South Africa – Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela is a statesman of real stature. His story is one of outstanding moral courage against seemingly impossible odds, of determination to destroy apartheid, and above all – tireless efforts to bring about reconciliation in his homeland. Mandela reveals many of the qualities of a connective leader. Prof. Jean Lipman-Blumen notes that a connective leadership approach utilizes three different achieving styles – direct, relational, and instrumental. The direct achieving style has been the approach that has been traditionally adopted by leaders. In this style, the leader masters his/her own tasks while achieving progress towards the goal. In the relational style, the leader achieves progress by contributing to team-members tasks. In the instrumental style, the leader maximizes interactions between individual team members and empowers them to work collectively towards success. Lipman-Blumen points that in today’s interconnected world, leaders need to utilize not just one, but rather all of the achieving styles – resulting in a connective style of leadership. For a detailed illustration of the connective leadership model, see figure in my previous posting on connective leaders (Lipman-Blumen, 1996).
Nelson Mandela’s inner strength, magnanimity, confidence in humanity, optimism, patience and tolerance, a strong sense of justice, and an unswerving loyalty to his colleagues are attributes that enhance his connective leadership approach. He was born in 1918, as the eldest son of a Xhosa chief (the Xhosas are the second biggest tribe in South Africa after the Zulus). After training as a lawyer, he joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was a leader of the ANC’s non-violent campaigns against apartheid during the 1950s. After police killed 69 unarmed black protesters at Sharpeville in 1960, Mandela and other Congress leaders abandoned increasingly their hopes for peaceful change. In 1961, they formed the Congress’ military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (The Spear of the Nation). Mandela was subsequently arrested for incitement, and jailed for life for sabotage, which he openly admitted. At his trial, Mandela spoke of ‘the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve, but if need be an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’
As Mandela began his long sojourn in Robben Island, the harsh outpost of the South African prison system, he resolved that he would not allow this cruel experience to remove his dignity as a person from him. His jailor, James Gregory notes how Mandela stood tall among all other prisoners, as a leader with a spirit that would not be intimidated. After his release from prison, Mandela showed the rare quality of magnanimity, rising above pettiness and resentment. He did not once express bitterness towards the white community for his grim ordeal in the prisons, only against the system that they imposed. Upon his release from prison, he called for the black community to exhibit generosity of spirit and on the day of his election (27th April 1994), he spoke of the need to give the white minority ‘confidence and security.’ It is such generosity of spirit that makes Nelson Mandela one of the world’s most significant moral leaders since Mahatma Gandhi. One of his greatest achievements has been to work to connect and unite the diverse communities that make up South Africa. With his immense moral authority gained by the patient and magnanimous bearing of adversity, Mandela demonstrates it is possible to be a servant-leader, one who serves by leading and leads to serve. He has shown the world that a lofty and courageous spirit enables a leader to confront difficult situations calmly, rise above pettiness and revenge, and make sacrifices for worthy ends. This can also alter the mood of an entire nation.
Vision, humility, and courage are the hallmarks of the leadership seen in Nelson Mandela. The characteristics, along with professional competence or ability, are much sought after by free and equal people around the world.