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JCC Good Leadership

Nelson Mandela
Coaching and leadership
Transformational leadership
Contingency and situational leadership
Ethical leadership
Leadership traits, motives and characteristics
Nelson Mandela
What is leadership?
Soichiro Honda
Self Assessment: Jay Muleya
Self Assessment: Chris Musoma
Self Assessment: Colin Richardson
Julius Caesar
By Jay Muleya




Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, he was the first President of South Africa to be elected in fully-representative democratic elections. His Given name Rolihlahla which means one who brings trouble upon himself. (Kramer, 2003)


Before his presidency, Mandela was a prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress (ANC), and was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage after he went underground and began the ANC's armed struggle.


Through his 27 years in prison, much of it spent in a cell on Robben Island, Mandela became the most widely known fugure in the struggle against apartheid. Among opponents of appartheid in South Africa and internally, he became a cultural icon of freedom and equality comparable with Mahatma Gandhi.


Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February 1990, and he plunged wholeheartedly into his life's work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1994 Mandela and the ANC started their campaign for the first all-race elections that the country ever had. In April, when the elections occurred, the ANC won a majority and Mandela was appointed president, the first black president ever in South Africa! (Denenberg, 1995).

I consider Nelson Mandela a natural born leader; from his story almost 70 years ago. Walking across the green hills above the village one morning not long ago, Mandela recalled a lesson he learned as a boy, "When you want to get a herd to move in a certain direction," he said, "you stand at the back with a stick, then a few of the more energetic cattle move to the front and the rest of the cattle follow, you are really guiding them from behind," and that’s how Nelson Mandela’s leadership was about during his life in prison he was guiding his followers whilst in prison. (Mandela, 1965)

Nelson Mandela got the leadership culture from his guardian, Chief Jongintaba, when he witnessed the dynamic of leadership on several different occasions as a young boy, the regent of the Thembu tribe, presided over what were essentially tribal town meetings as people came from far and wide to Chief Jongintaba's royal seat, the Great Place at Mqekezweni. These meetings lasted days, and did not end until everyone had a chance to speak his mind, however Rolihlahla sat on the fringes and watched as his guardian spoke and he listened in thoughtful silence, only at the end would Chief Jongintaba speak, and then it was to nurture a consensus. A leader, Mandela learned, does not impose a decision. (Denenberg, 1995)


Charismatic leader

Nelson Mandela was a charismatic leader, he was one of the greatest and most influential figures of the 20th Century to lead the fight against apartheid (racial separation) in South Africa and to become the country’s first black president in its first-ever multiracial election and he dedicated his life to achieving freedom for his people, he had a vision of the democratic South Africa where everyone would have equal rights, despite many set backs he was faced with and his twenty-seven years in prison, he still managed to gradually gain the respect of the prison officials with his forceful yet dignified manner. (Kramer, 2003)

Charismatic leaders are not necessarily boastful or flamboyant; Nelson Mandela exercised a style of quiet leadership that was perceived to be very charismatic and successful, he held strong emotional reactions towards his followers, under theory of charismatic leadership Nelson Mandela’s’ followers from the ANC still had the trust in him whilst he was in prison and they believed in him to continue to fight for apartheid and pledged willing obedience to him. (Rosenbach & Taylor 2006)

Transformational Leader


The main image that persists in the public mind about Nelson Mandela is that of the generous old man who, after twenty-seven years in prison, emerges to forgive his tormentors for the love of his people and the nation, he was able to lead a nation nearly liberated from the prejudices of the past, he raised the consciousness of his followers by appealing to their higher ideals and values, whilst in prison he helped many to learn how to survive behind bars, by encouraging them to educate themselves. (Mandela, 1965).

In 1952 Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo opened the first African legal practice in Johannesburg and Mandela was elected a national volunteer-in-chief to co-ordinate the campaign, he raised peoples’ awareness by representing all the ANC detainees’ cases, Mandela traveled the country organizing resistance to discriminatory legislation, in the same year (early 1950’s) Mandela played an important part in leading the resistance to the Western Areas and in the introduction of Bantu Education, he also played a significant role in popularizing the Freedom Charter that was adopted by the Congress, before he was imprisoned he encouraged people to continue fighting for freedom and never to give up as he knew that he was going to be imprisoned.(Denenberg, 1995)




Mandela had strong ethical values through having a heart and soul of leadership by consistently advising his followers to adopt a peaceful course of action and to avoid all violence, Nelson Mandela as a lawyer, voluntarily represented many detainees under the ANC whilst he was volunteer-in-chief for the ANC, after he was released he showed Utilitarianism leadership through soldiering ahead to fight for apartheid and became the first black democratic president in South Africa under the ANC, he had the morals to continue fighting against apartheid (Denenberg, 1995).




According to Rosenbach & Taylor (2006) “traits are stable personal characteristics, meaning that individuals behave in fairly predictable ways across time and situations and observers come to describe the individual in those terms.”  In this case being Nelson Mandela was described as ‘a hero and freedom fighter’ because of the fight against apartheid and after twenty seven years in jail, to become the first black democratic leader of South Africa.  He had the integrity that encompasses the other traits of honesty and trustworthiness for his followers.




Nelson Mandela inspired his followers by assisting them to understand the ANCs’ vision by creating a shared meaning of its value and importance to realize their potential to fight against apartheid and democracy whilst he was the ANC leader, he helped his followers to develop their own understanding of what is important for their nation, such as: to fight on eliminating racial discrimination to have equal rights (Baker, 2002).

