11 June 2018

South Africa: Nelson Mandela's Leadership - His 'Obstinacy and Stubbornness' - Part 2


An unusual, apparently contradictory set of personality traits combined to make Nelson Mandela the leader that he became. One of these was notorious stubbornness, which nevertheless combined with a willingness to change, where change became necessary. Meaning not only unwillingness to change, stubbornness can also suggest steadfastness. Obstinacy, in this sense, was also why his commitment to freedom never wavered.

This article first appeared on Creamer Media's website: polity.org.za

Nelson Mandela was notoriously stubborn or obstinate, both words that are generally used to connote negative qualities. But the dictionaries suggest that the word may indicate not only "pig-headedness" or "mulishness" or unwillingness to be open to reasoning and persuasion but also steadfastness, holding to a course of action as a matter of principle.

In that sense the same words "stubborn" or "obstinate" may point to both the strengths and weaknesses of Mandela. (This article is part of a series on Mandela's leadership. Previous contributions this year, are to be found here and here.)

At the same time Mandela's stubbornness coexisted with flexibility and willingness to change, once change became necessary or he became convinced in his own mind or through persuasion that it was necessary to change or through change...

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