Over the years, leadership has been a significant area of study in business schools. One primary area of study has been leadership across cultures. Many countries have residents from diverse cultures. South Africa, for example, is a multiracial and diversified country. The country has had many iconic leaders who were authentic, moral, and responsible. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, was one of the greatest leaders in India. Vahed (2017, p.107) stated that Gandhi spent his time in South Africa from 1893 to 1914. According to the author, during those years Gandhi led the struggle for equality among Indians in South Africa as the British counterparts. On the other hand, Pietersen (2015, p.61) stated that Nelson Mandela fought for equality in South Africa due to the widespread oppression that characterized apartheid. He later became the president of South Africa. This paper discusses the qualities of Gandhi and Mandela by looking into their authentic, ethical, responsible, and servant leadership.
Mahatma Gandhi had excellent leadership qualities. He was a servant leader who preached non-violence and was committed to empowering the lives of the helpless. Gandhi possessed qualities such as stewardship, empathy, and awareness. Vahed (2017, p.107) indicated that Gandhi led thousands of Indian women, children, and men in protests against restrictive policies that were impartial to Indians in 1913. This shows that Gandhi was empathetic to the situation facing his fellow Indians in South Africa. Due to his responsible and authentic values, Gandhi succeeded in liberating Indians from British rule. According to Doh and Luthans (2017, p.471), leaders enable their followers to reach new horizons. Vahed (2017, p.110) affirmed that Gandhi single-handedly succeeded in wielding the Indian community to cope with the demands of emerging technology, sophisticated mining, and agricultural industrial needs. Gandhi displayed his moral aptitudes by having conservative ideas of race and gender that saw Indians, Africans, and Whites as hierarchical groups.
Nelson Mandela had exceptional leadership qualities. Pietersen (2015, p.61) asserted that Nelson Mandela was a leader of the resistance movement. In 1994, Mandela became the first black president of South Africa (Pietersen 2015, p.61). During his tenure, he was authentic. Pietersen (2015, p.61) affirmed that Mandela led a peaceful transition from a discordant and racial country to a democratic one sustained by impressive policies. According to the author, in the process, Mandela earned affection and respect from all races. Doh and Luthans (2017, p.471) asserted that leadership status cannot be learned but can be earned through respect. Pietersen (2015, p.62) indicated that Mandela knew that before encouraging others to change, he knew that he had to change first. Without a doubt, this shows the ethical aspect of Mandela's leadership. Furthermore, throughout the years, Mandela was responsible and practiced servant leadership. His servant leadership was evident in his commitment to awareness, empathy, and stewardship. Pietersen (2015, p.63) mentioned that Mandela empathized with all South Africans. Mandela's extraordinary actions showed his responsible nature and servant leadership as they embraced democracy, better living conditions, and shared prosperity.
Today, both Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi are acknowledged as the most iconic leaders in history. The research on the two leaders teaches business leaders many valuable lessons. For example, leadership is about making sacrifices. Also, effective leaders embrace challenges and work towards building their character. Additionally, the key to leading is self-awareness because it cultivates self-knowledge. Furthermore, effective leaders do not treat people as a means to an end. Overall, business leaders need to refer to the leadership processes of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi to succeed in the business world.
Doh, J.P., & Luthans, F. (2017). International Management: Culture, Strategy and Behavior. 10th Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Pietersen, W. (2015). What Nelson Mandela Taught the World about Leadership. Leader to Leader, vol.2015, issue 2, pp.60-66. https://doi.org/10.1002/ltl.20180
Vahed, G. (2017). The Past in the Present: Writing the South African Gandhi. Journal of Labor and Society, vol.20, pp.107-127. https://doi.org/10.1111/wusa.12279
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