Since the early 1990s, the nation has emerged from years of oppression and apartheid and evolved into a stable modern democracy under the inspirational leadership of Nelson Mandela, one of the world’s most respected political figures, in the fifties he traveled to every part of South Africa as he was responsible for all volunteer activities of the ANC, he spoke to handfuls of people in different parts of South Africa, each time he traveled by convincing them that they could do something about oppression and warn them not to be intimidated by the government not to retaliate no matter what the provocation is but must restrain themselves in the face of verbal and physical abuse, his confidence inspired people.(Mandela, 1965).


Born a Leader


After Nelson Mandela’s father’s death, who was the Tribal Chief of Thembuland and the young Rolihlahla became the Paramount Chief's ward to be groomed to assume high office, however, influenced by the cases that came before the Chief's court, he was determined to become a lawyer, after hearing the elders' stories of his ancestor's valor during the wars of resistance in defense of their fatherland, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people, in this case being, I describe Nelson Mandela as a born leader because he was chosen to be a paramount chief leader during his childhood, though he abandoned his leadership to go and get educated (Kramer, 2003).


Empowered his people


Mandela traveled the country organizing resistance to discriminatory legislation, he mobilized the people and told them not to just to carry out orders but also to innovate and fight for their freedom with breakthrough results, he encouraged people to continue the struggle against apartheid and he convinced them that they could do something about oppression, According to Sarros (2002) “Workers who feel they can change the shape of the company become empowered automatically; because they have no fear of retaliation in a company that actively pursues shared vision and decision-making processes”, Mandela infused the lives of his followers with meaning and significance ,helping them to understand the fight against apartheid in order to eliminate racial discrimination. (Drummond, 2004).


Effective Communication


Nelson Mandela was and still is a worthy adversary to his opponents, and he would anticipate what challenges, arguments and defenses his opposition would put up.  He effectively communicated his responses based on those challenges, arguments and defenses, he effectively communicated with his followers through coordinating the ANC branches by traveling to every part of South Africa by explaining the plan to fight for a better South Africa, one without hate and racial discrimination (apartheid) (Mandela, 1965).


Problem Solver

Nelson Mandela was a problem solver through struggling to fight against apartheid, he managed to solve the problem of apartheid in South Africa after he was released from jail and he changed South Africa into a democratic when he became the president however, Mandela, throughout his presidency, was able to overlook the past of the ghostly evil days of apartheid and embrace his tormentors, the white South African minority; he also played an important role in unifying and promoting peace outside South Africa, he believed retaliation is not the key to progress, reconciliation is what will allow life to continue. (Mandela, 1965)


Mandela’s wife

Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife was one of his greatest weaknesses. Winnie Mandela is one of the most controversial people of our time. In November of 1997 she was charged with eighteen crimes including murder, kidnapping, and torture. Most of these crimes were committed in the 1980's and she was finally brought to trial in November of 1997. In the mid 1980's a spiral of reckless behavior and heavy drinking began, which some attributed to her time in jail; but either way it was this behavior that brought on the crimes, accusations, and then the trial. (Liang, nd)

Lack of freedom

Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years, his time in jail was a weakness as it was too long, and he did not have the capacity to fight against apartheid while in prison, he had no freedom while in jail compared to when he was out of jail, while in jail he had no transactional leadership because of the restriction of not being able to guide and advise his followers, he had no resources and capacity to carry it out. (Sarros, 2002)

Scandals and Mistakes

During Mandela’s era of leading the nation, his government was hit by some scandals and he also made errors of judgment through having his ministers earn higher salaries which lead to accusations of greed and the allegations damaged his government, between 1995 and 1997 some of his government ministers were accused of corruption and fraud, particularly misuse of aid money, Mandela did not handle these matters well, instead he defended his colleagues for the wrongs that they had done (Kramer, 2003).

Lack of Communication

While Mandela was in prison it was difficult for him to keep in touch with his followers and was often dangerous at that time, talking was usually prohibited, newspapers and radio transmissions were forbidden, and letters were heavily censored, lack of communication with his followers drew him back from knowing how the ANC was doing (Kramer, 2003).


The leadership of Nelson Mandela has never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he has never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration, in South Africa and throughout the world, to all who are oppressed and deprived, to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation. Mandela personifies struggle and today he is still leading the fight against apartheid with extraordinary resilience and vigor after spending nearly 3 decades of his life behind bars. He has sacrificed his private life and his youth for his people, and remains South Africa's best known and loved hero. All in all I think Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time. He is an international hero and is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.



Baker, L (2002).  The Heart and Soul of Leadership. Australian Institute of Management, Roseville, NSW, Australia: McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd.

Denenberg, B (1995) Nelson Mandela “No Easy Walk to Freedom”. Scholastic Inc. USA

Drummond, A (2004) Nelson Mandela. Green Barrow Publishing, Victoria, Australia.

Kramer, A (2003) Nelson Mandela 1918 -. Frank Watts Australia, Alexandria, NSW.

Liang, E (nd) The Trials of Winnie Mandela. Retrieved on: January 27, 2007.


Mandela, N (1965) No Easy Walk to Freedom. Penguin Books Ltd, London, England.

Rosenbach, W. & Taylor, R.(2006) Contemporary Issues in Leadership. Cambridge, MA, USA: Westview Press, A Member of the Perseus Books Group.


Sarros, J. (2002).  The Heart and Soul of Leadership. Australian Institute of Management, Roseville, NSW, Australia: McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd.