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Nelson Mandela

June 21, 2011

Leadership is known as a very wide-ranging and complex domain, and its elements are perceived in various ways. The history has created a lot of great leaders, whose stories bring us valuable leadership lessons to examine. To have a more insightful and comprehensive view of basic leadership theories, two famous and influential political leaders, Nelson Mandela and Adolf Hitler were chosen. Also, because they promote extremely opposite leadership style, ethics and power, analyzing and comparing them will help to apply leadership theories into practice more effectively, which is the ultimate goal of this report.
Nelson Mandela (1918) is a South Africa lawyer, prominent activist and also known as the leader of African National Congress (ANC) party and first black President of South Africa (1994-1999). Mandela is famous owing to his dedication for South Africa to fight against Apartheid government and his charity fund. In 1993, he was rewarded the Peace Nobel Prize.
Leadership Attitudes and Style
Nelson Mandela
Dubrin, Dalglish & Miller (2006, p64) said “leadership involves influencing people”. In the case of Nelson Mandela, the way he influenced people is utilizing strong relationship-oriented attitudes and behavior throughout his life.
“To get people pulling together, it is necessary to speak to many people”, (Dubrin et al. 2006, p65). According to Brink (1998), although Nelson Mandela has never perceived himself a good speaker, whenever he speaks, people will listen. Indeed, he appealed to 10,000 volunteers for joining in his defiance of Unjust Law campaign in August 1952, though Apartheid policy of racial discrimination was introduced widely across the country (ANC, n.d).
Nelson Mandela also succeeded in creating inspiration and giving emotional support toward his followers. Once ANC was under the threat of Apartheid government, he told his followers: “Dangers and difficulties have not deterred us in the past, they will not frighten us now” (ANC, n.d) to praise their strengths and encourage them. Moreover, he also inspired people by satisfying their higher-level needs, “he is very sensitive to the emotional needs of other people” (Topsynergy, 2008). When being the President of South Africa, his initiative to found the Children’s Fund came from his understanding that “people need emotional support, protection and a sense of belonging” (South Africa, 2001). Also, Mandela has characteristics of a “servant leader” when he is more concerned about helping people than achieving power or position. “Kindness, consideration and tenderness are more meaningful to Nelson Mandela than any sort of honor the world can bestow” (Topsynergy, 2008).
Nelson Mandela’s “relationship-oriented” attitudes help form his participative leadership style. According to Ripka (2007), Nelson Mandela adopted a democratic leadership style throughout his fight to bring democracy to South Africa. While Johnson & Johnson (2006) believed his leadership success is attributed to his use of consensus.
Though in term of “democratic” or “consensus”, the way Mandela led people was not telling them what to do but leading them from behind. At any leading positions, he always set policies or made decision through group discussion. For example, when he urged to reduce the voting age to 14 in ANC but did not receive the consensus among members in the party, he also accepted because he thought “That is democracy”. This leadership style might sometimes make his intention become more difficult, like “during his imprisonment on Robben Island, he desired to stage a strike to force the warders to address prisoners with the honorific “Mr” but he was always turned down by his comrades” (Kelvin, 2008).
Although “charismatic leaders are likely to have a strong need for power” (Yukl 2006, p254), millions of people deify Mandela because he has always used his power with the needs and promotion of other in mind (Mayseless & Popper, 2007). Mandela has actually made lots of self-sacrifices to promote his strong vision. That was why their struggle was continued even when Mandela was imprisoned, and even after, he continued lending his voice toward human’s rights. He completely restrained the use of his power in order to benefit others, which characterizes him as a socialized charismatic leader (Dubrin 2006).
2.3. Ethical leadership
2.3.1. Nelson Mandela: Justice Model
To Nelson Mandela, throughout his whole life, he raises the awareness of followers by appealing to the moral value of justice.
From an early age, he was inspired to study law with the hope of defending black South Africans against the government’s increasingly unfair treatment (South Africa, 2001). His decision of being a lawyer was undeniably driven by his strong belief in fairness.
When studying at University of Fort Hare, he led a student protest to propagate an activism gaining equality among South Africans. His commitment to his principle “justice” was so strong that he was even willing to be expelled from the university (South Africa, 2001)
In the court for trial in 1964, he had no hesitation in saying from the dock: “Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent” (cited from “I am prepared to die” – Nelson Mandela’s statement). And even when the ANC party gained the authority, and white community only contributed a small population in South Africa, he never promulgated any regulation dispossessing their equal rights. It is indeed true when Kollapen (2007) stated “The name Nelson Mandela is synonymous with human rights and racial equality”.
Leadership Power
Nelson Mandela
Expert Power
Prestige Power
Referent Power
Specialized skills and knowledge give Nelson Mandela expert power to influence others. He graduated with Law degree and had huge political experiences when being the leader of A.N.C., which helped him even when being imprisoned. In Robben Island, he found various ways to communicate with other prisoners, such as writing messages on toilet paper, hiding messages in the bottom of food buckets, etc, to call them upon for a hunger strike to get better living condition. Consequently, he succeeded in persuading and gathering all prisoners and they finally won (Max, 2003).
Also, Nelson Mandela inspired and influenced others by utilizing referent power, which was closely linked to his traits. His trustworthiness was one of the key things that made people believe and follow him. Nelson Mandela believes a great leader must not be the best speaker, the important thing is to create trust among people by showing them what you have done match with what you have talked (Boyce, 1998). Moreover, he instilled hope and passion to people using his warmth, self-confidence and enthusiasm, which were revealed from his tireless struggle for South Africans’ happiness and freedom. Although he experienced lots of harsh situations throughout his leadership life, he still maintained calm and inspire others to move beyond fear (1st leadership lesson of Nelson Mandela).
With his own lofty personality of a charismatic leader, skills and knowledge accumulated, Nelson Mandela has gained world-wide reputation, which brought him prestige power to have impacts on not only South Africa but also on all over the world. Even after retirement, he still used his status to raise money for charity; he founded Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, HIV foundation 46664, etc, which attracted a large numbers of global funds to join in.

Click for more information about Nelson Mandela as well as his leadership and Nelson Mandela biography, speech and quote


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