Four Ways To Lead MLK (Martin Luther King Jr.) Style

pic for MLK

Each year we honor the great leader, Martin Luther King Jr. for his courage and contributions to humanity. He had a vision about equality and care for one another that still rings true today. Leaders can learn so much by looking at the empowering actions and communication of MLK as they strive to model their unique leadership after him.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Four ways to lead MLK style:


Without a doubt, MLK was clear on his vision and what he wanted to accomplish. To lead with our vision we must not only be committed ourselves to that direction, but get others on board too. To empower our teams and co-workers with our vision:

  • Clearly write out the vision using language that everyone understands
  • Make sure the vision supports our core values
  • Ask people we trust for their suggestions or input
  • Consider “devil’s advocate” positions
  • Once in place, create excitement in rolling it out
  • Be ready to defend the vision with detailed explanations


MLK brought human equality issues into the forefront and we must do the same in our leadership. In many of the organizations I partner, there is often a discussion on how to bring humanity back into the workplace. Leaders see a lack of concern for each other, especially when it comes to facing challenges. To be a genuine leader we need to be trustworthy and approachable. Following through on what we say we will do is key. Showing our team members that their ideas and opinions matter go a far way.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.


MLK was a great storyteller who was able to share his challenges and vulnerabilities. To follow in his footsteps leaders need to be open about what they face and how they arrive at successful solutions. Each of our careers takes many twists and turns that help us to grow into stronger leaders. When we open up and share with co-workers and colleagues we are helping them overcome their roadblocks too.

  • Set time aside to have coffee or lunch with someone you work with to get to know them better
  • Help a colleague see their struggles through an obstacle you may have encountered
  • Brainstorm with a team member how to discover a better outcome for a tricky client issue


One of the great teachings leaders can learn from MLK is empowering each of us to do the right thing, even if it is difficult or unpopular. In a recent workshop one participant shared her concern with speaking up and defending one of her teammates being belittled unfairly. She worried she would be stigmatized. She ended up sharing her perspectives and things were changed.

The time is always right to do what is right.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

 How do you lead MLK style? How has Martin Luther King Jr. impacted your leadership?

(Image credit: Pixabay)


2 thoughts on “Four Ways To Lead MLK (Martin Luther King Jr.) Style

  1. When leaders empower others to be the best they can be, they are cultivating future leaders who will be able to see their unique strengths and talents. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to empower others to take a leap of faith and fight for what they believed in.

    Thanks so much LaRae!

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