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Ethical Leader Synthesis: Nelson Mandela Visionary

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Have you ever had a vision that seemed unattainable because you had to wait so long for all the pieces to align? Do you think you could wait 27 years to accomplish this vision? This is what Nelson Mandela went through when he spent 27 years in prison and was then released and became the first black President of South Africa.

To accomplish this Nelson Mandela, he was not only a Visionary Leader to take the country from and a racial apartheid. He was also Ethical Leader because he was able to lead the members that held him in jail for those 27 years.

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In this essay I will discuss what made Nelson Mandela a Visionary and an Ethical Leader. I will discuss how he used Idealized influence from the full range leadership module, and emotional flexibility from the change management section to help him accomplish his vison. I will also discuss how he used Critical Thinking and Intellectual Empathy to guide him to change the government of South Africa. As well as Ethical Leadership and not falling in to the trap of Worry Over Image to help unite South Africa after he took over as President. I will also discuss some of my personal experience in relation to the traits that Nelson Mandela used, and what I learned from these experiences about leadership.

Visionary Leader

Nelson Mandela stood up against the racial laws of the Apartheid in South Africa that restricted non-whites basic rights and barred them from government. He lobbied to change the country’s constitution to a non-racial one. Much like the Civil Rights movement in the United States this was met with harsh resistance. He led a group that organized national workers strikes, and later some armed movements. This ultimately landed him in prison facing the death penalty for sabotage. Later he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison instead of the death penalty. Nelson said “It would have been unrealistic for African leaders to continue peace and non-violence at a time when the government met peaceful demands with force. While in prison for 27 years he became the face of the antiapartheid movement. Even when the government offered his freedom several times in exchange for political compromises, he did not accept them and stayed true to his stance on the issue.

Through all this Nelson Mandela displayed Idealized influence over others. Our Barnes Center Student Guide states that “some behaviors that favorably depict Idealized Influence are: Instilling pride in others for being associated with you, going beyond self-interested in the good of others, and acting in a way that builds others respect”. (BCEE, 2014). He did this by maintaining his integrity throughout the process of being in prison. By turning down his freedom in support for what he believed was the right thing for others and sacrificing himself for this goal he influenced people to fight for the same cause. He was not only walking the walk, but he was also shouldering what came along with that. Doing this he influenced other members to join in the fight against the raciest government. He also sparked a movement toward his goal giving him something to build upon.

Later after spending 27 years in prison and igniting the “Free Nelson Mandela Campaign” a new President lifted a ban on Nelsons organization and called for a nonracist South Africa and ordered Mandela’s release from prison. After his release Mandela led his organizations negotiations with the government for an end to apartheid and the establishment of a multiracial government. These negotiations earned him a Nobel Pease Prize. This also directly lead to more than 22 million South Africans coming out to cast their vote and electing him as the First Black President of South Africa. Even while facing the immense hardships of being in prison that long doing hard labor he was still able to accomplish his mission. I believe he used a great amount of emotional flexibly as the Change Management section of our Barnes Center Student Guide describes as “the ability to change how you deal with your own and other’s emotions. He had to channel his emotions to get through the process of change including grieving, complaining, and resistance without giving in, or getting pulled off course by emotions and concerns. This not only helped him achieve his goal of getting rid of the racially driven government, but this also helped him to be elected as the first non-white President of South Africa. “Mandela showed us the power of action: of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.” (“Obama: ‘Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas?” 2013) Since we talked about what made him a visionary leader, now we will move on to why I think he is an ethical leader.

Ethical Leader

As we already discussed Nelson Mandela changed a Nation that was ruled by an apartheid regime that that had very strict laws that enforced segregation between blacks and whites. Mandela recognized that using violence to end the apartheid would not work. He had to use critical thinking to find another way to defect his enemy. One aspect of critical thinking that he had to use was Intellectual Empathy. The Barnes Center student guide describes this trait as “being able to put down your own viewpoint, assumptions, ideas in order to step into the shoes of others so you can genuinely understand them”. (BCEE, 2014) Mandela sought to be a leader over the whole nation that included is enemy as well. So, he knew to win his enemy over he had to relate them and seek to understand them. He did this by learning his enemies’ language and history. He talked to his jailors in their own language about their daily concerns, and families, needs. He even studied Rugby which was their national sport, so he could discuss the game with them. One big lesson that Mandela assimilated is that the enemy was not going to be defected by Force of Arms; that white South Africans would one day have to be persuaded to surrender power voluntarily.” (“What Nelson Mandela Taught the World About Leadership | Willie Pietersen,” n.d.) So, by using what he had learned about White South Africans he was able to use their viewpoints and reasoning to negotiate with them. It helped him see from another lens in order help guide the right decisions, and ultimately negotiate the end to apartheid. I think this is also relevant in any organizations, if you were to only make decisions only based upon your viewpoint you could easily make ones that negatively impact your organization.

