A Critical Analysis of the Communication Style of Nelson Mandela



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Nelson Mandela was an internationally known leader, who transitioned from a tribal childhood, a freedom fighter, an attorney, and prisoner for more than twenty-seven years to the presidency of South Africa. His interpersonal communication style and impression management strategies were studied to help determine how he was able to promote his image and achieve his lifelong goal of defeating the apartheid government with the purpose of South Africa being a democratic nation. This paper drew upon Erving Goffman’s (1959) Impression Management, face impressions and Burke’s Dramatistic Pentad to analyze selected speeches of Mandela and his interpersonal communication style. Key communications experiences throughout his life were also researched in the literature to determine impacts that these had on his character and relationship development. The study showed that Mandela was successful in maintaining his image, integrity, and goals with his experiences, interpersonal skills and strategies. This study helped to illuminate the skills that Mandela was able to develop in his communication style and interpersonal relationships that also helped him manage conflict. His success enabled him to speak to varied audiences and successfully relate to them. Mandela developed a style of relationship centered leadership.



Impression Management, Mandela, Nelson