By Mostafa Sayyadi & Michael J. Provitera
Charismatic leaders are bread to be reckoned with but inspirational charismatic leaders that are authentic, like Martin Luther King Jr., brought joy, hope, and a positive attitude to their nations. Authenticity leads to greater trust and engagement. Therefore, becoming an authentic leader can be very valuable for leaders. Authentic leadership requires the development of four leadership characteristics, and we show in this article how four leadership characteristics that made Martin Luther King Jr. ultimately bring greater trust and engagement to his nation.
The first characteristic of authentic leaders is extraordinary commitment. King continuously improved himself to motivate his followers more effectively. His “I have a dream” speech resonated with people because most people heard of goals or objectives but not dreams. He had an inner commitment that equipped him with better human qualities than his predecessors.
King perpetuated a superior quality in himself and used each opportunity to continuously change and transform himself. A clear example of this feature can be seen in King’s awareness and friendship with Mahatma Gandhi. His familiarity with Gandhi formed the basis for a permanent change in his thoughts and attitude to promote anti-racism in the United States of America.
King’s high self-awareness cultivated his emotional intelligence. He was one of the first icons of SWOT, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Always seeking to improve his strengths and eliminate, or lessen, his weaknesses. His high level of discernment and continuous self-evaluation as an authentic leader provided him with a better understanding of himself and caused him to better understand others to know their feelings and beliefs better.
King had more respect and value for the beliefs and feelings of others. The “I have a dream” speech best captures this self-awareness cultivated in Martin Luther King Jr. when this authentic leader, understanding the white American community without negating their values and beliefs, focuses on portraying a future characterized by Justice and equality which, he felt, go hand in hand. This feature of authentic leadership communication is attractive and exciting in every society and for every person from every background and race. Ergo, the new contagion of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The third characteristic of King’s authentic leadership is his mission and vision orientation. He was able to take a negative culturally evasive norm and turn it around instantly. This can be manifested in the last, but not least characteristic of King’s authentic leadership, his motivation to fulfill his life mission. By creating a big mission, King mobilizes followers’ beliefs to achieve the defined mission of self-awareness. “Every man has value, and value is represented of every man (and woman).”
King stays with his followers in the most difficult times and the most unexpected events and continuously motivated them to prepare their mentality to resist and overcome obstacles. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized and embraced an important goal when he said, “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness” and “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” As a modern-day philosopher, he continuously motivated his followers through his communication channels when he said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope” and “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
We must all embrace the notion that MLK is the father of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, as nations and countries become more focused on the long-term goals and prioritize authenticity in their macro development strategies. Becoming an authentic leader is a great benefit for political leaders. As Nancy Koehn, author and professor at Harvard University, says “It’s what we’re thirsty for now, we are looking for leaders who can help us make a leap of faith and be integral to creating a better world, and to believe this is worthy of doing so, and possible.” Regardless of the political or corporate position you are in today, attempt to develop authentic leadership characteristics and improve your emotional intelligence so that you can be a successful, lasting and influential politician, or leader, like Martin Luther King Jr.