Leadership Styles | Charisma | Martin Luther King Jr.

“Leadership Styles: Martin Luther King vs.

Jim Jones” by Tina Parrish
(Tina Parrish wrote this paper for an Intergrative seminar in social science to get her BA in Social Science at Great Basin College in Winnemucca, Nevada. She graduated this past May.) When people think of Martin Luther King Jr., they think of a great leader. On the other hand, when people think of Jim Jones, they think of a crazy man who led his people into a strange ritual of mass suicide. These two men seem as far from each other as night and day. However, their leadership styles were not that different from one another. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of a Baptist minister. In Howard Gardner’s book, Leading Minds, King described his childhood: “The first twenty-five years of my life were very comfortable years. I didn’t have to worry about anything... I went right through school, [and] I never had to drop out to work or anything” (Gardner, 1995). He grew up in his father’s footsteps and got his bachelor of divinity in 1951 and his doctorate in 1955. Gardner points out, “While King’s personal philosophy had not coalesced, he was interested in the connection between the individual’s relationship to God and his or her commitment to social activism on earth. He was also attempting to reconcile his personal experiences as a member of the traditional, emotionally suffused black church with rather abstruse concerns of recent Protestant theologians” (Gardner, 1995). I think that Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a Dream” speech shows just what kind of leader he was, a man who was very effective at what he did. King was described by some as having a unique way of getting people to work together rather than fight. “This leadership was not confined to fine speeches. In private meetings, King was generally quiet. He listened while others argued, often angrily and at length, and then he would calmly sum up the debate and identify a way forward. From the outset of his career in Montgomery in 1955, right through to his death in 1968, King had a remarkable ability to get people, who would otherwise be constantly feuding, to work together. He was consistently reluctant to sever or sour relations with anyone who might help the cause. This was particularly important because a by-product of racism was a pronounced tendency to factionalism inside the black community. King became the vital centre – a point of balance and unity” (Ling, 2003). Martin Luther King Jr. was a transformational leader. “[T]ransformational leadership starts with the development of a vision, a view of the future that will excite and convert potential followers. This vision may be developed by the leader, by the senior team or may emerge from a broad series of discussions. The important factor is the leader buys into it, hook, line, and sinker.... Whilst the transformational leader seeks overtly to transform the organization, there is also a tacit promise to followers that they also will be transformed in some way, perhaps to be more like this amazing leader. In some respects, then, the followers are the product of the transformation...Transformational leaders are often charismatic, but are not as narcissistic as pure Charismatic leaders, who succeed through a belief in themselves rather that a belief in others” (Transformational leadership, 2007).

and the hypocrisy of white Christianity was ridiculed while ‘apostolic socialism’ was preached. including the use of symbolism and metaphor” (Charismatic leadership. Of course it was a fake healing. Tim and Wanda Swinney and my ten-year-old cousin Darren followed Jim Jones to the death. He moved his flock to the Redwood Valley. Darren her to listen to reason by that time. if they are not naturally charismatic. equality and love. Jones went so far as to encourage Temple members to call him ‘Dad’ and ‘Father’. There are certain people that use charisma to lead. They may engender trust through visible self-sacrifice and taking personal risks in the name of their beliefs. Jim Jones was a Charismatic leader. He started out as a student minister in 1952 at a Methodist Church. Jim Jones often played on the emotions of his followers. may practice assiduously at developing their skills. in order to escape an inevitable nuclear holocaust. according to Jones. Unlike Martin Luther King. His father was often abusive to young Jim who had a yearning to preach to others what he learned in Sunday school. 2007). Indiana. area in 1965. where the leader is ‘playing to the house’ to create a desired effect. My uncle and his family were among the ones to follow Jones from Indiana to California This is where he met my aunt (my mother’s sister). “He preached a ‘social gospel’ of human freedom. Jones became disenchanted however. Jones did not have the happiest childhood. However. He also asked his members to consider him the incarnation of Christ and of God” (Jim Jones. including cult leaders. this gospel became socialistic. which required helping the lowliest of society’s members. Deliberate charisma is played out in a theatrical sense.*** Jim Jones was born in 1931 in Crete. He had an intensity about him that made people believe anything he said. She said that she Photos Courtesy of California Historical Society. he had as many blacks in his church as he did whites. They will show great confidence in their followers. but she said the people were so surprised and actually believed that he healed someone out of the crowd. Jim Jones is the . California. MSP 3800 watched one of the healings that Jones had. however. She was visiting her father in San Francisco and her sister lived in Ukiah. it was too late for SWINNEY. My mother says that she saw right through Jones from the start and tried to convince her sister to quit. My mother actually went to one of Jones’ sermons in 1969 or 1970. Later on. or communistic in Jones’ own view. He started his own church which allowed both black and white members to attend. In fact. 2007). They are very persuasive and make very effective use of body language as well as verbal language…. “Charismatic leaders use a wide range of methods to manage their image and. They also make effective use of storytelling. He had them convinced that he could heal them and would have fake healings during his sermons. when the church refused to allow black members to join.

