Martin Luther King Jr. and his Ethical Leadership
Stephanie McBee firstname.lastname@example.org ACC 450-01
Dr. Bill Harden, Ph.D., CPA, ChFC
March 4, 2015
Ethical leadership is becoming harder and harder to define in today’s society. I thought I knew on the first day of this class what it meant to be ethical, but as time goes on and my education deepens I know I have yet to scratch the surface. I know understand that ethical leadership involves leading people to build solid relationships based on respect and trust, as well as choosing to do the right thing at all times. This includes making morally sound decisions every day and not just when the situation calls for it. I have learned that effective leaders act in accordance to four key elements. These elements are trust, integrity, relationships, and transparency. If a leader can successfully master all four traits, we consider them an ethical professional.
Each of the four elements can adequately define what it means to be an ethical leader. As for my example of an ethical leader, I will use Martin Luther King Jr. King’s leadership was effective and influential due to the moral code he developed throughout his life through via moral guidance from his parents, church, and real- life experiences. Moral development of leaders is not something that occurs quickly. It must be cultivated over time through good actions at all times, and not just occasionally. Through King’s activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. Assassinated in April 1968, and he is still remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, "I Have a Dream." (Bio) His monumental strides toward equality did not make him ethical. He became ethical by practicing the four elements of ethicl leadership.
The first element I mentioned earlier is trust. When a leader is reliable and willing to admit mistakes people will see them as human. Followers of a good leader must believe he or she will keep promises made and therefore are willing to commit to the goals of that leader. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified this element by speaking to people instead of at them. He held gatherings or meetings in churches where all members of the community could come to hear him or even talk to King in person. People built a lasting trust in him for this open interaction. Ethical leaders recognize leading by example, creates an environment that fosters productivity, without the distractions of scandals and corruption. (Duggan) When people trust each other, they can focus on getting work done, asking for help when they need it and successfully solving problems.
The second and most important element is integrity. It is defined as the quality of being honest, having strong moral principles, and adhering to them regularly. (Duggan) An effective leader honors commitments and expects followers and associates to do so as well. King was one of the few leaders who actually delivered on the promises he made. If he professed he would fight for the cause, he fought adamantly. In his now infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most memorable passages, King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (Bio) With this line, he not only stated his own moral principles, he encouraged others to believe in a better world. He did not ask people to fight for equality, but to make it morally and ethically acceptable for it to exist. Although he had his fair share of violence, he did not condone it. He wanted a peaceful transition into