In my opinion, leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate people enough for them to be willing to participate and get involved towards the achievement of a common goal. I see leadership as a process which can be improved over time and experience, but only by someone who has some innate leadership competences. In determining what leadership means to me, I decided to analyse two different leadership cases. I will firstly discuss and analyse Nelson Mandela’s leadership style, which appeared to be mainly transformational. I will try to demonstrate how Nelson Mandela proved that leadership was a two-way process between the leader and his followers, and how crucial it is for a leader to be respected and admired by his followers in order for him to be effective. In addition, a leader needs to be trustworthy, passionate and devoted to achieving a shared objective. More importantly, a good leader will abandon his subordinates once he achieved a personal goal. Throughout this essay, I will try to support my opinion being that, efficient leadership lies somewhere in between the trait and the style approaches whilst taking into account the situational approach. In my opinion, not everyone can be a leader, but if someone is meant to be one, leadership skills need to be learned and improved over time and adapted according to different situations. If not born a leader, one can only become one to a certain and limited extent, as we will see in Barack Obama’s case. President Obama first started as an acknowledged inspirational and passionate leader, who people admired, respected and wanted to join. However, a few years after his election, it seems like his glory days are behind him, and that he isn’t the leader he used to be anymore. It might appear that once he was elected president, and his personal goal has been achieved, Obama didn’t fight as hard for his subordinates as he did for his personal satisfaction. His lack of communication and inspirational speeches seem to have considerably damaged his reputation as a leader. It appears that Obama gave Americans too high hopes that he wasn’t able to keep up with and fulfil, creating a wave of disappointment among his supporters. It seems to me that Barack Obama was a great leader throughout his campaign, but that once elected, he was lacking some crucial leadership skills required as a President. In fact, one could argue that he wasn’t born a leader. In contrast to Nelson Mandela, he was only able to be a leader to a certain extent, his apogee being during his presidential campaign.
By fighting vigorously against apartheid, Nelson Mandela rapidly became an iconic figure of resistance in South Africa, and was thereafter acknowledged as the most significant black leader South Africa had ever known. He devoted his life to fighting against racism and apartheid in South Africa and for peace. However his life objectives were not personal satisfactions, but satisfactions of his supporters. He fought for their freedom and well-being before fighting for his own. In fact, he never compromised his political position even to regain his freedom. He could have backed down after being released from the Robben Island prison in 1990 (after 27 years of cruel imprisonment), after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 or even after becoming president in 1994. Yet he didn’t, and continued to fight for his people’s freedom and rights. Nelson Mandela has always demonstrated some legendary listening skills which are essential to being an efficient democratic leader. Indeed, he learned at a very young age from his guardian how listening to others was a vital skill in effective leadership. In fact, his guardian used to listen to everyone’s opinions first while remaining silent, before guiding the group to reach a consensus (Stengel, 1994). Therefore, one could argue that Mandela’s effective democratic or participative leadership style was greatly inspired by his childhood experience. Throughout...
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