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Was Nelson Mandela A Great Leader History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

INTRODUCTION

The leader is a man who comes closest to realizing the norms the group values the highest; this conformity gives him his high rank, which attracts people and implies the right to assume control of the group. (Homans, 1950).

The underlying need-structure of the individual which motivates his behavior in various leadership situations. Leadership style thus refers to the consistency of goals or needs over different situations. (Fiedler, 1967).

One of the great leaders who had the above qualities fulfilled in him was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, former president of South Africa and world acclaimed international statesman. The following would be a detailed analysis of his leadership traits, behavior and the situations in which he had proved himself a good leader.

ABOUT NELSON MANDELA

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela commonly known as Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 in Umtata, Transkei, South Africa; son of Henry Mandela (a Tembu tribal chief). He married Evelyn Ntoko Mase (a nurse), 1944, divorced, 1956; married Nomzamo Winnie Madikileza (a social worker and political activist), June 14, 1958, divorced; married Graca Machel (lawyer), 1998; children: (first marriage) Thembi (a son; deceased), Makgatho (son), Makaziwe (daughter); (second marriage) Zenani (daughter), Zindziswa (daughter).

He took up a correspondence course with the University of South Africa (now UNISA) to complete his first degree. He was awarded his Bachelor’s degree in 1941, and in 1942 he was articled to another firm of attorneys and started upon a law degree at the University of Witwatersrand. By 1948 Nelson Mandela had failed to pass the exams required for his LLB law degree, and he decided instead to settle for the ‘qualifying’ exam which would allow him to practice as an attorney.

LIFE AS A PRISONER

During the 1940s and 1950s he rose rapidly through the ANC hierarchy but was frequently subject to police harassment, detention, and banning.

When the ANC was outlawed in 1960 he went underground and organized its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). In 1962 he was

Sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for inciting Africans to strike and for leaving South Africa without a valid travel document. In 1964, whilst still in detention, he was charged with treason and, after giving a memorable four-and-a-half hour speech criticizing apartheid, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Living in a prison had the same meaning as living in the worst place in South Africa: Robben Island. ANC prisoners earned “D” classifications, which was prisoners who were the most dangerous and had the least rights. They were kept in cells with hay carpets and thin blankets as beds and iron buckets for toilets. The daily menu was always the same; small portion of corn soup with extra vegetable or meat chop for dinner. The men were wearing thin shirts from khaki and shorts, even during the winter, and were restricted from reading newspapers or magazines-they were not allowed to read any news at all. The prisoners spent most of their time in a chalk mine, where they worked very hard

As one of the leaders of the group, Nelson received more harsh treatment than the others. He was kept 23 hours in his cell every day, shined only by a lamp. This made him unable to sleep or know what the time was. He was only allowed to have one visitor every six months and once he was not allowed to see his wife for two years, Winnie. He could only write and receive one letter every six months. The letter he received was screened by the guard, who would cut the parts that were considered to be unsafe, effectively erasing those parts even though there were writings behind those parts.

In total Mandela spent twenty-seven consecutive years in detention. From 1964 to 1982 he was held on Robben Island, from 1982 to 1988 in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town, and from 1988 to 1990 in Victor Verster

Prison, Paarl.

From 1985 on he rejected several offers of “conditional” release which would have imposed severe limits on his political activities. In many ways his imprisonment increased his, already considerable, political status and resulted in a worldwide campaign for his release.

During the 27 years that Mandela spent in prison, hidden from the eyes of the world while he quarried limestone and harvested seaweed, his example of quiet suffering was just one of numerous pressures on the apartheid government.

Public discussion of Mandela was illegal, and he was allowed few visitors. But as the years dragged on, he assumed the mantle of a martyr. In 1982 Mandela was moved to the

Maximum security Pollsmoor Prison outside Cape Town. This move apparently stemmed from fears by the South African authorities that Mandela was exerting too great an influence on the other prisons at Robben Island.

Mandela spent much of the next six years in solitary confinement, during which he was allowed a weekly 30-minute visit by his wife, Winnie. He was offered a conditional freedom in 1984 on the condition that he settle in the officially designated black “homeland” of Transkei, an offer Mandela refused with an affirmation of his allegiance to the African National Congress. In 1988, Mandela was hospitalized with tuberculosis, and after his recovery he was returned to prison under somewhat less stringent circumstances. In February 1990 he was unconditionally released to scenes of joyous celebration at home and abroad.

