Written By Phillips T Donald, this book is Martin Luther King Jr‘s biography, which communicates insightful and powerful leadership practices and principles. Donald Phillips is an eminent author, who specializes in writing leadership biographies that highlight leadership practices and principles. Some of his good books include “Leadership Through the Founding Fathers; Classic Teamwork” and “Lincoln Leadership: Strategies for Complex Times”.

King was born in January 15, 1929 and died in April 4, 1968; he was one of the most famous American leaders and political activists. In addition to leading civil rights movements, King was a Baptist minister. Many people considered him a peace maker as he promoted equal treatment of divergent races as well as non-violent fight for equality. Despite King receiving the Nobel Peace Price in 1968 before his assassination, Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded King the Presidential freedom medal in 1977. He also received the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously in 2004.  In 1986, America established Martin Luther King’s Day in his honor. With his most influential speech “I have a dream”, King believed in leading by being the change he desired to witness in the world.  King’s life was a commitment to what all world leaders could learn from.

Evaluation of the Book’s Content: Book Overview

Section 1: Preparing to Lead

1. Listen: be led

It is fundamental that leaders listen to their subjects and let themselves be led by the information they receive from their subjects, then rise and set direction. Success in leadership requires connection with subjects. Listening builds trust, enhances learning, facilitates understanding of expectations and aspirations, and fosters rapport as well as connection.

2. Use love and nonviolence to persuade

It is unfeasible to force leadership onto people. Leaders should inspire their subjects to follow. The use of position, power, and authority is a short-term leadership approach, which results from misunderstandings. The power to persuade is the only real power leaders should possess. Martin Luther commented that leaders should persuade using words and, if this fails, then leaders employ persuasion through actions.

3. Learning

The author argues that leaders should be committed to their individual development as well as nonstop improvement; hence, they are constant learners. King constantly reflected on his learning and decisions, arguing that it is impossible to separate leadership from learning.

4. Public speaking

A fundamental leadership practice is the ability to communicate. King spent several years practicing, preparing and developing his communication abilities. Leaders utilize public speaking to educate, persuade, inspire, and build support. In Luther’s speeches, he used metaphors, stories, imageries, and similes.

Section 2: Guiding the Movement

5. Awakening direct action

Leaders motivate and inspire their subjects into direct action. Successful leaders are result-oriented, always encouraging and empowering their subjects into action and progress. Because leaders are incapable of doing everything themselves, they need to devise ways of awakening direct actions in their subjects. Martin Luther encouraged his subjects to build positive activity from their opposition. He also inspired his subjects to act on their initiatives. 

6. Encouraging creativity and innovation

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Because leaders’ visions need change, and change entails new actions and ways of thinking, leaders require innovative and creative approaches, which would facilitate exploration of new grounds. Leaders use innovation to sustain achievements, actions, and change.

7. Using Alliances, diversity and teamwork to involve everyone

It is essential for leaders to involve everyone because it is easy to achieve success in groups. Martin Luther argued that to get a movement off its grounds, it is essential to keep together its founders. King attached himself to strong leaders, and, during meetings, he used questions to involve people, took no sides, and included everyone in debates and discussion. Lastly, he could form a consensus.

8. Setting goals and creating a plan of action.

Martin used goals to assist him in decision making, stimulate action, and create purpose.  When making goals, leaders should always remember these things:

  • To plan before taking action
  • Detailed plans and goals assist the change process
  • Plans are necessary for counteracting opposition
  • Goals motivate masses
  • Having goals unifies people in a group
  • A detailed plan is necessary for channeling people and keeping them aiming at the same direction.
  • Goals stimulate action.

Therefore, leaders must obtain goals and plans necessary for assisting, stimulating, and creating purpose in their meetings.

9. Be decisive

A leader’s approach to decision making is critical to the success of his/her leadership. Martin Luther always took time to mull over every possible option and discussed all critical decisions with other leaders as well as his team.

Section 3: Winning with people

10. Teaching the people

Martin Luther had a strong spotlight on educating and teaching the masses. He argued that the true goal of education is to build an individual’s intelligence and character.

11. Marching with the masses

Successful leadership requires leaders to have a genuine interest in their subjects as well as care. In addition to this, leaders should merge and be one with the masses through effective interaction.

12.       Negotiate and compromise

This ensures peaceful progress and prevents resistance to change.

13.       Understand human nature

This is measure against a leaders’ level of effectiveness. A successful leader should be able to measure his or her subject’s reaction under specific circumstances and the extent of their actions. In addition to this, leaders should have knowledge on how to inspire and motivate their subjects.

Section 4: Ensuring the future

14. Preaching hope and compassion

Leaders need to be compassionate about their subjects’ values.

15. Having leadership courage

This means that leaders should have the courage to stand for what they believe in. Despite having fifty documented murder attempts, Martin Luther kept moving forward with the hope that people would recognize his commitments.

16. Inspiring people through dreams

A leader’s vision inspires people to get involved in the group’s activities. In addition to this, visions provide purpose, context and establish meaning.


The author offers inspiration and practical leadership practices. Readers get insight into what experiences Martin Luther had successfully leading a movement during that era. Philips excellently weaves Luther’s biography with leadership lessons, making the book a captivating discovery of timeless leadership values. The author has a deep perception of leadership success and displays and excellent overview of King’s leadership through passion, influence, and persuasion.

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