A common definition of leadership is the ability to inspire and influence others to reach a common or set of goals. It is the principle dynamic force that motivates and coordinates in order to reach objectives (Bass 1993). All leaders differ in the way they implement their leadership. Two leaders selected for a comparison are Margaret Thatcher, the first woman Prime Minister in the United Kingdom, and Fidel Castro, the President of Cuba who led the first guerrilla movement in Latin America to defeat the military. Key aspects concerning their leadership will be discussed.
This will include charisma and transformational leadership qualities. Charismatic leadership is a component of transformational leadership and is the ability to influence major changes in the attitudes and assumptions of other individuals to achieve objectives (Yukl, 1994). Transformational leadership is effectively 'changing the status quo' (Dubrin et. al, 2006). The traits, motives and characteristics of Thatcher and Castro will be discussed to distinguish qualities that made them who they were and how they used theses qualities to lead and influence society.
The final aspect that will be discussed is power, politics and leadership. Both leaders were surrounded by politics and required power to fulfil their position as leader of their country. These factors influenced how effective each was as leaders. Thatcher and Castro were selected for analysis as both were involved in politics in two very different countries. The similarities and differences of these leaders will be further looked at. Fidel Castro was born on August 13, 1926 in Cuba's eastern Oriente province. He grew up in wealthy circumstances amid poverty.
He is best known as leader of the Cuban revolution and served as the president for 49 years from January 1959 until his retirement in February 2008. Since 1959, he ruled Cuba out of crisis, leading the nation through social reforms, US attacks and barricades while holding onto a clear idealistic policy. In 1953, Moncada barracks in Santiago, the second largest guerrilla in Cuba, was a well-known resident of the government. In July of that year, amongst hundreds of fighters, Castro attempted to overthrow the Moncada barracks, which aimed at seizing weapons.
This set off against the Batista dictatorship struggles and opened the prelude of armed seize power. Castro's involvement in the attack landed him in prison in 1953, but made him famous throughout Cuba. In court Castro based his own defence speech: "History will absolve me. " He denounced the brutal regime of the Batista dictatorship and defined the main policy of the Cuban revolution. Released in 1955, Castro went to Mexico and continued to organize the domestic resistance and trained a small invasion force.
In December 1956, that invasion took place with eighty-one men on the yacht Granma, but was easily defeated, most killed. The survivors fled into the Sierra Maestra Mountains along the south-eastern coast. There, they mounted a full-scale attack in 1958, forcing Batista to flee the country in January 1959. Castro became the president of Cuba, responded to internal, popular, and external pressures, and to his own radical and nationalist agenda. In the late 1990s, the state of Castro's health became a subject of much discussion.
While numerous health problems had been reported over the years, the most significant news came on July 31, 2006 when Fidel had surgery for gastro-intestinal bleeding. Due to his ill-health, Fidel appointed his brother, Raul Castro, as the country's temporary leader. Conger & Kanungo (1988, cited in Dubrin et al. 2006, p. 92) define charisma as a special quality of leaders whose purposes, powers, and extraordinary determination differentiate them from others. Key characteristics of a charismatic leader, as illustrated by Fidel, are his communication skills and the ability to inspire trust.
Fidel's charisma was particularly evident through his superior verbal communication towards his followers. He won their loyalty which enabled him to take control of the numerous chaotic situations which he faced as Cuba's president. His public speaking skills were so powerful in influencing those who listened, that Batista government allowed him to publish his words, but was not allowed to speak them in public. Castro displayed a transformational leadership style as he was able to influence his followers' values, ethics, standards and long-term goals at a deep emotional level.
He has led over transformational changes in Cuba to social conditions such as literacy and health-care. Castro was able to influence his followers to accomplish more than what was expected of them, as he held great personal power, which included: expert power, referent power, and prestige power. These attributes are derived from the person rather than the organisation (Dubrin et al. 2006, p. 209). Castro ultimately changed Cuba's entire social and economic structure. A contemporary source has proven Castro's constructive impact on Cuba.
Erikson (2004), for instance, claimed that even Washington thinks that Cuba's influence in Latin America is on the rise, thanks to Castro's leadership. Important personality traits of an effective leader which Castro showed were determination, a great level of self-confidence, and persistence. Despite being called stubborn and labelled as practicing "Fidelism", he still lead with an "iron fist" (Erikson, 2004, p. 32). In particular, he projected a public image of self-confidence and strong will.
He showed a high level of intelligence, which is another important factor for leadership success. Even opponents admit that Castro was bright, insightful, and well-read. His devoted followers also viewed him in a similar light, as a man of integrity, personal courage and selflessness. "Commandant, whatever may be the task, wherever it may be, whenever it may be" is not an uncommon slogan (Valdes, 1993). Task-related personality traits which he imposed were courage, motivation, resilient and empathy towards the underprivileged people of Cuba.
He had an enormous drive, developed an imposing posture, and displayed resilience whenever his missions failed. He would improve his strategy and try again. His determination as a leader was evident when he spent two years in jail after attempting to overthrow Batista's dictatorship, expanding his knowledge studying political philosophy, history and literature while in held in prison. This strengthened his policy of change from corruption to social equality. His motivation came from his determination to continue his mission to take over as Cuba's president once set free.
Castro has been the unquestioned political and ideological leader, as he usually made significant decisions in regards to the important policies made. He appears to be at the centre of politics and economy. One of the many formal titles which Castro holds is Maximum Leader of the Revolution. By the late 1940's, Castro knew the methods, images and stakes of Cuban politics. After becoming the leader of an anti-Communist nationalist group that promised major social, economic and political reforms, he expected to win the presidential position through electoral politics.
He was the first guerrilla movement in Latin America to defeat the military. He proved to be a skilful political and military strategist. In 1959, Batista's government was perceived as unpopular among the Cuban people. This created a great opportunity for Castro to capture the chance to take power as a hero. His empathetic approach toward the underprivileged soon made him an icon in his country. On January 1, 1959, the Cuban revolution began under his leadership with the largest popular support of any political movement in the history of the country.
He equally participated in the process of changing Cuba's political climate, as a member of the guerrilla troops and created an environment of respect, understanding, and empathy between himself and his allies. It was these troops who were responsible in ultimately shaping the change of Cuba's political change. Once in power, Castro proved to be a persuasive and moving speaker, and a man who had the support of the population. He was an important figure in defining the future direction of the revolution and developed this establishment. He was able to organize, even to delegate authority.
On July 31, 2006, Fidel Castro delegated his power to his younger brother, Raul Castro due to his health decline. Delegation is an important part of empowerment. Mr. Castro temporarily handed over power to his brother and a collective of other high-ranking officials during his recuperation (Depalma & McKinley, 2006) Margaret Hilda Thatcher, the politician and former British Prime Minister was born on 13 October 1925 in Lincolnshire, England. She was a revolutionary leader of the 20th century and became known as the 'Iron Lady'. She served as the first female Prime Minister of England between 1979 to 1990.