LIFE AS A POLITICIAN

Another revisionist interpretive approach is to understand Mandela’s greatness as a collectively manufactured achievement – the deliberate assembly of a messianic personality originating in a movement’s awareness

Of its own organizational shortcomings and willingness to compensate for them by directing its ideas through a charismatic individual. This is indeed part of Mandela’s story, for the ANC certainly began to intentionally contrive a public legend around Mandela’s leadership well before he went to prison – during the 1952 “defiance campaign”, when collective decisions and activities were attributed to his personal genius. The appearance in South Africa at this time of popular photo-journalism aimed at black readers made this easier, and Mandela himself took pains to ensure that the media images matched the messages he and his comrades wished to project.

Mandela’s earliest political experience came while enrolled at the University College of Fort Hare, where he was working to obtain a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. While at the college, he was elected to a student political organization known as the Student’s Representative Council. Soon after, Mandela was expelled for participating in a protest on campus (ANC archive). Because of this, Mandela attended Johannesburg where he finally obtained his BA. Soon after, he joined the African National Congress in 1942, during the height of World War II. Nelson Mandela’s personal fixation with freedom brought him to work with many other members of the African National Congress to form a group under the leadership of a colleague, Anton Lembede (ANC archive). The group’s main focus was to change the African National Congress into a mass movement, including all people from urban communities to those in the country.

Mandela was instrumental in many political endeavors, many of which were anti-apartheid movements such as the Program of Action, a policy based initiative which was founded on the principle of using the non-violent weapons of “boycott, strike, civil disobedience and non-co-operation” (ANC archive). This eventually became the modus operandi of the African National Congress.

And yet, some of our greatest leaders and role models have to resort to evil in order to do well. Mandela, being no exception to this, was the leader of an armed resistance group known as Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), formed in 1962. Mandela explains his reasoning: “At the beginning of June 1961, after long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I and some colleagues came to the conclusion that as long violence in this country was inevitable; it would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force.” -Nelson Mandela. He was eventually elected President of the African National Congress in 1991. Later, in 1994, he was democratically elected President of the State of South Africa.

QUOTABLE QUOTS OF NELSON MANDELA

“Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement.” 

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” 

“Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.” 

“Communists have always played an active role in the fight by colonial countries for their freedom, because the short-term objects of Communism would always correspond with the long-term objects of freedom movements.” 

SELECTED WRITINGS OF NELSON MANDELA

No Easy Walk to Freedom, Basic Books, 1965.

The Struggle Is My Life, Pathfinder Press, 1986.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Little, 1994.

AWARDS GIVEN TO NELSON

Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding from the government of India, 1980; Bruno Kreisky Prize for Human Rights from the government of Austria, 1981; named an honorary citizen of Rome, 1983; Simon Bolivar International Prize from UNESCO, 1983; W. E. B. DuBois Medal, 1986; Nobel Peace Prize, 1987; Liberty Medal, 1987; Sakharov Prize, 1988; Gaddaff Human Rights Prize, 1989; Houphouet Prize, 1991; Nobel Peace Prize, 1993; numerous international honorary degrees, including honorary doctorate degree, Open University, Cape Town, 2004; honorary degree, Amherst College, New York, 2005.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

True, Mandela had important collaborators that helped him to become a hero and he was the beneficiary of social context and historical circumstances. But no reassessments are likely to detract from Mandela’s achievements as a political performer whether following his own strategic intuitions or acting out a collectively contrived script. Mandela’s understanding of politics as performance is well documented – it is obvious and explicit in his courting of the media as early as the 1950s, and his fascination from that time with costumes and disguises. But Mandela’s iconic status is not just the consequence of his theatrical capacity to motivate and inspire. His authority is also the product of the occasions when he has acted against the grain, when he has asserted his own individual will. Such actions have continued since his supposed retirement.

Nelson R. Mandela, in the wake of political turmoil, was one man who was both willing and able to stand up and fight back. Indeed, we can see how the man developed his legacy through his activist years, his years in prison, and his much more elaborate life afterwards.

Despite Mandela’s history of supporting terrorism (was on the offical US Terrorist Watch List), the South African Broadcasting Corporation poll for the Greatest South Africans, had Mandela ranked number one greatest South African of all time.

Conclusion

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.

Nelson Mandela reinforces the fact that leaders have very different qualities and that leadership success is more complex than just identifying few traits or preferable behaviors.

He is endowed with many personality traits that make him a natural leader, and over the course of his lifetime, he has also developed many leadership skills and strategies

Mandela’s leadership success can be attributed to his use of consensus. Consensus is considered to be the superior decision making process to build commitment and motivation in group members towards group objectives. Using consensus aids in making the best possible decision and utilizes the resources of everyone involved.

In conclusion, Nelson Mandela is viewed as a revolutionary leader for his ability to empower and motivate others using his strong regard for consensus and the democratic process.


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