Martin Luther King Junior was one of the most iconic figures of the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s. An inspiring leader himself, he spent his life fighting for those that couldn’t stand up for themselves.
A life that started in Atlanta, Georgia in January of 1929 abruptly ended when he was murdered by a crazed anti-fan in April 1968. Martin was 39 and in the middle of his fight for equality and justice for the American people.
His legacy is one of unity, courage, and passion. But most of all, it’s a legacy about his ability to take a crowd and inspire them to do better. His ability to lead, guide, and coach is not something that has been seen since. And his teachings about leadership are a must-read for anyone in charge of a team.
Here are 10 of the most memorable Martin Luther King Jr. quotes on leadership to inspire your inner leader.
Top 10 Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Leadership (Chosen by our staff)
1. On understanding how to mould people to your goals
There’s a delicate part of leadership that involves influencing people in the direction you know is best for the general goal. But, the key of a good leader and a not-so-good one is that how that influence is achieved. The objective is not to search for harmony among the team necessarily, but to create that harmony via carefully sharing your vision to inspire others to see it your way. That’s why this is #1 on the list of Martin Luther King Leadership Quotes.
2. On not throwing things in other people’s faces
Be delicate when you’re right and the other person is wrong. It’s a balance between communicating what needs to be said, not letting your ego distract from the situation, and ensuring the other person’s feelings are taken into account. Be grateful and humble when you’re right, but speak up if you’re wrong. That’s your time to learn, listen, and prepare to do better for next time.
3. On how hard times can help true leaders shine
When things are calm and comfortable, and there are no issues on the horizon, it’s easy to be a good leader. No pressure, no complications, and no hard decisions to make. But it’s when those moments of comfort are no longer there and challenges arise that the true nature of a leader shines through. It lies in their ability to guide their team through turbulent, unprecedented, and hard times that will transform you into a manager people are proud to work for.
4. On how it’s possible for good things to come too late
This Martin Luther King Jr. quote teaches us about the importance of supporting our team members. Giving them the help they need when they need it is crucial to retaining employees. We all understand that praise and benefits are some of the things that can keep our team motivated to work hard. But, what happens when those things are too little too late? A raise after months of hard work but no recognition can be too late if the team member is already feeling underappreciated and burnt out. It can feel to them exactly the same way as if they wouldn’t have received it at all. Be careful to not play too on the edge when it comes to your team’s rights and emotions.
5. On using your logic and creativity to their full potential
This Martin Luther King Jr. quote reminds us that not everyone likes to engage in critical thinking. Average people will always strive to find the easiest solution to an issue. While that’s not something to be dismissed, there’s magic in being able to stretch your logical thought process and build creative alternatives. The easy path isn’t always the best path, and as a leader, it’s important to be able to achieve both. Your ability to think will always be your greatest asset.
6. On being in tune with other people’s emotions
This Martin Luther King Jr. quote teaches us to never forget that the people which compose your team are human beings first. With their own thoughts, emotions, and afflictions outside of work. As a leader, a big part of your job is to learn how to emotionally support your people when they need it. Remember that any negative attitude, uncommon mistake, or short-tempered reply is more than likely simply a reflection of something going on inside them. Take the time to sit down with your team and simply listen. Then, and only then, offer to help come up with a solution that will help them in preventing those issues from seeping into their work.
7. On the importance of being part of a team
This Martin Luther King Jr. quote reminds us of the importance of working together. Working within a team brings with it a vast amount of positives that most leaders tend to forget. For starters, having a team to support you allows you to pass along tasks in order to focus on the parts of the job only you can do. It breeds efficiency and allows for collaboration and differing opinions. There is power in numbers and in different points of view since together they can create solutions that might have not existed alone.
8. On how no one is above another person
On occasion, those who hold leadership positions will allow for it to become a great title than it actually is. Never forget that you started in the same position your team is in now. Working in someone else’s team, green, and learning as you went. Be patient and kind, and never forget you might have come to the team via different paths, but you’re all part of the same organization work and working towards a common goal.
9. On standing up for what is right
A true leader will never hesitate to stand up for what is right. Even if it means going against the common choice. Or if it means going against a superior. As a leader, your first choice should always be to stand up for your team, defend your people, and keep their best interests at heart. That should be your guiding compass as to what is right and what is not. It will build trust and loyalty, which is directly conducive to your ability to command your people.
10. On how change can only happen if you work for it
Change, mostly the positive kind, isn’t something that will inevitably happen without any effort towards it. Change takes work, time, and practice to achieve the outcome you’re looking for. As a leader, it’s important to understand that if you want to see improvement in your team you must work for it. Both by guiding them and by allowing them to make mistakes so they can learn.
And that rounds off our list of top 10 Martin Luther King Jr. quotes on leadership! To get started on your leadership journey check out our free DISC Personality Test.