Find the qualities of leadership through MLK Jr.

Revolutionizing the culture in a company can be a huge challenge. Revolutionizing the culture in a nation though? That deserves a holiday. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the perspectives of millions of Americans with these five simple leadership principals.

1. Know the “Why” Behind Your Cause

King grew up racially segregated and restless for change as he spent his youth summers picking tobacco. Growing up without the same freedoms as others inspired his passion. As with any leadership role, it is absolutely vital to know why you’re working. Too often do leaders get stuck on the “what” when they try motivating a team. The “what” is your product, the “why” is your passion for the product. Focus on why you do what you do.


It can be challenging to lead like martin luther king jr. Be unwavering2. Be Unwavering.

King risked his life as the figurehead of the Civil Rights Movement. Even when the FBI tapped his personal phone and threatened to blackmail him for adultery, King remained calm. Leaders must be courageous in the face of fear. In modern practice, this means taking risk and standing up for the moral values of your business. Courage and calm grant natural authority. Demonstrate both to help gain the respect of your team, eliminating office politics.

3. Have Consistent Values

Pacifism allowed King to quell the people he led. Had he not practiced and participated in nonviolent protests his image could be radically different and it’s likely that King wouldn’t have found success if he took up arms.

Martin Luther King uses leadership qualities to make cultural changes.

“Bloody Sunday” marks the day that unarmed protesters were attacked by State troopers and county posse men. King’s people stayed true to their pacifistic values even while being victimized. As a leader staying true to your values will help you be more decisive. Setting out your company values in a brand statement allows you to act quickly and with integrity. Announce business decisions in a clear, firm, and professional manner. So long as your message is cohesive with your company vision, the company culture will rise towards problem solving and fortitude.

4. Raise the Bottom Bar

Instead of trying to change segregation from the top down (starting with upper class politicians, then convincing the bulk of the population) King made changes from the bottom up. To convince legislators of his cause King decided he would need the full power of the people. He started “a multiracial army of the poor.” Inclusion became a core part of King’s campaign. Leaders focus on raising the bottom bar, the lowest performing employees, for the best conversion of time to money. Your top performers will already have a system for self improvement; they won’t be as coachable as your lowest performers, increasing the amount of time it takes to make improvements with them. You will see a larger improvement with a smaller time investment by working with your bottom bar.

Martin Luther King Jr. displays enthusiasm as a leader

5. Believe in Your Vision

Lastly, enthusiasm will go a long way with your team. King’s passion for his cause seeped into his speeches. He demonstrated enthusiasm and optimism when overcoming challenges. Having a sincere interest in your vision will revitalize a stale team.

Next time your coworkers test your patience, return to the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., embrace why you’re doing what you do.

Happy Remembrance day everyone, and for the lucky few of you with a three day weekend, enjoy it!

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