Action Centred Leadership

Behaviour theory states that leaders are not only born but that they can be made, this links heavily with the concept of leadership development. Behaviour theory does not look at leaders personal traits but instead it examines their physical actions. In theory it is much easier to analyse the behaviours of leaders as a study correlating the leaders success and the actions to gain this success could be done on a large scale then behaviours should become apparent.

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Adair (1997) developed a model of leadership known as Action Centred Leadership (ACL), he proposed that people expect leaders to fulfil just three obligations, to help achieve a task, to build and maintain a team and to develop the individual (see appendix 1). From the diagram we can see that the three circles containing the obligation all overlap, this is because Adair believed that if the leader completely or positively affected of the obligations then it would influence the other obligations, for example, if the task was achieved then this will help to maintain the group and satisfy some individual needs. Nelson Mandela expertise was gaining followers and effectively organising them, this is highlighted when he became the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). Nelson Mandela organised the African National Congress’ armed wing into guerrilla warfare.

In a speech Mandela stated “Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any other decision”. He did not accept that he was responsible for organising guerrilla warfare, of which he was convicted, however he was guilty of establishing and maintaining the ‘team’ which planned sabotage and was responsible for civilian casualties. This directly links to Adair’s (1997) ACL approach, as Mandela built and maintained a ‘team’, it was closer to achieving its aim/task whilst he was in charge, and ultimately he developed enough individuals to campaign for his release after imprisonment.

It has been established that Nelson Mandela is an extremely successful leader, however the purpose of this essay was also to analyse ethical practices, which I will do now. Freedman (2006) states that “Ethical leaders embody the purpose, vision, and values of the organization and of the constituents, within an understanding of ethical ideals. They connect the goals of the organization with that of the internal external stakeholders”. When entering this course I believed ethical leadership to be ‘the leader having the right morals and a strong character to which they could lead ethically’, after extensive research, it is clear that there is much more to ethical leadership than just that.

Freedman (2006) created ten characteristic’s of ethical leaders many of which relate to Nelson Mandela, however one in particularly associates perfectly, this is number 6 (see appendix 2). Take a charitable understanding of others’ values. In this section Freedman himself mentions Mandela, Freedman describes how Mandela was still able to see the good in his jailers after imprisonment. After one particularly vicious jailer was being transferred away from Robbins Island because of Mandela’s protest and push back, the jailer turned to Mandela and stated “I just want to wish you people good luck”.

Mandela interpreted this statement charitably as a sign that all people had some good within them, even those caught up in an evil system. Mandela felt that it was his responsibility to see this good in people and to try and bring it out. This is a particularly good example of how even though a guard had treated badly; Mandela respected him for his own moral values. An extremely important characteristic of ethical leadership as outlined by Freedman is number 5 (see appendix 2), create mechanisms of dissent; Mandela certainly created a following who would not conforms and who definitely disagreed with the opinions of the South African Government. From this definition of ethical leadership it seems clear that Nelson Mandela can be described as an ethical leader, however would everyone agree with this statement considering Mandela’s involvement leading to guerrilla warfare?

Bass (199O) specified that transformational leadership: “occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group” (p. 21). Transformational leadership is a process of building commitment to organizational objectives and then empowering followers to accomplish those objectives (Yukl, 1998).

Nelson Mandela portrays transformational leadership in a slightly different way to how Bass (1990) explains, this is because Mandela’s followers were not employees but stakeholders, as they too had the same interests as Mandela and would aim to influence the South African Government in order to benefit themselves. Transformational leadership is a concept which can be adapted to a variety of situation, for example, on a personal note I believe that there are incidents when I would have been classed as a transformational leader.

When I selected for a young business enterprise course to represent the college, we were put into a group and asked to formulate a new business idea for a restaurant, individually the group were intellectual but as a team they were lacking commitment, this is when I organised meetings to brainstorm ideas and duly helped increased levels of enthusiasm which led to the group performing fantastically whereby we won the competition hosted by The University of Bolton.

