Martin Luther King, Jr. , on Leadership : Inspiration and Wisdom for Challenging Times
What does it take to be a leader? Why do people listen to one voice and ignore another? During the twentieth century, no American exhibited more powerful leadership skills than Martin Luther King, Jr. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., ON LEADERSHIP examines the choices he made, the people he trusted, and the methods he used to turn a small crusade into a movement-and change history forever. Apply the lessons of his life to yours, learn the secrets of leadership, and turn your dream into reality.
- Get your message across by learning to "speak" your listener's language
- Forge coalitions, build consensus, and achieve strategic alliances based on the self-interest of each party
- Obtain the right information from the right people-and keep the channels of communication open inside the organization
- Have the courage to change directions when necessary
- Handle defeat within the organization and turn setbacks into positives
...and much more.
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Grand Central Publishing
January 15, 2000
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Excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr. , on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips
"I neither started the protest nor suggested it. I simply responded to the call of the people for a spokesman."
Martin Luther King, Jr.,
"Montgomery is known as the Cradle of the Confederacy. It has been a quiet cradle for a long, long time. But now the cradle is rocking."
Martin Luther King, Jr.,
March 31, 1956
1 / First Listen: Lead by Being Led
As he reached the top of the steps, twenty-five-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr., must have paused to take a look around before entering the small two-story red-brick building for the first time. Looking to the east, he couldn't have missed the Confederate flag waving in the wind atop the old state capitol building--still there after having been unfurled for the first time nearly a century earlier. He probably would have noticed, too, that the American flag was positioned below the Confederate flag. Also from his position, he could have readily viewed the portico where, on February 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis had been sworn in as president of the Confederate States of America. As it was, Martin found himself standing smack dab in the middle of downtown Montgomery, Alabama--the "Cradle of the Confederacy"--the first national capital of the Confederate States. The building he was about to enter was Dexter Avenue Baptist Church--the parish for which he had just accepted the job of pastor. It was to be his first professional position after leaving Boston University, one he had taken despite the initial reluctance of both his father and his bride, Coretta Scott.
Martin's new church, with its all-black congregation, was created during Reconstruction after the Civil War--purposely erected in the shadow of the all-white capitol building as a symbol of the newly mandated freedom of former slaves. But in 1954, Montgomery was a bastion of racial segregation. It had been that way for generations--part of an ingrained southern culture that perpetuated a never-ending downward spiral of oppression and despair for African-Americans. People were used to it. That's just the way it was.
Black citizens and white citizens, for instance, were not allowed to sit together on a public bus. If a white person took a seat next to an African-American, the African-American was required to stand in the aisle. Even though 75 percent of the bus company's clientele were African-Americans, they were always directed to the back of the bus and, by city ordinance, violators were subject to fines and imprisonment. Bus drivers, all of whom were white, were given authority to enforce the rules. Such power, though, often resulted in heated arguments that resulted in the drivers calling passengers a variety of racial epithets, including "black cow," "ape," and "nigger." In one ugly episode, a fifteen-year-old named Claudette Colvin, who also happened to be unmarried and pregnant, was dragged from a bus for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. For her resistance, the young woman was charged with assault and battery along with violating city and state segregation ordinances. This incident occurred shortly after Martin King settled into his new home.
Interestingly enough, immediately upon his arrival, Martin placed the existing racial situation in a context that had not previously been articulated to local residents. "It is a significant fact that I come to Dexter at a most crucial hour of our world's history," he said in his first sermon, "at a time when the flame of war might arise at any time to redden the skies of our dark and dreary world. . . . At a time when men are experiencing in all realms of life, disruption and conflict, self-destruction and meaningless despair and anxiety."