Leadership Styles: Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher Essay

October 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Currently, our societies are in need of visionary and inspiring leaders. For the world to overcome its current challenges such as economic chaos, terrorism, and social injustices, the world leaders should motivate people through actions rather than words.

This implies that the world leaders should not only strive to meet the needs of their people, but also strive to be beacons of hope in their societies by enhancing justice, fairness, caring for the less fortunate and allowing love to flourish within our societies.

The need for transformational leadership in our governments and institutions is evident from the current leadership wrangles. In our business organizations, increases in staff turnover cases imply that our institutions are in need of transformational leaders.

In history, Nelson Mandela is viewed as a transformational leader. Unlike other historical leaders, when Mandela was the President of South Africa he treated all genders, races, tribes, and ages equally.

When he was the president, he managed to unite his country, which was once considered the most polarized country in the world during the apartheid. On the other hand, Margaret Thatcher is considered one of the best female leaders who portrayed transactional leadership skills in Britain’s history.

Nelson Mandela

Before South Africa attained its independence, Mandela was one of the black South Africans who were championing for the country’s independence from the British colonials. His transformational leadership style was evident way back when he was the leader of a freedom movement fighting to end apartheid in South Africa (Lodge 2006, p. 3).

Notably, as a leader of a freedom movement Mandela aimed at championing for an equal society where people could be treated fairly regardless of their race, colour, religion, or nationality. During the apartheid, the white South Africans were undermining the black and the coloured South Africans in every sector.

To put an end to these injustices, Mandela and his fellow friends risked their lives for the benefit of all by campaigning for equality in their societies. For several years, Mandela managed to escape traps from British authorities who were determined to arrest him for his actions.

When Mandela was finally captured and imprisoned by the British soldiers, he never stopped campaigning for justice in the South African society. His transformational leadership was tested during one of his trials.

During this trial, Mandela never denied the charges he was accused of despite knowing that if he was going to be found guilty he was going to be sentenced to death. These acts prove that he was committed to ending injustices in South African society no matter the cost.

When Mandela was finally released from prison, he became the president of South Africa in the year 1994. After becoming the president, several white government officials who had worked for the previous regime were expecting to be replaced from their offices. To their surprise, Mandela never replaced them.

Instead, Mandela worked with these officials amicably regardless of their past political positions. Even though the whites had mistreated the blacks and the coloured by offering them limited opportunities during the apartheid, Mandela’s administration choose to treat every South African equally regardless of their past.

By these acts, his leadership inspired several South Africans on the need to have a just society where everyone could be treated equally.

Similarly, during his presidency Mandela was able to inspire several South African athletes and footballers. For instance, when a South African boxer by the name Matlala defeated an American Boxer he found time to visit the boxer in his home and congratulated him. After the visit, the boxer was inspired and determined to win every match in honour of Mandela.

During one of the international matches where South Africa was preparing to play against an international team, Mandela walked into the changing room wearing a jersey similar to one of the footballers named Mark. In the dressing room, Mandela exchanged his jersey with the player.

During and after the match, the player was impressed knowing that his fascinating skills had caught the attention of Mandela. Through these acts, Mandela proved to be a transformational leader.

Margaret Thatcher

Before her resignation, Margaret Thatcher leadership style offered numerous people with valuable lessons in power and management (Thatcher & Dale 2010, p. 4). During her leadership, Thatcher proved that indeed she was a transactional leader.

Just like Britain’s greatest industrial leaders such as Collins Marshall and John Harvey Jones, Thatcher brought radical economical changes in Britain through her effective managerial skills (Eagly & Carli 2007, p. 67). It is alleged that when she was in power all Thatcher ever wanted was to restore British former power in the world dominance.

In general, through her leadership Thatcher managed to tackle economic stagnation issues, unemployment, and inflation issues. She managed to achieve these by transforming business institutions towards greater competitiveness, production, and technological advancement.

As a transactional leader, Thatcher was not after changing Britain’s future but rather keeping it the way it were. Since her early political career in the early 1950s, Thatcher had always been a conservative politician. As a conservative, she opposed several laws that she deemed as contradicting the society values.

For instance, in the year 1964 she represented her conservative party in urging the government to allow the tenants to purchase the council houses. Her conservatism became notable when she supported the Leo Abse’s Bill. This bill was meant to criminalize homosexuality within British territories.

Similarly, during the year 1966 she represented her party in opposing the labour laws that were meant to control prices and incomes. According to her arguments, these laws were going to destroy the country’s economy. Likewise, during the year 1966 she opposed the government’s high-tax plans.

Thatcher argued that lower taxes were the only incentives that could be offered to workers for them to work hard. As such, she believed that high-tax plans were communistic ideas rather than socialistic ideas.

When she became the prime minister in the year 1979, her transactional leadership skills became eminent. She was a strict supervisor and stressed on the significance of group performance. Notably, she became determined to reduce the power vested upon the trade unions.

She believed that trade unions posed great risks to a country’s democracy and economy. To reduce their power, Thatcher introduced a legislation, which was meant to regulate the trade unions. Out of these initiatives, several industrial strikes were witnessed across Britain.

Her strictness on performance was witnessed when she closed down more than 20 state-owned mines owing to their poor performance. Owing to this, several mineworkers lost their jobs leading to national strikes.

During the strikes, Thatcher refused to be undermined by the trade union leaders. In the year 1982, she declared that strikes were prohibited in Britain. Later on, Thatcher resigned as a prime minister when her policies and transactional leadership skills became obsolete.

Through her leadership styles, Thatcher was able to motivate several women leaders. Before her premiership, women were considered ineffective for such post.

However, when she ascended to power several women became convinced that they could achieve the same status in the community just like their male counterparts. In history, Thatcher will always be remembered for her exceptional leadership skills, which enabled her to conquer and rule the male dominated field (Billing 2011, p. 15).


Based on the above analysis, it is evident that transformational leadership style is an ideal leadership trait as compared to transactional leadership style. Mandela managed to inspire and uplift the livelihoods of several individuals in South Africa and the world at large through his transformational leadership style. As opposed to Thatcher, Mandela made peace with his enemies regardless of the political past.

This was evident from the way he treated the white South Africans before and after he ascended to power in the year 1994. On the other hand, Thatcher made several enemies through her transactional leadership style. For instance, throughout her tenure as Britain’s prime minister she always differed with the labour unions.

Equally, as a prime minister she closed down several state-owned mines which were performing poorly. Through this move, several individuals lost their jobs adding to the number of her enemies. As evident from the two leaders, transformational leadership styles are admirable rather than transactional leadership styles because they allow executives to keep in touch with their followers (Rosener 1990, p. 124).


Billing, Y 2011, ‘Are Women in Management Victims of the Phantom of the Male Norm?’, Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 18 no. 3, pp. 1-20.

Eagly, A., & Carli, L 2007, ‘Women and the labyrinth of leadership’, Harvard Business Review, vol. 85 no.9, pp. 63-71.

Lodge, T 2006. Mandela: a critical life, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Rosener, J 1990, ‘The command-and-control leadership style associated with men is not the only way to succeed’, Harvard Business Review, vol. 12 no.2, pp. 119 125.

Thatcher, M., & Dale, I 2010, Margaret Thatcher in her own words, Biteback, London.

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