2.2 Assignment: Changing Leadership Models
On the quest to understanding what it is to be a leader today, we reflect on the diversity of leadership, noting leaders qualities and styles found in the examples from Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, Sir Richard Branson, and Madeline Albright.
Comparing these examples to the “classic leadership model” of the past, for example Henry V in Band of Brothers (or many lead characters in national epics), show us men born leaders from the hierarchies of nobility that would guide followers -like a hero of saving grace- with a dignified shivery, camaraderie, and self purpose, set to mentally prepare followers towards sacrificing tasks in the name of fame and power. These examples of leadership in historical storytelling were not diverse, usually very masculine, white, sacrificial and colonial, with a focus on the individual glory of the leader.
Though beginning qualities of leadership such as courage, sacrifice, camaraderie, upholder of values, and guiding self purpose are things we still wish to see in leaders, the ideas, purpose and responsibilities of what it is to be a leader today are changing in society, becoming more diverse and thoughtful than ever before.
Here I will provide a brief look at specific individuals and their qualities of leadership that start to differ from the "classic leadership model". * For more background on the information I am referring to, select the highlighted link to view the videos:
Nelson Mandela: He is noted for his innate endowment — his character (calm manner/humble/ self reflective), statue and composure as a leader (courageous/brave), taking care and thought in the way he presented himself and what he said. His sacrifice to his people and his values (time spent in prison) is something that made him honorable and self disciplined, appealing to not only people’s heads but also hearts. He held flexibility, though was also seen as consistent towards his values, and stood for understanding and upholding diversity of his people —reconciling different races through his leadership by learning about their cultural interests, languages and backgrounds. Mandela shows heroic qualities referenced from classic leadership, but in many ways and examples he steps beyond the self, shifting focus to the interests that mattered to his people.
Barack Obama: Similar to Mandela, Obama was seen as someone with calm intelligence, modesty, held self-discipline, strength, and courage. During his presidency he also valued reconciliation by creating unity between races, creating an openness and “let’s move on together” collaborative approach that was concerned about connecting the diversity of the nation and going beyond himself and his power. He had a fluidity and way about him that made him trustworthy and relatable. He was also viewed by some as a hero, holding qualities also from the classic leadership model, but what made him different was his relatable down-to-earth composure as a person, husband, and father, as well as his approach to democracy that included all Americans - not "us versus them".
Desmond Tutu: Listening to Desmond Tutu, you get a sense of his humility. What he consistently repeats as an important character of a leader is his sacrificial service, being a servant that is inspiring to his/her followers -- examples such as Mother Theresa, Mandela, Dalai Lama. A leader is someone not seeking self-glorification, but is leading to serve. His stressed emphasis on humility and purpose in sacrifice and service is greatly different than what we see watching classic models like Henry V.
Sir Richard Branson: Looking at Richard Branson composure as he speaks about himself is very humble for a businessman with more than 400 companies going. You don't get any sense of self worship or self focused glorification for his accomplishments - qualities that would usually be seen in classic leadership. Business to him is about creating, and there is a joy and passion for relations and people. You can tell that as a leader, to do what he has done, took persistence, vision, creative purpose and patience to make them all realities when people told him he was crazy. He sees the importance of his role as a leader is to appreciate people - look for all the good things they do and to take every opportunity to listen to what they have to say (be a good listener). This model of leadership is very different from the classic model in that it takes the leader completely out of the spotlight, and shifts the focus towards day-to-day efforts and praises of his followers (employees).
Madeline Albright: Holding an accomplishment of being the first woman to serve in the United States Government as Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, carries such a calm and humble composure. Her biggest win, to her, is hearing that she inspires other young women to step into the roles of their dreams. She values respecting the choices of others, as well as diversity. Having no female role models to look up to in a male dominated work space, Albright was driven to look elsewhere to other lands with female leaders. With this she helped in shaping a community, the G7, that was the support and community she'd come to appreciate and trust. In her example, it shows that leaders can't do it alone. Having a support group to ask advice and trust in helps the leader become the best he/she can be. This is a big shift away from the classical model of leadership, as it highlights female and community based leadership, shifting away from a "one man show" and acknowledging and respecting the total that supports the role of leadership.
From the touched upon examples listed here, we can see that leadership is moving away from the classical model of leadership by collecting values that look more at: selfless service, unity in diversity (the "we" inclusive of all people), community support, inspiration from the bottom up, flexibility, openness, honest communication (listening and speaking), calm and humble composure, self- reflectiveness, thoughtfulness, and courage and consistency as the upholder of purpose, values and vision. Leadership is not a systematic set practice already defined in stone, but is a dynamic skill that adapts to change and environmental needs. New leadership won't only need to understand the qualities of their past role models, but will need to adapt to their "now" environments, implementing their values with the tools of their unique life experience, talents and passions.