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The Background Of Lech Walesa History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The aim of this work is to analyse and review the leadership capabilities of the chosen leader. The report is based on an analyse of the capabilities supported by both relevant articles, theories and also business literature. The report is organised in the following way; In the first part the author gave the full background of the leader to indicate events which influenced and even formed the features of character. Next the work is directed to describe leadership of the chosen character in the context of theories. The third part includes the description of capabilities which are described to give the reader the full review of the outcomes of leader’s work. Finally the report gives some conclusion in the light of performance of the chosen leader.

To describe capabilities of leadership we need to define a person. For that purpose I chose Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa the leader of “Solidarność” – The National Trade Union Organisation established in August,1980 which gave the beginning to big changes in Poland and Europe. Although at early 80’s there was communist system of government in Poland after 40 years of totalitarianism and dictatorship of communist leaders, the need of freedom was enormous and polish people desired to be free and live in democratic country. To make it real they needed a leader with strong personality, descended from ordinary people, a person who would be brave and determined to achieve the goal of free country. Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa fulfilled this task better than it was expected bringing freedom not only for Poland but also for other countries in the east Europe.

The background of Lech Wałęsa

Lech Wałęsa was born on 29th September, 1943 in Popowo, Poland. His father Bolesław was a carpenter and was respected in local community. He showed growing leader that people should respect one another and nobody has the right to exploit another human beings. He rejected working for Nazi and was sentenced to work in a labour camp. The given example taught young Lech that when we believe in something we should protect it and fight for it. Mother of Lech Wałęsa came from relatively poor but respected family. She brought up children in the spirit of patriotism and piety. Lech Wałęsa learned at vocational school and after finishing it he was taken to the army where he fulfilled the obligatory military service. In the army he revealed his leadership talent as his team performed very well. As the head of the team he was very demanding but also showed his ability to solve problems and motivate others. He was also perceived as charismatic leader and was able to negotiate with generals which was very difficult at that times as totalitarian system did not allow to negotiate anything. According to Burns ( 1978) charismatic leaders are those who have personal features such as confidence, power and influence. Analysed character is perfect picture of these three attributes. Lech Wałęsa is the person who has strength to fight for what he believes and he also has big influence over other people. In his life we may find many examples of it. It is all about his oppositional activity. The real beginning of his way to become the leader of freedom was in 1968 when he motivated his co- workers to boycott official gathering of reproving the strike of students.

As he was efficient in his actions two years later he was offered to take the post of president of the Strike Committee. Lech Wałęsa was strongly influenced by the events of 1970 when 39 workers died as the result of strike actions, he swore himself that it would never happen again and started his fight for freedom. He worked for Free Trade Unions, where he organises meetings to teach shipyard workers about their rights, educate them and also distributed underground leaflets. As was said at the beginning he was dedicated to fight for what he believed and to fight against totalitarian system.

At 70’s Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa was continuously fighting for human rights, organised manifestations commemorating the victims of December 1970, laid wreaths in front of the Shipyard gate and also showed his negative attitude towards authorities. That times were very harmful for him and his family as he was dismissed many times, lived under pressure of being checked, spied and also repressed. In August 1980 he was one of the main instigators of the strike and during it he made his famous “jump over the fence”. It was one of the most meaningful acts of his activities. From that point Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa was not only a worker of the shipyard, he became an icon of polish history. His unyielding style of negotiations, fight for postulates, advocacy and trust from not only all workers but also the whole nation of Poland went far towards building sense of social cohesion and solidarity of polish people and finally Free Independed Trade Union Solidarity was established. Many countries all over the world followed the events in Poland and Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa became well known, respected and admired person. The response from communist government in Poland was quick and martial law was introduced in December 1981. Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa was one of the first who were taken to prison and he was interned for two years up to 1982. At that difficult times many people lost their hope that they may win but he was the person who never gave up. He was the living symbol and spokesman of the idea of solidarity. His actions were admired all over the world and he was awarded by Nobel Prize in 1983. At the end of 80’s he started negotiating with communist government at the Round Table. Prowess and bravery of WaÅ‚Ä™sa, who was the leader of legation of democratic opposition, led to compromise with communist authorities. As all the changes in Poland were bloodless Poland became a phenomenon and example how to achieve agreement in a peaceful way. The result of all those negotiations was election and creating the first democratic government on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain. In 1990 he was the first democratically elected president of Poland. While he was in office he was supposed to introduce many changes in polish economy, reduce foreign debt and also transform the political faith of Poland. He succeeded in withdrawal of soviet army from Poland, reduction of polish debt and recovering the documents about KatyÅ„ massacre. He never forgot about workers despite being in office he supported them, suggested solutions and was always ready to talk negotiate or debate about important issues. After the years of being the president he remained the person who represents Poland on the worldwide political arena. In 1995 he established the Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa Institute which mission is to support democracy. Nowadays Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa is the spokesman and propagator of solidarity travelling around the world and presenting the picture of Poland as country which fought its freedom without violence and unnecessary bloodletting.

