Martin Luther King, leadership, transformation, change.
The research finds that Dr. King personified the four characteristics of transformational leadership. It also illustrates King’s leadership legacy through modern works on leadership.
Few individuals have made such a significant contribution to the advancement of modern society as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Born into a family of Baptist ministers in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929, Martin Luther King also became a Baptist minister and rose to national prominence through the organization of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and as leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid- 1950s until his death by ...view middle of the document...
The purpose of this paper is to revisit the remarkable example of transformational leadership that King provided and deconstruct the constituent components of his leadership to arrive at a better understanding of the qualities and characteristics, and effectiveness, of transformational leadership. While King has been widely lauded as a transformational leader, few, if any studies have examined whether King possessed all four characteristics of transformational leadership. From the literature, four characteristics of transformational leadership emerge, namely: idealised influence; inspirational motivation; intellectual stimulation and individualised consideration (Burns 1978; Zaleznik 1977; Posner and Kouzes 1988; Bass 1990; Seltzer et al. 1989; Keegan and Den Hartog 2004). We undertake our analysis in reference to archival sources of personal correspondence of, and statements written by, Martin Luther King. The excerpts utilised in this paper were collected by the first author during a visit in early 2004 to the private archives of the King Center for Non-Violent Change in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
The paper begins with a brief overview of the literature on transformational leadership. This is followed by an examination of the identified four characteristics of transformational leadership and the extent to which King exemplified these qualities as indicated by reference to excerpts from personal writings of the civil rights leader. The excerpts drawn primarily from personal correspondence also reveal something of the private side of King which co-existed alongside his high profile public persona. The paper concludes with a discussion of how a revisiting and deconstruction of the transformative change initiated by King aids our understanding the characteristics of, and the way we think about, transformational leadership.
TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The concept of transformational leadership has altered our notions and understanding of leadership and its effects on individuals and organisations. While in the past, leadership models and research focused upon leader characteristics and behaviours (Keegan and Den Hartog 2004), such approaches have been displaced by a more subtle dynamic view of social change where leaders are not expected to know every answer and bear full responsibility for problem-solving (Heifetz 2004). Such views modify our perceptions of modern leaders from authoritarian decision-makers to instrumental facilitators. Indeed, research into transformational leadership shows that this leadership style converts followers into leaders and results in the motivational and moral elevation of both followers and leaders (Burns 1978; Pawar 2003).
The appeal of transformational leadership lies in the ability of the leader to inspire followers to transcend their own interests and work towards the benefit of all (Nadler and Tushman 1990). For this reason, Bass (1990) suggests that transformational leadership is...