Category: Comparison Essay
Comparing Political Leadership

The paper will compare and contrast leadership in three societies; it will be based on the following questions. Firstly, the essay will cover the issue of what leaders society has. Secondly, the paper will state their functions. Thirdly, the research will analyze what the power of leaders and their authority is based on. Finally, it will state the limits of power.

The societies that are being studied in this paper are the San in the Kalahari Desert, the Yanomamo in Amazon Forest, and the Madurai Town in South India. There are some differences between them.

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The San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa

The San community is believed to be an occupant of Southern Africa. It has lived for more than 20,000 years. The society is a group of people whose economic activity is hunting and gathering as well as sharing linguistic and historical connections. There are many San groups; though they do not have a collective name. Therefore, there are some terms applied such as Bushmen, San, and Basarwa in Botswana. The San language is Khoisan. It consists of several clicks and idiosyncratic sounds. They live in small groups, which are called bands. They consist of 15-25 people who are being relatives and form a clan unit.

The Bushmen do not have any formal leader or authority figure. The governance is done by group consensus. When disputes arise, discussions are held where both parties are given a chance to tell their side of the story. The debates are lengthy. They take some time. In such spheres as hunting and rituals, people who excel assume leadership. However, these positions have no power as in the modern day leadership meaning. It brought the confusion during the colonial time. The colonialists found this type of leadership confusing. Therefore, they were not able to make treaties with the San community. Leadership is based on age and character. The people being preferred are those that have spent most of their life in one area and are being of good character. Kinship ties form a basic political framework. As they live in groups, which are constantly moving, the land is owned by the particular community.

The individuals in leadership have several roles, e.g. dividing meat brought in by hunters. However, since the leadership positions have no power or any other additional advantage, a leader gets an equal share with the rest of the group members. The responsibilities of such status include becoming the tribe’s head and coordinating meetings or maintaining the order in quarrels to ensure that both parties are heard.

The titles of leaders are more or less meaningless as they are like any other names. They are no adding any advantages of being a leader. It means that the positions have no power. The leadership status is left for people with qualifications such as the old age or an expert, particularly in hunting. It means that the leading positions are not for everybody. The one has to meet certain criteria for him or her to be considered a leader. Leadership in this society is exclusively for men and women; young men cannot occupy this position.

The power of leaders is limited as the San make decisions for themselves. Agreements are reached through a consensus. The dominant personality cannot make decisions for other groups, which he or she does not belong to. Such a leader cannot also represent them if needed. The person in leadership looks after the interests of the own group only and cannot be involved in other communities’ leading responsibilities. The status does not hold much authority in this group. Leadership is not a priority to them. Such a leader is in charge of a group of 25 or more people. It is fairly a small community to exercise power in. Leaders in this group do not make any decisions for people as it is done in other societies.

For any decision to be made, the members of the group have to be involved. Therefore, no solution can be imposed on them against their will.

The Yanomamo Tribe in the Amazonian Jungle in South America

It is a group of indigenous people who live in the Amazon rain forest, and its number is close to 35,000. They occupy from 200 to 250 villages. These people dwell on the border of Brazil and Venezuela. The villages are occupied by natives mostly from 50 to 400 ones.

Unlike the San of Kalahari Desert, the Yanomamo have leaders in their communities occupied by mature men. These positions are both religious and political. For a person to be chosen as a headman, he must show certain skills such as peacekeeping and being a brave warrior. The individual will not get the position of a leader if he does not show the necessary quality as bravery. Warriors are highly respected as they portray the features being essential in leadership. They are seen as those people capable of protecting the community. Age is also a factor as the headman is required to consult with his council of elders made up of mature males.

Rather often, the individual is chosen as the headman usually comes from the largest kin group found in the village. The leaders may be of different kinds such as democratic, dictatorial, and bombastic. The headman’s position is only held by men as women are considered weak and missing such skills as force and violence. These qualities are supposed to be a key for leadership in the Yanomamo culture.

The Yanomamo as a tribe has no overall leader but its headmen are known as tuxawa who oversee the villages. Their power is exhibited by their ability to solve disputes in villages and as well in other communities. In decision making, individual participation is not required. However, they make use of a consensus of mature men. Therefore, any action targeting the community is not settled upon by headmen only but through the agreements as well as organizing debates.

