Leadership is a process of socially influencing other people in order to accomplish a particular task (Mullins 2009). There exist different styles of leadership which include; authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. Authoritarian leadership is where there is a lot of command, control and close supervision and the subjects only adhere to the set rules and regulations. Democratic leadership comprise of decisions being made on the basis of the majority’s opinion. Laissez-faire leadership gives the subjects’ room to do what they think is right for them towards certain issues in management.


Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 in Mvezo village in the clan of Madiba in the province of Cape of Good Hope. He was the only surviving youngest son to his Father’s four wives. His father died when he was only nine and he went to leave with a guardian.Being the first person in his family to acquire western education, Mandela was motivated to study law after experiencing the tribal democratic leadership in Africa.  He went to Healdton Wesleyan College in Fort Beaufort a mission school of the Methodist church. In 1942 he graduated from the University of South Africa and he began appearing for the meetings of the African National congress (ANC) which was a nationalist group that was striving to unite Africans to form a democratic government.

In 1943 he participated in a bus boycott to protest against a bus fare hike in Alexandria. The same year he enrolled for a bachelor of law degree in the University of Witwatersrand and in 1944 he helped in the formation of ANC congress youth league with the motive of mobilizing and giving emphasis to the ANC. He worked in the Edelman law firm while he was studying at his law degree. In 1950 he participated in organization of a national day protest against the apartheid. He then worked at the Terblanche and Briggish law firms and moved to H.M. Basner after qualifying in his exams. In 1952 him and his friend Oliver Tambo began the first black law firm with intend of fighting against injustice on the blacks. In 1954 he striped off his law practice license by the law society of Transvaal. In 1956 he was arrested together with the ANC members for treason. Later he was released in 1957 and married Winnie after a divorce with his wife Evelyn.

In 1961 he was acquitted of Treason charges but formed an underground military group Umukhonto we sizwe (the spear of the nation). In 1962 he was arrested and sentenced in life imprisonment for charges of sabotaging and conspiracy against the country. In 1990 he was released after serving 27 years in prison and in 1993 he received a Nobel price for his contribution towards termination of apartheid (Anver 2002). He was elected the first president of South Africa in 1994 but retired in 1999.

Mandela’s successstory

Mandela as a leader made people to believe they were the leaders. When he was a young boy he was largely influenced by his guardian Jongintaba who was the chief. The chief would let the elders to speak and he would then speak (Stengel 2008). He thought it was wise to let people lead you then simply analyze their thoughts and in the end they would think they made the decision. He had no rush in the debates and this made his friends and colleagues to respect him so much.

To be a leader you have to understand and know your enemies just the way Mandela did. He learnt their favourite sport, their language and their strength and weaknesses. He knew that one day he will have to have tonegotiateand fight with them and that his destiny rested on them. He believed that the Blacks and Afrikaners had one common thing; they believed to be Africans in the same way and they suffered from cultural inferiority complex. While in prison as a lawyer he helped the warders with their legal problems since they were far less educated. This made him to be highly regarded by everyone while in prison.

As a leader Mandela believed that you should keep your friends and enemies or rivals close to you (Milan 2006). Mandela invited people he did not trust to dinner, he flattered and consulted with them and even gave them gifts. He called them on their birthdays; he invited them to his cabinet meetings and even sometimes washed their hands during dinner. He believed working or socializing with them was less risky than leaving them on their own. This made him to control them even during negotiations.

Moreover, Mandela knew that he was to be courageous though it does not imply it is the absence of fear. He was to be courageous to inspire his followers to press on regardless of the fight. In 1994 during his presidential campaign he got into a plane to address the Zulu’s but in the process the engine failed but he remained very calm reading his newspaper something that made his fellow passengers to calm down despite the danger at hand. Though he admitted later he very terrified up there when the situation at hand was nicely solved. During his trials he did let people know that he was afraid because he had to inspire them. At the robin islands where he was jailed he pretended to be calm yet he was afraid just to make other prisoners to calm down though there was fear.

