A Giant Steering the Ship: The Leadership Style of Oliver Tambo and the Lessons that can be Drawn

  • Lauren C. Marx Freedom Park
Keywords: Oliver Tambo, leadership, apartheid, exile, governance, leadership models


Oliver Tambo dedicated most of his life to the liberation of South Africa from apartheid dominion, whereby he garnered international respect from his peers and contemporaries. He rose to prominence within the African National Congress (ANC) during a harrowing time in South Africa’s history by consistently demonstrating leadership and guidance. Tambo’s innate leadership skills originated through his unique mix of personality qualities that he steadfastly believed in his entire life. This tenacity and conviction allowed him to govern the leadership of the ANC—despite being in exile—in an efficient and systematic manner. The objective of this paper is to examine the different leadership traits Tambo possessed, which allowed him to steer his political party’s ship through the most turbulent of seas. Secondly, this paper examines the current political climate in South Africa with the aim of addressing leadership models required to mould and sculpt South African society into the Tambos of today. These two objectives will largely be pursued through oral testimonies of those who worked and interacted with Tambo closely over the years, as well as anecdotal stories which demonstrate the level of leadership Tambo always provided.

Author Biography

Lauren C. Marx, Freedom Park

Lauren Marx has a Master’s degree obtained from the University of the Free State and is currently employed as a Senior Researcher at Freedom Park. She has written for several journals, magazines and newspapers and has experience in both secondary and tertiary teaching. Her main research field is military history as well as current political affairs.