Order Now

Ruling Well in the Real World


Ruling well in the real world is not an easy thing. The US history provides a variety of examples of good leaders. Confucius’ model of a good leader helps to better understand the effectiveness of a “good leader” for society. Virtuous leaders are considered to be transformational leaders who manage to “achieve radical results, overturn the status quo, and advance a new way of thinking – perhaps even a new sense of public morality” (Schwenke 39). Although the definition of a virtuous leader has varied over historical time, the most popular leaders in the world history who demonstrated their best leadership skills are Alexander the Great, Martin Luther King, James Madison, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Franklin Roosevelt and some other outstanding leaders. The major goal of this paper is to choose one leader from US history and evaluate him/her in terms of Confucius’ model of a good leader. Based on Confucius’ model of a good leader, Martin Luther King is a true example of a good leader, as he was a virtuous, honest, initiative and trustworthy person whose political activity was focused on morality and justice.

Confucius’ model of a good leader

Confucian philosophy is unique as it can be applied to the present-day society. It is known that Confucius himself didn’t write any books, but his followers managed to put together a collection of his famous sayings, well known as “Analects”. Actually, Confucius was a philosopher. However, some critics state that he was “a philosopher in the practical, and not academic sense, not unlike Socrates” (Ishay 32). Confucius, as an exemplary ruler, distinguished five major attributes of a good leader. A good leader should “be generous without its costing him anything, works others hard without their complaining, has desires without being greedy, is casual without being arrogant, and is awe-inspiring without appearing fierce” (qtd. in Ishay 31). According to John Adair, Confucius’ theories on leadership are as relevant in today’s society as they were 2500 years ago.

Confucius believed that a good leader should demonstrate good morals and love all people. A good leader should be focused on the principles of justice in his/her activity. According to Confucian philosophy, a state can exist without an army and tax revenue system, but “it could never be legitimate without faith” (Ishay 31). The laws that are based on morality could help a good leader to gain the respect of people. Besides, Confucius suggested that education could help leaders to become wise. Actually, Confucius’ approach to leadership is associated with peacebuilding practices. Peacebuilding “calls for transformation and harmonization of human relationships through the moral modeling of leaders and the education and moral self-cultivation of persons”(Berling 106). For Confucius, morality of a good leader is associated with his personal righteousness and social justice. This fact means that Confucian philosophy reflects the necessity of modeling of ethics and virtues.

Evaluation of a leader from the US

in terms of Confucius’ model of a good leader

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 –1968) was a leader. He demonstrated his best leadership skills as an American clergyman, political activist, and the leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Today he is well known for his active participation in the advancement of civil rights in the United States using non-violent civil disobedience. Martin Luther King is considered to be a national icon in the US history and in the history of American progressivism.

Based on Confucius’ model of a good leader, Martin Luther King can be viewed as a good leader. Martin Luther King was a good person as he attracted others, naturally evoking respect and deference. People saw authority in the integrity of his moral character. Although it may seem idealistic in its nature, “it is a conviction shared in part by the modern civil disobedience movement”(Berling 106). Martin Luther King inspired hundreds of people, legions of followers, and “eventually prevailed against the forces of colonial oppression legalized racism” (Berling 106).

Moreover, Martin Luther King, as a moral leader, sacrificed his life to protect his virtue. According to Confucius’ model of a good leader, he can be called a virtuous leader. Actually, his political ideas and influences were reflected his leadership style. The following aspects in his leadership should be taken into consideration: religion, non-violent political activism, promotion of racial equality and democracy. Martin Luther King’s biography tells much about his life and leadership in the civil rights movement aimed to stop racism, segregation and discrimination in the United States.

In his political practice, Martin Luther King used peaceful methods to achieve his goals – matches for human rights, speeches and boycotts. He argued that “non-violent protest” offered the only possible course for substantially changing human conditions in American society. Besides, King paid special attention to his education. Due to his knowledge of history, politics, psychology, oratorical science he managed to develop “personal leadership skills of self-control, discipline, a remarkable ability to communicate, and a deep sense of social obligation” (Johnson 98).


           Thus, it is necessary to conclude that Martin Luther King can be viewed as a good leader based on Confucius’ model of a good leader. He demonstrated good morals, knowledge and loved all people. In his activity, King was focused on the principles of justice, faith and virtue. As a civil rights activist and leader, he led struggle against racism, discrimination and segregation, organizing nonviolent protests across the USA. Besides, he became one of the greatest orators in American history.


Works Cited

           Adair, J. Confucius on Leadership. Pan Macmillan, 2013. Print.

Berling, J. A. “Confucianism and Peacebuilding” in Religion and Peacebuilding. Harold G. Coward and Gordon Scott Smith. SUNY Press, 2004. Print.

Ishay, M. The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era. University of California Press, 2008. Print.

Johnson, A. “Self-emancipation and leadership: the case of Martin Luther King” in Leadership and Social Movements, ed. by Colin Barker, Alan Johnson, Michael Lavalette. Manchester University Press, 2001. Print.

Schwenke, C. Reclaiming Value in International Development: The Moral Dimensions of Development Policy and Practice in Poor Countries. ABC-CLIO, 2009. Print.