Servant Leadership: The Case of Nelson Mandela

Servant Leadership: The Case of Nelson Mandela

  • Case
  • Teaching Notes

This case provides students an opportunity to understand the overall philosophy of servant leadership and the characteristics of servant leaders. An analysis of Nelson Mandela’s leadership serves as a framework to better understand servant leadership as outlined by Robert Greenleaf, who many credit with advancing the concept of servant leadership. Many others (Barbuto & Wheeler, 2006; Dennis & Bocarnea, 2005; Laub, 1999; Sendjaya, Sarros, & Santora, 2008; Wong & Davey, 2007; van Dierendonck & Nuijten, 2011) have added to the body of servant leadership literature, but this case focuses on Greenleaf’s work and discussions as most see Greenleaf as the pioneer of servant leadership. Spears, from Greenleaf’s teachings, defined ten characteristics of servant leadership. Nelson Mandela exemplified many of the servant characteristics identified by Spears and Greenleaf at various periods during his life. An analysis of Nelson Mandela as a servant leader provides a context to better understand servant leadership while attempting to determine if leaders and organizations today exhibit characteristics of servant leadership.

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