Servant Leadership is a key component in the world today. We had the opportunity to read Greenleaf’s The Servant as Leader. Throughout this book a servant leader is described as being a servant first, then a leader. There are several servant leaders in our world, but the first individual that came to mind was Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr., portrayed many of the principles that Greenleaf established, which makes him an extraordinary servant leader.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. He was originally born Michael Luther King Jr. until he later changed his name. At the age of 15 Martin attended Morehouse College, after which he attended both Crozer Theological Seminary and Boston University. While attending Boston University, Martin met his wife Coretta Scott King and the two eventually had four children.
Growing up King had the privilege of being able to watch his father and grandfather being excellent ministers, but even though he had these examples, he believed that he didn’t want to follow their footsteps. King’s decision to not be a minister, was changed when his college professor convinced him otherwise and he soon followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. When King moved to Montgomery, Alabama, he became the minister at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Outside of being a minister, Martin was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. After being a member of this committee, he was ready to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times. Once he accepted this position, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott started after Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, after which she was arrested. This boycott lasted 381 days and was led my Martin Luther King Jr., and a group of activists. During the course of the boycott, African Americans refused to use the bus systems in Montgomery, which eventually forced the issue to be brought to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court took the time to really think about the issue at hand, and eventually ruled segregation as unconstitutional.
King’s leadership skills throughout the course of not only the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but also throughout his very short life, is one of the main reasons why I consider him one of the greatest servant leaders. Throughout the course of the boycott, King was arrested, abused, and his house was even bombed for his involvement. This boycott was one of King’s famous protests which, along with others, eventually lead to the Civil Right Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 contributed to the end of segregation, but there are still worldwide racial and ethnic issues that individuals face today.
Along with leading the boycott, King along with many others founded the Southern Christian Leadership conference, which provided new leadership for the civil rights movement. This group of individuals had a motto, which was “Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed”. This conference was a part in planning the protests that King was involved in and those which he led. Along with being the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King organized the March on Washington. This was a peaceful political rally that was designed to show the issues that African Americans faced every day.
The March on Washington was held on August 28, 1963 and was attended by nearly 300,000 people. During this protest, King delivered his iconic and most famous speech, “I Have a Dream”. King said, “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ’We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” (Martin Luther King Jr., 2009) His “I Have a Dream” address is a spirited call for peace and quality and many people consider it a masterpiece.
All of these things contributed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which allowed King to become one of the greatest leaders of all time. This is why I believe that he portrayed servant leadership in every way possible, and why I chose to discuss him for this paper. By being one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, why segregation was ruled unconstitutional, King has had a huge impact on our world and changed the way that we look at African Americans. We no longer believe that African Americans are different, but we believe that we are all equal, and this is all due to Martin Luther King Jr. and what he did for our country.
For all of King’s hard work and dedication, he was awarded a number of awards. Some of the awards were The John Dewey Award in 1964, The John F. Kennedy Award in 1964, The Rosa L. Parks Award in 2968, a Grammy Award in 1970, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. In 1963, King was named Man of the Year by the Time magazine, which was one of his amazing accomplishments. At the age of 35, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest man to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. When he was notified of his selection, King announced that he would donate the prize money, which consisted of $54,123, to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
Throughout King’s short life, he wrote several books and addressed multiple speeches that have had huge impacts on both the Civil Rights Movement and the world. He wrote six books which include “The Measure of a Man”, “Why We Can’t Wait”, “Strength to Love”, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”. Four of his speeches are very well-known and famous. These include his “I Have a Dream” speech, his acceptance speech when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, his last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and his final speech in Memphis.
Along with his books and famous speeches, his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” ranks as one of the most important American Documents. This was a defense against civil scrutiny that he addressed to a group of white ministers. In this letter, King says “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (King’s, n.d)
On April 4, 1968 at the age of 39, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was in Memphis to help lead a protest for sanitation workers who received low wages and who worked in poor working conditions. The protest assisted the workers in receiving better pay and better working conditions, in which they deserved. He was shot by James Earl Ray, while standing out on the balcony of his motel room. The holiday known as Martin Luther King Day was created in 1983 when Ronald Reagan signed a bill making it a national holiday. This holiday has been celebrated on the third Monday of January since 1986.
Even though King lived a very short life, he has had a huge impact on our world. As mentioned before, he led multiple protests that led to the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Along with leading protests, he created multiple laws that contributed to ending racial segregation. There are still flaws in our world today when it comes to how African Americans are treated, but they are treated more fairly than what they were and we have Martin Luther King Jr. to thank for that.
When considering what a servant leader is, I believe that is someone who cares for everyone around them and has the dedication to help everyone. There are ten principles of servant leadership and Martin Luther King Jr., along with any other servant leader, portray most of them if not all of them. King was always listening to those around him and was always aware of his surrounding and what was going on in the world. I believe there are two principles, that Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to. Those principles are the commitment to the growth of people and building a community. I believe that these two principles go hand in hand with each other. If you are committed to the growth of people, you are more than likely going to be able to build a better community. This is exactly what Martin Luther King Jr. did and that is why he is an extraordinary servant leader.
I believe that if someone looks at King, they will have an example of a servant leader and have someone who they can achieve to be like .As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (17, 2018)