25 Leadership Quotes From Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2014 — 27 Comments

Today is the day set aside to honor the late Martin Luther King Jr. He’s the man who helped propel the civil rights movement forward.

According to Wikipedia, he was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Like many of you, he had lots of titles and roles. He juggled his responsibilities the best he could and left a huge impact on the world, decades after his assassination.

With today being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’d like to share with you 25 memorable leadership quotes he’s been credited as saying. Afterwards, I’d love for you to share the post and also a quote of his that you find inspiring.

1. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (Click to tweet)

2. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

3. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others.

4. Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

5. I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear. (Click to tweet)

6. Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.

7. Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.

8. Ten thousand fools proclaim themselves into obscurity, while one wise man forgets himself into immortality.

9. I have a dream…

10. When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.

Martin Luther King Jr. March

Image by Eric Castro

11. All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem. (Tweet this!)

12. People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.

13. The time is always right to do the right thing.

14. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

15. If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.

16. Lightning makes no sound until it strikes. (Share this)

17. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.

18. Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.

19. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

20. Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.

MLK statue

Image by Kelly B.

21. Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better. (Tweet this out)

22. The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.

23. I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody else can speak for you.

24. We cannot walk alone.

25. You will change your mind; You will change your looks; You will change your smile,laugh, and ways but no matter what you change, you will always be you.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man with a dream and a vision. He knew where he wanted to take people and he did his best to lead them to the promised land.

While King wasn’t perfect, he did do a lot of great things for the world. Let’s remember the great leadership lessons he taught us through his quotes.

If you’d like to know more about King and his life, you can check out the following books about Martin Luther King Jr.

Strength To Love

A Testament Of Hope: The Essential Writings And Speeches Of Martin Luther King Jr.

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community? – Martin Luther King Jr.’s final manuscript

Question: What’s your favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quote? Please share it in the comment section below.

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  • Kingsley Iz

    Wonderful selections there, Joe! I don’t need to add to these because they’re just too inspiring. However, I have a special preference for ‘quote 24’: We cannot walk alone, in addition, because ‘ The LORD is our Shepherd.’.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Thanks Kingsley. Glad you enjoyed the quotes and were inspired by them. I also liked how linked #24 to the Bible and our walk with Him.

  • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

    I have to say I really liked #24: “We cannot walk alone.” Like Kingsley said, there’s a special meaning attached to this because of my identity in Christ, but also how any great work starts and ends with team work. It’s great to see this list as well. Great minds think alike. I wrote my 20 collection of favorite quotes from MLK here: http://paulsohn.org/20-inspiring-martin-luther-king-jr-quotes-leadership-love-faith/

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Paul, your list is great as well.

  • http://leadershipheartcoaching.com/ Bill Benoist /Leadership Heart

    “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.”

    Such a powerful statement!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Great quote Bill. What I wonder is, with the power behind that quote now, how much more powerful was it when Dr. King said it?

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great quotes Joe.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Thanks Kimanzi!

  • Rebecca Jo Cannon

    If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Such a powerful quote Rebecca.

  • John Thurlbeck

    Yet another great post Joe! I’ve already tweeted the ones marked and the one I like, which is: Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Thanks John!

      • John Thurlbeck

        You’re very welcome Joe ~ I love your stuff! Have a brilliant week ahead! :)

  • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jon D Harrison

    13. The time is always right to do the right thing.


    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I love that one too Jon. It spurs us to action.

    • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

      Missed that one, very good!

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    These are some great quotes by a great leader! Thanks for sharing them.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      My pleasure Dan!

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    What a man! I love: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      For sure Kent!

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