The leaders are there to protect people and ensure that the land belonging to them is not taken away by other communities. For example, they protect the territory from being taken away by miners or enterprise groups. It is the task of leaders to ensure that there are peace and harmony in the group. It is achieved by ensuring that there is equality in the distribution of resources and no family unit is favored over the other one. They act as both the hosts and negotiators on behalf of the entire village. Their opinion is valued compared to the one from any other person. The headmen act as role models in the village. Therefore, they have to lead by their own example and not a decree. Headmen must, therefore, display the qualities they want to see in the village such as bravery and self-control.

The leaders in this society do not have unlimited power. They cannot make decisions without involving other men as seen above. They oversee the activities of people in the villages, which they head in. As they are only being in charge of particular communities, they cannot impose or make decisions for other ones, which are not under their leadership. Headmen are not supposed to interfere with the social lives of people or even dictate what they should do or not do. A headman will only intervene when there is a dispute in order to restore the order back in the community.

The society does not have real leadership. It means that these people have no formal sanctions. They have no laws. If they did, there would be no way of enforcing them. The Yanomamo tribe believes in informal sanctions. The tribe forms political alliances based on their kinship. Moreover, it as well uses marriage, feasts, and trade as the means of making these connections.

Madurai Town in Rural South Asia

This paragraph is stating about the Madurai town in rural South Africa. It is found in the state of Tamil Nadu. The town is situated along the banks of the River Vaigai. It is a large community both in its area and population. The town hosts the headquarters of the Madurai district.

Madurai is among the oldest towns in South India. It has existed for two millennia already. The town has seen leadership from the following entities as Pandyas, Madurai Sultanate, Madurai Nayaks, the Vijayanagar Empire, and the British among others. The Pandyas and the Nayaks are the main kingdoms that have ruled Madurai.

This society, unlike the San and the Yanomamo, has been ruled by political leaders and not headmen. The Madurai government consists of the following components; the political parties, constituencies, political leaders, and some government organizations. The Madurai town has got a modern government compared to two other communities discussed above. The parliament of Madurai has six components namely; Melur, Madurai East, Samayanallur, Tirupparnkundram, Madurai Central, and Madurai West. The San and Yanomamo communities are divided into villages and groups. Meanwhile, Madurai is divided into parts that are larger. The positions of leadership in this town are contested over by political parties at the national, local, and regional levels. The political parties are; the Indian National Congress (INC), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the All Indian Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). The above ones are the major political parties in Madurai. Leaders are selected by people. The basis on which they are chosen is different from the above-discussed societies.

The municipal is headed by a mayor. It is divided into 6 departments namely; revenue, engineering, public health, computer wing, and town planning. These sections are controlled by a municipal commissioner. From the information mentioned above, it is evident that this ancient town is well organized, unlike the San and Yanomamo communities.

The power of any leader is confined to his office. The mayor oversees the whole municipality of Madurai while the municipal commissioners cover various departments in the constituency. Law and order in this community are maintained by the police. They have courts where lawbreakers are judged. Any dispute is settled in a court if the parties cannot do it outside it. Meanwhile, in the San and Yanomamo societies, it is decided by headmen and the appointed leader.

One cannot engage in the activities beyond the position in the government. This status limits to power. For example, there are transactions that are designated for the Mayor only. The Deputy Mayor cannot transact business on his behalf. In the Yanomamo society, a headman is a spokesman and as well a representative of the community.


From the discussion provided above, there are significant differences in leadership within these three societies. The Madurai town has a parliament, political parties, and departments headed by other people. Meanwhile, the San and the Yanomano do not have such components of power but only one leader. In the three societies, only the one is governed by law and has formal sanctions while the other two groups (i.e. the San and Yanomamo) have informal penalties. These ones are not governed by law. The Madurai town has a legislative body being headed by the elected Mayor who works together with the Deputy Mayor. On the contrary, the San and the Yanomamo have no such organ. Only one leader is in charge of everything in these communities. The titles given to authorities are different. The Yanomamo call them headmen while in Madurai these are being mayors since it is municipal. The Yanomamo and San choose their leaders based on certain skills such as hunting and bravery. Meanwhile, it is not the case with the Madurai. Leaders there are elected by people. Therefore, such skills are not essential. The power of leaders in Madurai is limited to the office they hold. On the other hand, the San and Yanomamo headmen have their authority limited by the groups and villages they head over. In conclusion, Madurai is a civilized society while the San and Yanomamo are still traditional communities.

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