To be an effective leader you must lead from the front but you should not leave your base behind. As Mandela understood this when he went for operation for his enlarged prostrate he took that opportunity to begin negotiations with apartheid government. This was the smallest opportunity he had got after 21 years in jail. He explained this to the members of ANC about what he was doing despite fear that he had lost it all. He then let them to move on after understanding his motive. He believed that success was on its way but it was not known when.

Mandela was always smart in appearance despite being a poor law student. He wore his only threadbare suit when he went to see Walter Sisulu the then real estate agent and a young leader of ANC. Sisulu immediately saw a future in him. He was always smart in appearance as he insisted that his photographs were to be taken in the right antiques. He believed that appearance could advance his future.  He smiled at people even when he was in problems something that made people to believe he was not bitter about the past when he told them to forget about the past and move on.

Mandela held that he leading may also involve quitting. When he went on the South African television in 1993suggesting that the voting age to be lowed to 14 years he found that he was the only one who supported the idea. He surrendered with humility to the idea as he never sulked for the lack of support. Despite being the most difficult decision a leader can make knowing how to quit a failed task or idea is the most honourer’s thing to do. He retired in 1999 though he would have chosen to remain the president as he knew other people would do it better. This has really helped South Africa to go far in development arena. Other leaders who did not know how to quit like Muamar Gaddafi in African country-Libya have continued to cause problems among the subjects leading to chaos. Mandela was and is still a force to reckon with in terms of leadership.

Mandela was a visionary leader as he helped South Africa secure an opportunity in hosting the world cup in 2010. He proved South Africa’s greatest investment area. He influenced the people that South Africa had a profound policy framework that was market friendly. Before he retired he set up three foundations which are now currently being backed by Googlecompany (Peter 2011): Nelson Mandela foundation to preserve his memory and promote dialogue, The Mandela Rhodes foundation for leadershiptraining and education and the Nelson Mandela’s children fund to promote children’s well-being and rights of the children. (Warman 2008)

Mandela was a charismatic leader. He treated his enemies with respect and honour hence making friends in the opposition and opening negotiations where he managed to control them. He invited them to dinners, washed their feet and learnt their language all this was a strategy to know his enemies and know which strategy to use to fight them. When he was in the plane that had engine failure and pretended to be calm he later admitted that he was very terrified yet it was only a sign to give hope to his fellow passengers not to panic.

Mandela is a bold and persistent leader. The fact that he saw the apartheid government misuse Africans dignity and pride as a young boy he decided to study law to fight such injustices. He learnt how to use slings; he learnt the Afrikaners language to understand the enemies, and even later on participated in the secret military fights. He was in and out of prison for charges ranging from treason to charges such as sabotage and conspiracy against the government. He went in prison at Robin Islands where there was fear everywhere but he never showed signs of fear, he remained bold and persisted with the war. Even after it was made clear it was illegal for prisoners to negotiate he still went into negotiations opposing the ANC stand on the issue. Despite the life imprisonment, he still had hopes of one day South Africa getting its freedom back.

Leadership style Mandela employed

Mandela effectively used the authoritarian, democratic leadership and laissez-faire. During the ANC and his cabinet meetings he let people make their statements and contributions and finally analyse their thoughts and make his own opinions but in the end the people felt they were in control. Sometimes he would explain ideas to his members in the secret military group and let the subjects do what they felt was right for them. Though by using Laissez-faire style he would always let them know the consequences of their actions and the remedies for them. As a leader he showed courage to his subjects though he was terrified especially when he was on the run just to instil confidence in the people. This was his major strongest point that made people to even get inspired by his courage.

His decision to reopen negotiations against the apartheid system was opposed to the ANC view which qualifies him to be an authoritarian leader. He went a head but came back to them to explain what he was doing to seek their support of which they agreed (Lodge 2006). At times he rebuked those criticising ANC from black journalists to Desmond Tutu for their public statements. Besides he openly suggested that the voting age to be lowered to 14 years which he expected support from his colleagues of which he did not get. He easily loosened his stand and accepted defeat as he never pressed the subject further.



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