Learning from the Leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s guest post Monday! This post was written by Drew Tewell who is the author of the book, The Dream Job Program: Get the job you want. You can purchase it on Amazon or get it for free when you subscribe to his blog. You can also connect with Drew on Twitter. If you would like to have a post featured on my site then click here.


Wow, what a powerful speech! If you have the time, I encourage you to watch the video, even if you have seen it before.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Every year, on the third Monday in January, we remember his life and leadership.

In my post today I want to share three takeaways from Dr. King’s speech in the video above.

1.  A leader has followers.

When you watch this video, one of the things that you may notice is the multitudes of people. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had people who followed his leadership.

As John Maxwell says, “He that thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.”

No followers equal no leader. You can call yourself a leader all you want, but by definition, if you are truly a leader, you will have followers.

How does a leader get followers? Simple, by having a compelling vision.

2. A leader has vision.

In the case of Dr. King, people followed him, sometimes to what they knew could include being hurt physically, time in jail, and even worse. Why did so many people follow him? Because he had a compelling vision that they bought into.

One of the fundamental functions of leadership is to provide direction. This is true whether you are leading a company, a movement or just yourself.

3. A leader has passion.

As Dr. King gives his speech, you can see and hear his passion. And that passion is transferred to the listener.

A byproduct of a compelling vision is passion. When you have something that you strongly believe in, your enthusiasm will be contagious.

Putting It In To Practice

So, what does this post mean to you, practically speaking.

1. If you are a leader, you will have followers.

Leaders have followers. It is as simple as that.

2. As a leader, you will gain followers by communicating a compelling vision.

Do you have a role or responsibility in your life where you influence others? Do you have a blog or are you an author or an aspiring author?

If so, and you want the people under your leadership to follow you and/or you would like to have more followers, make sure that you have a vision that the people you want to influence will buy into.

3. When you have a compelling vision, it will produce passion in you the leader, which will transfer to others.

If you lack energy and enthusiasm, revisit your vision. If it does not spark something on the inside of you, considering changing it.

Question: What other lessons can we learn from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • A good leader doesn’t just have followers, he cares for those followers, desiring the best for them more than the best for himself. Great post, Drew!

    • DS

      Desiring what’s best for others – we can definitely use more of that thinking – great point.

    • Amen to that Jason:)

    • That’s what makes a good leader great, serving others. Thanks, Jason!

  • Vision is certainly key and it comes through in MLKJ speach all over the place. I think that good leaders must first crystallize their own vision before they can communicate it well to others. I find myself in constant need of return myself and those I lead back to the vision. Thanks for the great reminder Drew!

    • I totally agree Caleb. Having and frequently casting that vision is essential leadership responsibility. I’m glad you enjoyed Drew’s post.

    • I agree, our vision needs to be clear in our own hearts and minds. And I also think it’s important, as you mention, to revisit our vision. We must keep it in front of ourselves and the people we lead. Thanks, Caleb!

  • I see much wisdom in MLK’s words.

  • DS

    I love the way he demonstrated courage in addition to his words.

  • The lessons from Dr. King are the same lessons all of us as leaders should still be about; integrity of character… As far as we’ve come in many ways, we still have the same issues as we did then. People still judge others and ourselves by what we have or what we represent… It’s so difficult to use the wisdom from God on the inside in this fallen world… We are so weak to still use the senses of the fallen flesh. Oh that we truly would judge content of character as recorded by the fruits we leave… And that has nothing to do with the color of skin. We are all of one blood under God…

    • Great points Floyd! The life we live either produces the proper fruit or does not. It’s all about having integrity and character. This does not mean we are perfect or do not sin but that we strive to follow God’s and mans laws. Thanks for sharing:)

    • We must guard against injustice and prejudice.

  • His vision and passion were consuming – but also, his communication. That was what put him over the top, in my opinion. It was his ability to channel that passion and vision through his words.

    • He had the ability to connect with the audience. This made him a powerful and influential communicator and leader. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • I agree, Dr. King was a great communicator. This speech is definitely evidence of that. Thanks, Loren!

  • Bernard Haynes

    He had a vision that was bigger than him. It compelled and captivated people because it was inclusive.

    • That’s a important aspect of vision. It needs to be bigger than the individual. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes and it was the right thing to do. Thanks, Bernard!

  • Great post! Love the quote, I don’t want to just be taking a walk!

    One thing I think of when I think of MLK is of someone who knew what he believed and why he believed it. So many of us don’t really stand for anything, we are tossed about from one great “idea” to another.

    • It is a good quote.

      So true TC Avey, strong beliefs and values are essential. They need to be strong enough so when challenges come (The winds of life) we are still standing to our beliefs and values after the storm settles.

      • Amen, Dan! Well said.

    • Thanks, TC Avey! Dr. King exuded confidence.

  • One thing that really stands out is a leader puts the message first and we see that he was willing to sacrifice his life for the message.

    • Great point bro! Thanks for bring that up.

    • He believed in the message even to death, which I’m sure he knew was always possible. Thanks, Kimanzi!

    • And you would only do that if the message was bigger than yourself – and he sure understood that it was, didn’t he!

  • Followers, vision, passion – a wining combination Drew! I like what Loren says about communication. It’s so key in finding the success.

    • I agree! Thanks for sharing:)

    • Yes, we must communicate our vision and passion in a compelling way for it to be most effective. Thanks, Ngina!

  • The lessons are numerous.. Humility, Wisdom, Knowledge, respect, strength, success, confidence I learned all this and more. This was a very serious time and I think the ramifications of the time really set the tone. Great post.

    • Your point about the time Dr. King lived in is important. Leaders are marked by the times they live in, and great leaders make their mark, for better or for worse. He used his gifts to serve others for the better.

    • Great additional lessons Lincoln Parks. He was a great leader and person of influence during that time.

  • MLK Day has special significance for us since adopting our son – it is amazing that something I was only passively aware of has become very real to me. It is very easy to miss #1 – lot’s of people out there THINK they are leading when they are only taking a walk… Great stuff – checked out your blog…very cool stuff!