the U. 2007). He had some very noble ideas of racial equality. where their self-absorption or need for admiration and worship can lead to their followers questioning their leadership” (Charismatic leadership. I think that drug use and maybe his own personality traits got the better of . including many high political figures in the San Francisco area in the 1970’s.. Jones told them there was no other way. However. Army would come down on their compound and kill everyone including the children. his drug use made him show the narcissistic qualities that changed him from a Transformational leader to a Charismatic leader. even when they have received adequate warning from others. Jim Jones became paranoid and believed that everyone was after him and his flock.S. during the ‘60s when people were finally seeing that it did not matter what the color of your skin was. in that the Transformational leader may well be charismatic. Both were idealistic and wanted peace in the world. they can elevate and transform an entire company. the Charismatic leader may not want to change anything. quite possible.epitome of a charismatic leader. They both preached about racial equality. Thiswas the domino that caused the mass murder-suicides on November 18. we are all equal in God’s eyes.Their self-belief is so high.… The Values of the Charismatic leader are highly significant. Some of the members protested. He told them that they were not committing suicide but it was “a revolutionary act protesting an inhumane world” (Jim Jones.… Despite their charm and apparent concern. If they are selfish and Machiavellian. they can create cults and effectively rape the minds (and potentially the bodies) of the followers . whereas Martin Luther King was nonviolent. The similarities between Martin Luther King and Jim Jones are uncanny. 2007). The day that Congressman Leo Ryan went to leave Jonestown he was attacked by one of the Temple members. however. Then while the congressman and his party were waiting to board a plane at the Port Kaituma airstrip. Peoples Temple had a stockpile of weapons that they smuggled into Guyana. supposedly because there had been several attacks on his life. Both were preachers in the same time era. and hence lead their followers into an abyss. Jones was playing on the crowd’s emotions. The article on Charismatic leadership puts it this way: “The Charismatic leader and the Transformational leader can have many similarities. He was very good at charming everyone around him. Their main difference is in their basic focus. Even during the final moments of Peoples Temple.. the Charismatic leader may well be somewhat more concerned with themselves than anyone else. The self-belief can also lead them into psychotic narcissism. they were ambushed by Temple members. Whereas the Transformational leader has a basic focus of transforming the organization and. Jim Jones started out with his heart in the right place. they can easily believe that they are infallible. Jones claimed that because the members had killed the congressman. He had a military force that surrounded him all the time. However. their followers. He was a good leader at the beginning as well. Transformational leadership and Charismatic leadership have many of the same qualities. 1978. If they are well-intentioned towards others. asking if there was another way.

2007. Ling. 2004. 2007. Works Cited Charismatic Leadership.cgi? fiIe=/e/alI998/11/08/NEWS404I. In the pavilion where Peoples Temple members died under the leadership of Jim Jones was a saying. Martin Luther King’s Style of Leadership. http://www.bbc. Northhouse.com/cgi-biniarticle.html. retrieved on August 11.com. Gardner.guyanaorglfeaturesljonestown. Osherow. Hatfield.html. Peter. 2007 NobelPrize. http://jonestown. .him. Retrieved on August 1. Transformational Leadership.uk/history/recent/martin_luther_king_print. The Jonestown Institute. 2007. Retrieved on August 1. htm.” May we remember and not repeat the mistakes of the Reverend Jim Jones.edu retrieved on August 11.co. Peter. 2007.conncoll. http://www. 2003. “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Sage Publications.org. Howard. New York. SF Gate. An Analysis of Jonestown. Larry. http://changingminds. Michigan. 1995. http://www.org/disciplines/leadership/styles/transformational_leaders hip. Leadership: Theory and Practice. http://sfgate.dtl&type =printable. Retrieved on August 1. Martin Luther King Jr. Utopian nightmare Jonestown: What did we learn? 1998. 2007.org/disciplines/leadership/styles/charismatic_Ieadership. 2007. we must learn from the lessons of others. Jonestown.htm. http://changingminds. Retrieved on August 1. Basic Books. however. Jim Jones could have easily been another Martin Luther King. Neal.edu/academics/departments/relstudies/290/newage/jimjon es.htm l. Who was Jim Jones.sdsu. Leading Minds.

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