Transformational Leadership – Example of Nelson Mandela

Lately, we have been talking a lot about leadership and which kind of leadership style is the best and most efficient way of leading a company. Since my team and I also prepared the expert of the day session regarding this topic, I want to further elaborate on this topic.

The term “transformational leadership” is often described as the 4 “I’s”. These characteristics are individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation and idealised attributes & behaviours. Describing each term it becomes clear which kind of characteristics a manager should possess. Individual consideration describes managers who act as coaches and advisors to their employees and try to encourage them to reach their goal. Through intellectual stimulation, managers want to animate their employees to be innovative and creative. This is often achieved by the manager challenging the general belief or view of the group. They want to achieve critical thinking. The term inspirational motivation describes managers who motivate their employees to commit to the company’s vision. Last but not least, idealised attributes and behaviours describe managers who act as role models to their employees. Hence, they are trusted and respected as they act in the company’s best interest.

Furthermore, there are five personality traits, which contribute to the likelihood that an individual has the potential to become a transformational leader. These are extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Managers who score high on extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness and low on neuroticism have good chances to become a transformational leader.

 Since all of these descriptions of transformational leadership characteristics are rather theoretic, I want to give a real life example of a transformational leader. I found an interesting article about Nelson Mandela by Paul Schoemaker, which points out why Nelson Mandela definitely was a transformational leader. Thereby, one can see that transformational leaders are not just around in the business world but for example also in politics.

Nelson Mandela’s leading style was characterized through earned authority, authenticity, commitment, mastery of communication and consistency of message. I want to give a few examples of his leadership style to emphasize his outstanding achievements and to show that he possessed character traits of a transformational leader.

For example, he really appreciated the power of symbols. This is illustrated by the fact that he directly visited Betsie Verwoerd, the wife of the “architect of Apartheid”, after he was released from prison. Nelson Mandela was generally known for his brave words, there he said: “I am working now with the same people who threw me into jail, persecuted my wife, hounded my children from one school to the other… and I am one of those who are saying: Let us forget the past, and think of the present.” This shows that he scores high on agreeableness, inspirational motivation and idealised attributes and behaviours.

Another example really emphasizes that Mandela scores high on idealised attributes and behaviours. After 1994 when Mandela became president he already knew a lot of high profile business leaders personally. He often tried to win them to financially support his social projects. A well known example is when he convinced one important manager with a lot of financial resources to donate money for one of his projects. The manager was asked to accompany Mandela to the Eastern Cape. First he tried to cancel the meeting but Mandela insisted on it. Then the manager talked to his financial director to set up a limit of 500,000 Rand, which he would donate for the project. When he arrived at a football stadium in an area which had been completely flooded, 80,000 school children simultaneously bowed to welcome the manager. He probably would not have expected such a welcome and in the end he doubled his donation to 1,000,000 Rand.

These example show that good leadership such as a transformational leader is needed everywhere in the world. With his highly earned authority and respect, Mandela could positively influence other people, such as the business manger, to do good things and to set an example of making the world a better place.

Article by Paul Schoemaker

Kanter’s three Ms – Mastery, Membership, Meaning

When we talked about motivation in session 4, I found Kanter’s keys to motivation quite interesting. She argues that the three Ms, Mastery, Membership and Meaning, are the key elements, which explain people’s motivation at work.

Mastery is the ability to let people develop skills with which they can actively shape the future instead of just sticking to old routines. It basically means to enable people to get out of their comfort zone and help them developing skills to think out of the box. Through this people will reach better, fast and more intelligent solutions. Membership is defined as the creation of community by honouring individuality. It encourages employees to have interests outside from work and to constantly offer opportunities for employees to exchange with one another. This will lead to a better organizational atmosphere within the company. Last but not least, meaning, as the word already implies, reinforces a larger purpose.

I personally think that the corporate culture of a company mostly contributes to how satisfied and consequently motivated employees are at their workplace. This mostly refers to the Kanter’s key “membership”. My brother started his new job last year in Germany. He works as a project engineer and consultant in a medium sized company. I remember that at the beginning of his study he was always aiming to work for a big consultancy such as McKinsey & Company. But during his study his preferences shifted from earning a lot of money and working long hours towards finding a meaning in his work and having the right work-life balance. The company he is now working for offers its employees a lot of incentives such as organizing weekly get-togethers, firm events, trips to the Oktoberfest, skiing trips and much more. He is still able to pursue his interests outside from work and therefore really enjoys working for that company.

From my point of view, your direct environment is an important source of motivation. It probably depends on your personality as well, but I always get the feeling, the more I’m around highly motivating and inspiring people, the more I feel motivated myself. Back home at my university I took the course economic psychology, which really elaborated on how people compare themselves to others, and that people only get their personal satisfaction from being relatively better than others. I believe that to some extent this is definitely true!

I recently watched the movie “The company men” directed by Johnny Wells, which deals with a global shipbuilding company, which due to the recession, has to fire many of its employees. The movie showed a lot about the company’s corporate culture and it was quite the opposite of what I described earlier with my brother. It seemed that the employees there were only motivated by their financial compensation. The company  failed to incorporate the three Ms as they did not let the employees develop deep skills, nor did they create strong bonds between the employees or gave them a deeper meaning for their work.

As already pointed out earlier, I believe that people have different sources of motivation. Therefore, it is not an easy task for a company to find the perfect mix to motivate people at work. Still, I’m convinced that Kanter’s three Ms are important values/keys for companies to integrate in their corporate culture.

By Elisa Senger
Article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Trailer “The Company Men”