After taking over as President of the and country after a raciest regime like the one if South Africa was no easy task. He had to use Ethical Leadership to keep the country moving forward. One thing that he had to do was not fall in to the trap of Worry Over Image. Worry over Image entails making decisions based on how they will impact your reputation or standing among peers. He did not fall into this trap when he made the decision to use the 1995 World Rugby Cup competition to unite his country. The South Africa Rugby team was a huge symbol of racial divide left over from the previous regime. Since the country was 80% non-white they did not support this team at all, so it is safe to say that this decision did not sit well with most Mandela’s supporters. They often went to the games just to cheer for the opposing team. Even with knowing this Mandela still convinced the team to be ambassadors for peace to both the white and black populations leading up to the world Cup. The team ended up winning the cup and was heavily supported by both sides and was a huge uniting moment for South Africa. Nelson said, “It has the power to inspire,”. “It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” (Piers Edwards, CNN, 2013) In this instance Mandela made an ethical decision to support the team that represented the country that he was now President of no matter what most of the people thought about it. Now that I have discussed what made him an ethical leader, I want to go into some of my personal relevance in relation to his Visionary and Ethical Leadership.

Personal Relevance

Although it may have not been to the extreme of Nelson Mandela. I thought back to a time in my career when I too had to use some Idealized Influence and Emotional Flexibility. When I was an MTL at a detachment our Group leadership did not have direct oversite of our programs. It was easy for people in my Detachment to not really follow the all the rules and regulations. This was going on in many of the sections when I arrived. Throughout my first year despite opposition from the Detachment Chief, I set out to try to change the culture within the unit because I believed they needed to set the example for my Technical Training student that were now flowing through the unit. I felt they needed to be the example of how Air Force member are supposed to operate. It was very frustrating fighting through resistance. First, I had to set the example even though many of them clearly did not care about the rules and regulations. This is a hallmark of Idealized Influence where the leader is a role model and display the values they want their followers to have. Also, having to channel my emotions at times in order not to lose my composure and become unprofessional and lose some of the progress I had made toward my goal. Being able to do this helped me earn the respect of my Detachment, which helped me accomplish my goal.

When I look back to situations that I have been in over my career, I have to say I did not always use intellectual empathy like Nelson Mandela. There are many situations where this may have hindered my leadership. One that sticks out is when Myself and the Squadron Superintendent pushed a member up for a DSD that did not want to do the job. Thinking back on the situation even though the member was great, but she may not have not been the right fit. Some NCOs explained to us why she did not need to get pushed up, but we really didn’t listen. Because we were both just returning from special duty jobs, and we needed to fill the slot we never really looked at it from there point of view, we already had our mind made up. Doing this we may have made the wrong decision for the individual by sending her to a job she did not want to do, and that she was not best suited for. This further hindered my relationship with the individual because even though she did not get pick up, she lost trust in my ability to look out for her best interest as a Flight Chief.

When it comes to dispositional flexibility a good example is when my career field was going through to program changes. These changes included giving some of our programs over to another career field, but some of my members would have to move those sections and work under their management until they received the manning to support them accomplishing it by themselves. None of my members wanted to go work in this section because of the environment and the culture of this section. I had to use Dispositional Flexibility to sell on moving, even though it was a tough situation. My selling point was that it would eventually lighten their workload and help them gain new experiences by working in another section. This help them to buy into this change and move over to the new section and be successful. This further help me institute the vison that my career field had at my location. Reflecting on all these situations where I did or did not do the right thing will help me be more aware how I can become a better leader.

In this essay discussed how Nelson Mandela used Idealized influence from the full range leadership module, and emotional flexibility from the change management section to help him accomplish his vison of changing his government to a multicultural one. I also discussed how he used Critical Thinking and Intellectual Empathy to help him guide this change of South Africa. As well as Ethical Leadership and not falling in to the trap of Worry Over Image to help unite South Africa after he took over as President. I also discussed some of my personal experience in relation to the traits that Nelson Mandela used, and what I learned from these experiences about leadership. I hope that I was able to show you in this essay that Nelson Mandela was in fact a Visionary Leader and an Ethical Leader.

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