Lech Wałęsa as a Leader in the context of Leadership Theories

The definition of leadership is not stated clearly and obviously because it is a complex issue and many scholars perceive leadership in a different way and analyse it form different point of view beginning with general situational level through leadership in the group up to emotional aspects of leadership performance. According to Lee B. Salz: “Leadership is about having the self-confidence to do what is right even when it is not popular.” Such a definition brought up from analysing many articles and books about leadership by the author. There are a number of theories of leadership. In this report they will not be described or analysed fully however some of them are worth mentioning. Stodgil (1974) identified some important traits and skills that leaders should possess. Most important are self confidence, being able to adapt to situation, diplomatic and tactful, decisive, dependable. Analysing the life of Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa we may find all of these features- his diplomacy and ability to negotiate were crucial to achieve the goal of freedom. The fact that he was decisive, trustworthy and dependable caused many people to follow him. Trait theory gave the beginning to another one named Behavioural Theory which states that: “leaders can be made rather there are born.” It was and adversity of Trait Theory which put innate features before learned ones. Situational leadership states that how leader acts depends on situational factors which determine the leader’s actions. Yukl (1989) identified six variables: Subordinate effort, subordinate ability and role clarity, organization of the work, cooperation and cohesiveness, resources and support external coordination. Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa had enormous motivation to fight for what he believed as well as capability of convincing others to follow him as well as to work together in a group although he acts more on emotions than on fixed plan. He was able to make the most of the availability of tools, materials and people directing them to achieve the goal. Awareness of the necessity of collaboration with other groups helped him to be very efficient.

Charismatic Leadership is about remarkable influence and it is connected with leaders who are unique, talented and even heroic (Bass, 1990; Conger, 1989). According to Avolio & Yammarino (2002) it is a kind of relationship between leaders and subordinates which involves “unique bonding” that is emotional bond, trust and respect. Howell & Shamir (2005) stated that people who see the leader as charismatic will share his or her vision and also will be willing to sacrifice to achieve the goal and the vision of the leader. Is WaÅ‚Ä™sa charismatic leader? Under no circumstances – yes he is.

Conger & Kanungo (1998) described five behavioural attributes of Charismatic Leaders which are as follows: Vision and articulation – Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa had a vision and articulated it clearly. Sensitivity to the environment and to the member’s needs- not only as a leader but also as the Man, WaÅ‚Ä™sa performed being sensitive to others. Personal risk taking- form his biography we may see that he is not a person who would not take a risk if he wanted to fight for what he believes. Finally performing unconventional behaviour – his famous “jump over the fence” was perceived as definitely unconventional but remarkable behaviour. All the theories mentioned above led to form one of the most current leadership theory – Transformational Leadership. The concept was introduced by James Burns (1978) and states that when there is a vision in the context of the future developed, the leader is able to excite and convert the potential followers. What is more he put an emphasis of the fact that leadership is not a set of specific behaviours but underlined the importance of ongoing process by which “leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation”. Steven Covey supports this idea by saying: “The goal of transformational leadership is to “transform” people and organizations in a literal sense – to change them in mind and heart; enlarge vision, insight, and understanding; clarify purposes; make behaviour congruent with beliefs, principles, or values; and bring about changes that are permanent, self-perpetuating, and momentum building.”

