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The Key Leadership and Ethical Practices

After looking into leadership theory it seems clear that there are many definitions of leadership with a substantial variation. I have decided that the leadership theories by Tom Peters, in his 1982 book “In Search of Excellence” accurately grasps the concept of the leadership, however Peters (1982) makes no actual definition of leadership. Peters views leadership as a number of paradoxes with both complex and simple methods in which leaders should behave and think. Pfeffer (1977) argued that there were many problems with leadership as a concept notably that there is “too much ambiguity in the definition and measurement of the concept of leadership.”

As for a standard definition of leadership I feel the definition which best describes leadership is written by Jacobs (1970) whereby he states “Communication skills are more important in leadership, than in influence attempts based on either power or authority, because its essence is the development of a new state of knowledge, belief, or attitude in the target of the influence attempt, In the present system, the key distinction in the exercise of influence through leadership is the recognition that the influence recipient has the option of deciding for or against compliance with the leader’s wishes, without

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incurring coercive penalties” (Pg232).

Many other leadership theorists also credit the link between effective leadership and influence such as Field (2002) who describes leadership as “A social relationship between two or more people in which the leader influences the social knowledge, goal acceptance, and actions of the follower/s.” After analysing what other people believe leadership to be I have developed my own definition of leadership, I believe that leadership is “The influencing of other people in a social relationship such a way that their behaviour, goals and even morals are modified into something they themselves believe”.

I have chosen to look at the key leadership and ethical practices of Nelson Mandela. Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of the African National Congress’s armed wing, known as Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). He was convicted of organising sabotage and initiating guerrilla warfare by the South African government and served 27 years in prison, before he was released in 1990. Notably he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 before he was elected as president of South Africa in 1994.

I have chosen to look at Nelson Mandela’s practices as his leadership skills are without question, leading Umkhonto we Sizwe and South Africa, however his ethical practices will be extremely interesting to analyse as Mandela’s ethical choices as a freedom fighter were questionable yet they seemed to have changed after imprisonment resulting in him achieving the Nobel Peace Prize. In this essay I am going to look at both trait and behaviour theories of leadership as well as transformational leadership. In addition to this I will continuously be analysing the ethical practices of Nelson Mandela whilst attempting to link the two concepts through Mandela’s actions.

Trait theory states that leaders are born with an inherent set of traits, and that good leaders have the ‘correct’ combination of said traits. McCall and Lombardo (1983) researched both success and failure and subsequently identified four primary traits by which leaders could succeed or fail , these four primary traits are emotional stability and composure, Admitting error, Good interpersonal skills and Intellectual breadth. Already I can see personal traits that Mandela portrays, for example, he is a very intellectual man with varied expertise ranging from politics both on a local and nation scale to Law whereby he obtained a Bachelor of Arts (BA).

Contradictory to McCall and Lombardo’s theory, Mandela does not portray the trait of admitting error, whereby he believed that all his actions were good even where he organised sabotage campaigns against military and Government targets and guerrilla warfare where many civilians became casualties. The main limitation to trait theory is perception, as the majority of leaders in the public eye are successful were attribute them with the traits that make them successful when in reality many other leaders may hold the correct combination of personal traits yet exogenous factors may have inhibited their tenure of leading positions.

On a personal level it is extremely difficult to analyse which traits which I believe I portray, for example, it is very easy for me to state I am good at admitting error of that I am emotionally stable through any incidents, however until my personality is completely tested these traits may remain dormant and ultimately it would be the position of an external party to claim they observe the trait within me.

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