Various existing leadership models have been used by various theorists to analyze the style of leadership of various prominent leaders. For instance, Kouzes and Posner established the famous Leadership Challenge which presents a more practical leadership approach. According to this model, leadership is described as a measurable, teachable and learnable set of behaviors which can be pursued by every individual. Tracing its roots to the early 1980s, the leadership challenge model developed by Kouzes and Posner was based on a rigorous research aimed at establishing what determined the peak of an individual's leadership phase. From the study, the two theorists were able to develop a five fundamental practice with defining exemplary leadership capabilities in an individual. The practice constituted; enabling others to lead, challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, modeling the way, and the ability to encourage the heart. One prominent leader who was able to employ the five fundamental practice was one Martin Luther King Jr. This paper, therefore, assesses Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership based on the leadership challenge model devised by the two theorists.
According to Kouzes and Posner's school of thought, successful leadership is considered to be one that gives the subjects the desired chance to take part in the course of achieving the set goals and objectives. Under this framework, the theorists believe that success is only defined by its standards when it is a collective effort with each stakeholder registering an effort of contribution. Martin Luther King Jr. practiced this framework through the empowerment of the members of the public allowing him to achieve a stronger team for backup in pursuit of the set goals and objectives. He ensured that he shared his powers and discretion by delegating various duties to the members based on their potential (Kouzes & Posner 220). For instance, in organizing and executing mass actions while fighting for America's civil rights, King formed civil rights movements where he encouraged public participation in fighting for the rights. Throughout the fight, King always aimed and hoped for an action of the entire nation to achieve the desired civil rights and end the racism vice. He took part in the movement mainly to pass a message that they shared a common plight and are united for a purpose, calling for the need for all the individuals to take part in the fight (Bruns 8). Leading a plethora of public demonstrations, King ensured that the public got the opportunity to interact and work together fighting for a common plight.
According to Kouzes and Posner, the primary ingredient for brewing the desired level of success for a leader is the use of innovation and change. Analyzing his historical development and entry into leadership, Martin Luther King Jr. attempted to challenge a number of systems he considered prevalent in America from where he acquired his desired popularity as a leader who cared for the welfare of the common citizen. For instance, King fiercely fought for the end of racism in America, a vice that had taken a center stage in the whole of America. Using various civil rights such as the SCLC, King organized and conducted a series of demonstration in places such as Alabama and Birmingham in the peak of 1963, which increased pressure on the then President John F. Kennedy forcing him to act by presenting a broader civil rights to the Congress for legislation with the aim to improve civil rights legislation (Bruns 9). King's efforts to challenge the process as an exemplary leader were also evident in his attempt to register the public while strongly and loudly criticizing the then government's decision to take part in the Vietnam War. Though he achieved his desired public popularity by challenging the government's positions and processes he considered prevalent to his civil rights movements, King would later be assassinated as developed a strained relationship with the government (Bruns 9). This can be seen as his major undoing during his civil rights movements and fights for equality, developing a strained relationship with the government.
Kouzes and Posner consider a leader exemplary if he or she has the ability to identify a common vision with subjects owing to the fact there exists a common plight between them. An exemplary leader needs to possess a vision of change so as to win the popular support of the people. A leader inspiring a shared vision is usually considered to have captured a clear vision of the future signifying a message of hope and a better life for the subjects (Kouzes & Posner 100). The leader executing this model makes a personal touch and appeal to the subjects, purposely to marshal their support in achieving a common success of the vision in the end. According to the article by Bruns (2006), Martin Luther King Jr. used the opportunity he acquired while at Boston University to learn and adopt the Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent strategy of implementing social change, helping him advance his leadership career. He employed the acquired strategy by traveling to India where he met supporters and subscribers of Gandhi's ideology sharing with them the inspired vision of social change. King also used his influential position upon the acquisition of his Ph.D. in 1957 to form and head the famous SCLC (Bruns 2006). King would experience a little tension from other groups of protestors with a shared vision but with varying leadership styles. However, he still managed to assemble and gain the support of the opposition groups by employing his exemplary strategies.
According to the modeling of the way model, Kouzes, and Posner asserted that a leader is considered exemplary is his or her actions are always louder than his or her words. That the practical performance of an exemplary leader should go beyond mere promises and policy development at the expense of the desired implementation. The leader needs to lead by example, not just standing at a designated place, usually behind the scenes and issuing orders and instructions. Using this model to analyze Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership style, he stands out a strong leader who is down to earth, demonstrating a top-down leadership style, enhancing his ability as American leader during his days. His ability to model the way for fellow Americans who needed his leadership tracks down to his ancestry and culture from which he grew up to become a leader. While his grandfather was a reverend at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, King's father would also serve at the same church as a reverend during the later days. Clearly, he grew a family of leaders where he was mentored to become the exemplary leader he was. King Jr. would later become a pastor at the Dexter Church as a form of appreciation and engagement with his people before becoming a co-pastor with his father (Bruns 10). King showed a strong heart during his fight by persevering through major tribulations including arrests, the bombing of his house, among others.
In conclusion, therefore, Martin Luther King Jr. was born and died a great leader with a leadership skill defining the exemplary leadership challenge model by Kouzes and Posner. Though he went to an extent of developing a strained relationship with the government which later led to his assassination, King through his exemplary leadership skill ensured that he brings hope to the Americans and worldwide, bringing them together under a common plight. He ensured a significant change from injustice, racism, and oppression not just in America but across the globe.
Bruns, Roger A. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Biography. Mumbai: Jaico Publishing House, 2008. Print.
DuBrin, Andrew J. Foundations Of Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, And Skills. 7th ed. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
Kouzes, James M, and Barry Z Posner. The Leadership Challenge: How To Make Extraordinary Things Happen In Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012. Print.
Kouzes, James M, and Barry Z Posner. The Leadership Challenge Workshop: Participant's Workbook. San Francisco: Wiley, 2006. Print.
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