The Leadership of Martin Luther King Essay

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MLK’s Style

Martin Luther King used ethos, logos and pathos in his Letter from Birmingham Jail by appealing to an ethical justification for his stance, making an emotional appeal, and making an appeal to logic. From the standpoint of ethos—or ethics—King states that he is there in Birmingham “because injustice is here” (King, 1963). As a Baptist minister and a leader of the civil rights movement, he feels he has duty and moral responsibility to be Alabama. He notes, moreover, that he did not show up uninvited but rather that because of “organizational ties,” he was asked to come and represent his organization, which had chapters all over. Thus, King was not an outsider inserting himself into regional politics but rather a concerned leader of a group that was directly impacted by the racism in Birmingham and thus he had a moral responsibility to take ownership of the issue.

King used logos—or logic—to make his argument by pointing out all the conditions of the people in Birmingham that virtually called out for demonstrations in the first place. He indicates that he was not making a fuss over nothing but that the “white power structure” actually was a problem there and that since negotiations with the city’s leaders had failed, his people had no choice but to protest (King, 1963).
His stance is thus shown to be rational and the result of a logical sequence of actions.

Finally, King uses pathos—an emotional appeal—to convince the reader of his good intentions. He likens himself to the Old Testament prophets who went against the norms of their times to call attention to problems that the people had to face. He likens himself to Socrates, who attempted to teach the Greeks about truth and self-betterment and faced opposition for it. By bringing up these historical figures, King uses the emotional resonance that their stories summon to make his own more compelling.

King’s style of leadership is essentially grounded in the servant leadership style—i.e., in putting the needs of others before his own. He risks imprisonment that others might have a voice. He suffers abuse and criticism that his people might better their own lives. He serves their needs, not his own self-interest. He is also charismatic in his leadership, and draws upon all the tools of rhetoric to enhance his message—ethos, pathos and logos. He uses his charisma to generate….....

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De Vries, M. F. K. (1998). Charisma in action: The transformational abilities of Virgin\'s Richard Branson and ABB\'s Percy Barnevik. Organizational Dynamics, 26(3), 7-21.

King, M. L. (1963). Letter from Birmingham jail. Retrieved from

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