Avolio et al. (1991) established four primary behaviours that constitute transformational leadership: Idealized influence (or charismatic influence), Inspirational motivation, Intellectual stimulation and Individualized consideration. I believe that this theory best illustrates Nelson Mandela as a leader. Mandela demonstrates all four of these primary behaviours as outlined by Avolio et al (1991). Idealized influence is the charismatic element of transformational leadership in which leaders become role models who are admired, respected, and emulated by followers (Avolio and Bass, 2002). Nelson Mandela is known as the world’s most famous political prisoner, who is respected and admired the world over for his campaigning against sole white and black domination of South Africa. Idealized influence in leadership also involves integrity in the form of ethical and moral conduct (Tracey and Hinkin, 1998).

Nelson Mandela is certainly a person who would be described to show the characteristic of Integrity, Maxwell (1993) believes that integrity is the most important ingredient in leadership. He States that “Integrity binds our person together, it will not allow our lips to violate our hearts, our beliefs will be mirrored by our conduct” (Maxwell, 1993). Nelson Mandela, has always shown consistency with his actions and beliefs, which have made him ethically questionable. It appears that the definitions of leadership and ethics are quite distinct concepts whilst leadership either leads to good or bad actions which ultimately define the ethics of the leader. This leads me to believe that the actions, which are developed by the situation, will define the ethics of the leader and the stakeholders, if the theory of influence is hold.

The theory of servant leadership is one that I find extremely interesting, simply because it states that self-interest should not motivate servant leadership. On certain levels this is a difficult concept to grasp, for example, I am researching Nelson Mandela who was the leader of the African National Congress’s armed wing – Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). The majority of the people who followed Mandela were fighting against the apartheid (racial segregation), which undoubtedly is something to fight for, however there will be many people if not the majority of people will benefit from the success of the anti-apartheid either financially or socially therefore is this really a form of servant leadership? In Greenleaf’s (1977) opinion, “leadership must primarily meet the needs of others.

The focus of servant leadership is on others rather than upon self and on understanding of the role of the leader as a servant”. Nelson Mandela may have been ‘meeting the needs of others’ as described by Greenleaf (1977), however he certainly has benefitted himself by achieving the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming president of South Africa and gained a large wealth and celebrity status, therefore I do not believe that the case of Nelson Mandela can be adapted to servant leadership theory effectively.

The ethical choices of leaders are largely the subject of personal opinion, for example, the age old quote is “One man’s terrorist, is another man’s freedom fighter”, this helps me to illustrate my point by questioning can ethics be view entirely differently from one person to another? During the week six tutorial we looked at the Enron scandal whereby Enron’s accountants managed to increase shareholder dividends by making the accounts look like there was more money coming in than there actually was, obviously this is illegal however there are few people who would turn down the chance to make the same amount of money as those involved with the Enron scandal, my point is that Nelson Mandela is/was an extremely successful leader and to some his ethics were and are still not ‘correct’.

Conger (1990) argued that there can be a dark side to leadership. For example, leaders who are driven to accomplish their visions may ignore problems and misrepresent the realism of their visions, just as the visions of Nelson Mandela led to the harm of many civilians. Stone, Russell and Patterson (2004) went on to link this to transformational leadership, whereby they claim “personal power in the form of charisma can be very influential upon followers. In fact, the strength of the leader’s charisma may determine his or her overall effectiveness”. Charisma directly links to Avolio et al. (1991) four I’s of transformational leadership which I have previously discussed and I feel that charisma is a personal trait in which we envisage in successful leaders which is also what happens with the four I’s.

In conclusion, I had my thoghts on what leadership was before I started the course and before I began this essay; however my perception of leaders and leadership has changed. It seems clear that many ‘ordinary’ men and women attribute the traits and behaviours of a ‘leader’ yet we only really define them when their actions lead to positive or negative consequences, therefore I believe action helps define a leader. With regards to ethics, it seems quite clear that ethics change from one individual to another just as they change from one culture to another; therefore it is difficult to decide whether an individual’s leadership is ethic unless you can analyse the context in which they are leading. Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly a brilliant leader, and to many his ethics were also correct, however individual beliefs is where research into ethics begins to falter.