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.
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.