Is Lech Wałęsa transformational leader? To answer this question key capabilities of Lech Wałęsa should be described.

Key leadership capabilities of Lech Wałęsa

As all the men leaders are not perfect. They have both positive and negative features of their characters. The key leadership capabilities of Lech Wałęsa are described using the differentiation of positive and negative aspects with reference to theory.

Positive capabilities

Self- knowledge

According to Alexander W. Astin, Helen S. Astin. (2000) this quality is about awareness of beliefs, attitudes, values which motivate others to desire transformation and change. Lech Wałęsa was able to pass his vision down to other people, motivate them and make them fight for the only reasonable solution of ending communism in Poland.

Charismatic Leader

Charismatic leaders were named by Weber (1947) and the idea was developed later by Burns( 1978) who put this kind of leader to other three leadership styles. As stated above, WaÅ‚Ä™sa has the features of charismatic leader. He is capable to ignore traditional boundaries to bring the change. What is more he was perceived as leader from his earliest childhood. He says, “I had something that made me the leader of the gang,” he says. “I was always the leader of the class, I was always the leader of the hooligans, the leader of the choirboys. I was always on top.” Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa was able to inspire others, could form the kind of atmosphere that people saw a hero in him. But what is interesting, he was not a hero because of winning the battle, saving someone’s life or being a great politician. Lech WaÅ‚Ä™sa was a hero because of his enormous capability of bringing the hope, faith and courage to ordinary people.

Revolutionary Leader

It is another style of being the leader named by Burns (1978).According to Burns revolutionary leader is one who wants to bring a change as quickly as possible. He requires commitment, support and sacrifice from his followers. Polish people were ready to support and take part in actions which may bring freedom to them. Wałęsa was able to convince them that by following him they would achieve what they desired.


Motivation can be defined as a strong will or a drive to succeed. It is one of the five dimensions of Emotional Intelligence by Goleman(1986). Motivated leaders are seen as ones who are determined to achieve their goal even in adverse circumstances. There were a lot of events which put a dark light of WaÅ‚Ä™sa’s beliefs and even discourage his followers to continue the fight for freedom but despite them he never gave in and worked hard to warm up the spirit of struggle in the nation. He was highly motivated to achieve what he preached. What is more he preached optimism and had highly developed communication skills which allowed him to communicate his vision to his followers.

Social Skills

Lech Wałęsa is the kind of leader who was able to energize people. His enormous strength was an ability to use simple words when he explained complex issues to countrymen. He was also able to feel his audience and know what they want to hear so he played like an actor on stage delivering his speeches off the cuff, using both verbal and non verbal language. His gestures and deeds sometimes told more than the biggest words and they were understood clearly by all he spoke to.

Negative capabilities


It is one of the four dimensions of Emotional Intelligence described by Goleman(1996). It is about understanding that emotions impact on the person productivity and the relationship with people. Leaders who are self-aware are able to define their strengths and weaknesses. According to Klimecki (2010)self -aware leaders are demanding frequent feedback from his co-workers and they seek for suggestion for any possible improvement. Did Lech Wałęsa look for feedback? As an individual leader he went straight to achieve his goals. He was not interested in receiving feedback what is more he did not analyze his actions because he was the pioneer. He did not have any example to follow as before all kinds of conflicts of such kind were not solved in a peaceful way. Among other things it was one of the reason why he was not re-elected as a President of Poland. Lack of analyse of behaviour and belief that charisma and trust would be enough brought the defeat and his withdrawal from politics in Poland.


It is another dimension of Emotional Intelligence by Goleman(1986) Generally speaking it is the ability to understand another’s point of view. However Goleman extended it and included not only understanding of others but also analysing and using this knowledge to build stronger relationship and make better decisions. Lech WaÅ‚esa was so focused on realizing his objectives that he did not care of understanding another person’s view. Thomas Sancton wrote in Times that “Walesa is a man of emotion, not of logic or analysis.” The lack of developing this skill caused his failure in re- election as WaÅ‚Ä™sa could not or even did not want to analyse either his own actions or the performance of his rivals.


To make a conclusion the previous question should be asked again: Is Lech Wałęsa transformational leader?

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