Journal of Educational Leadership in Action


A biographical comparison or prosopography of three leaders Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) (Bacila, 2013), Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) (Kendall, 2014), and Lee Kwan Yew (1923-2015) (Kwang et al., 2015) might seem postmodern because of the divergence of times and cultures where they lived and the social statuses from which they performed their leadership. While Dale Carnegie was born to a poor farming family in Maryville, Missouri at the end of the 19th century America, Nelson Mandela’s family had aristocratic origins since his great-grand father was a tribal chief in South Africa (Lodge, 2006), and Lee Kwan Yew was a well to do fourth generation Singaporean of a Chinese ethic ancestry (Kwang et al., 2015). Despite his upbringing with limited money, Carnegie went on to become one of the best motivational speakers of all time (A&E Biography, 2016) because he used his influence to help his audience feel more valued and likeable. “Dale Carnegie often called himself a common man, from the Midwest, with a simple philosophy for self-improvement” (About Dale Carnegie - A&E Biography, 2016). On the other hand, Nelson Mandela, was a political prisoner for 27 years, who led South Africa toward multiracial democracy via a successful Truth and Reconciliation process (Carlin, 2008). Lee Kwan Yew on the other side of Asia, became the most influential leader of his country Singapore which he led as the first prime minister for three decades. Yew was an example of opposites. He promoted capitalism but ruled autocratically. He had a western education, but led based on Confucianism (Barr, 2007).


Dr. Jean-Pierre Bongila, EdD, holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of San Francisco. He is an associate professor of Educational Leadership and Learning at the University of St. Thomas, MN. Dr. Bongila has led a yearly graduate course “Leadership in the International Contexts” of South Africa (2009-11), Tanzania (2011-2014), Cuba (2015), Brazil (2016 and 2017), Ghana (2018), and Uganda (2022). His most recent publications include Developing global positioning leadership: Fieldwork learning in Cuba (2018).

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