Saturday, November 19, 2011

Evolution of Leadership

Taizu, better known as Genghis Khan. Portrait ...Image via Wikipedia

Leadership is the process of inspiring or influencing people to achieve specific goals or to accomplish certain tasks. It is a means to influencing and encouraging people to come up with or conceive extraordinary results at the organizational and societal levels. The study of leadership has been growing out of proportion in recent years due to the need for better leaders in expanding economies at the national and workplace levels. The advancement of leadership sciences has opened so many sub-fields such that, in recent years, there have been increased focus on newly-emerging leadership traits. Some of the leadership traits that are commonly discussed in academia include include transactional, transformational, laissez-fairez, charismatic, participative or democratic, autocratic or authoritarian, bureaucratic, and people-oriented or relations-oriented leadership styles.

Born in 1925, Mahathir Mohamad became the first Malaysian commoner to become prime minister of his country in 1981, a post he held until October 31, 2003 when he retired from politics altogether. Mahathir embodied specific traits that helped him transform his ramshackle nation into an industrial economy. For the twenty-two years he was in power, Mahathir courageously fought hard to make Malaysia the Asian Tiger it is today. Because of his extraordinary wisdom, charisma, and visionary leadership style, Malaysia excelled in many aspects including trade and commerce, gender empowerment, education, infrastructure, healthcare, politics, communication, and banking. By providing direction to his people and by defining certain objectives, in the end Mahathir was able to count his political and developmental achievements in just over two decades while at the same time elevating himself to the level of intriguing maverick and politician. A pragmatist as described by Wain (2009), Mahathir later on clashed with political Islam and as well rose to international prominence by championing the rights of the “third world”. Dr. Mahathir, Malaysia's great statesman of the century, espoused transformational leadership style. Some of the describable characteristics of a transformational leader include being visible to the people and keeping constant communication with the governed.

Oliver Cromwell was an Englishman born in 1599 to a modest bourgeoisie landowning family. He was famous for waging war against the local government of the time that was dominated by crown appointees and that was famous for depriving common people of their livelihoods. A Puritan himself, Cromwell rose to the political spectrum at a time when England was engulfed in social and political turbulence (Jenkins, 1999).Cromwell was against the usurpation of political power and economic strangulation of his people especially by leading authorities including the powerful Church of England. Despite his fascinating background history laden with controversies, Cromwell fought hard with parliament to ensure there existed liberty of conscience between the nation and the people of God (Smith, 2001). I perceive Cromwell to have been a figure who wanted to liberate his people from the injustices of poor parliamentary governance, religious dominance, and abuse of power by the royal hierarchy. In 1653, after successfully pacifying his area of influence through the use of persuasion and military might, Oliver Cromwell was crowned the “Lord Protector of the Commonwealth”. Oliver Cromwell was a visionary leader as well as task-oriented or relations-oriented. His obsession with organizing, supporting, and developing his subjects ultimately resulted in him subduing his antagonists that dominated the government bureaucracy.

The most virulent authoritarian or autocratic leader to have evolved in modern history was Genghis or “Chinggis” Khan, founder of the great Mongol Empire whose legacy created the largest continuous empire in recorded history even after his sudden demise. Genghis Khan's imperial ambitions saw the absolute occupation of vast tracts of lands that included almost all of Asia, European Russia, Southeast Asia, and incursions into central Europe. The brutality of his invading armies were so severe such that millions of innocent civilians perished in every altercation. Contemporary historians allude Genghis Khan to have had all the characteristics of the 4Es of leadership: envision, enable, empower, and energize (Yates, 2011).


Wain, B. (2009). Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times. Palgrave Macmillan. Pp 363.

Jenkins, G. (1999). The Lion of the 17th Century. Issue 229 of the Socialist Review. Retrieved from

Smith, D. L. (2001). Oliver Cromwell, the First Protectorate Parliament and Religious Reform, Vol. 19 Issue 1, p38 . Retrieved from

Dictionary of Alternatives (2007), p52-52, Zed Books 7 Cynthia Street, London N1 9JF. Retrieved from

Yates, M. (2011). Leader Values. Retrieved from
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