Climate change and the need for intergenerational reparative justice

Northouse (2016) defines leadership as the practice of influencing and encouraging followers to complete a specific set and agreed-upon task. There have been outstanding leaders throughout history who have contributed to societal developments by inspiring their followers to innovate. Great leaders are known to be accountable and to have helped bring their followers into today's world. Nonetheless, there are leaders who have made a bad impact while serving in a leadership post at some point in their lives. Although many traditions have evolved, the contributions of great leaders remain relevant in today's society. Leaders of today can duplicate these leaders to produce a positive contribution in their leadership role. This paper looks at two leaders and their contributions in their leadership role.

Martin Winterkorn

Martin Winterkorn was the chief executive officer of Volkswagen (VW) for eight years. Winterkorn resigned in the midst of one of the biggest scandals that hit his company under his leadership. The Volkswagen Group is one of the largest and leading manufacturers of commercial vehicles and automobiles (Ewing, 2017). In 2014, the company was operating in thirty-one countries and had more than 600,000 employees around the world. VW operates through its values of sustainability, responsibility, respect, customer focus, renewability, creating value, and super performance. According to Andrus et al. (2016), these values have guided the employees of the company in their decision-making, and they have been able to ensure the company becomes one of the largest carmakers worldwide. The manufacturer also has a code of conduct that addresses issues such as fair competition, anticorruption, collaboration, and management culture (Ewing, 2017). The good performance of the company has supported it to be widely admired especially for its innovation in engineering and design.

In 2007, Winterkorn took over as the CEO, and he focused on leading the company into a global and environmental leader. The new CEO focused on transforming VW into the largest car manufacturer in the world. Under the leadership of Winterkorn, the company became controlled tightly with its highly centralized leadership style. Andrus et al. (2016) state that the culture was of a command-and-control where Winterkorn was setting the goals of the company. The senior executives were not fully involved as they participated in making only minor decisions. At the time the company gained a reputation as it had become highly competitive in the automobile industry. Almassi (2017) defines Winterkorn as one who had become relentless in his leadership position to bring the company into the largest car manufacturer in the world. He was involved in product development, and he was obsessive about details especially since he had an engineering background. In the company, he was now considered a cold and distant figure unlike other CEOs in the automobile industry who were close to their staff. Almassi (2017) describes an environment where employees became fearful of contradicting their superiors or ever admitting failure.

In 2013, the company was hit by a scandal when researchers discovered that VW diesel car models performed flawlessly in the testing environment than on-road testing. The emissions of the car were significantly higher when on the open road. They uncovered that the differences in the performance of the VW cars were due to the design of the commercial vehicles that were able to take advantage of the testing environment and reduce their emission to the allowed U.S levels. The company was forced to publicly admit that they had installed these devices in their 11 million vehicles that had sold worldwide. These cars were emitting a very high level of pollutants into the atmosphere that was past the legal limit of pollution.

At the center of the scandal was VW’s senior leadership including Martin Winterkorn the CEO. He resigned later and took responsibility of the irregularities that were found in Volkswagen's diesel engines. The company was forced to restructure its management, and they abandoned the goals that had been set by Winterkorn. The scandal had significant financial implications as it continuously lost its market share and reputation as a trustworthy company. The leadership of Winterkorn was hugely blamed, and he is regarded as a bad leader. It was possible that Winterkorn and other senior officials of VW knew about the wrongdoings especially since the CEO was involved in the production processes of the company’s products. Some have suggested that under the leadership of Winterkorn, the company had become not such a happy place to work.

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro has contributed significantly towards the positive leadership role. Castro was the president of Cuba from 1976 to 2008. He was also the leader of the revolutionist in Cuba and rose to become the Prime Minister of his country. However, his leadership was faced with numerous crisis, invasions, and even assassination attempts on him but his vision for the country has endured all the opposition. According to Collin and Martin (2013), Castro is regarded as an effective leader and commander who portrayed the traits of courage and strategy. He ensured the best performance among his team by hiring the right people who would support effective dissemination of duties. In his early days before he became president, Castro led the Cuban People’s Party where he campaigned against unemployment, poverty, injustice, corruption, and low wages to the ordinary people of Cuba (Sweig, 2016). He demonstrated an excellent leadership style that placed him and his party in place to win elections.

He displayed the honest enthusiasm before becoming president where they fought for what they believed was right. He offered speeches to the Cuban people who were known to inspire change. He portrayed the importance of a healthy relationship between a leader and his followers. He utilized his strong connections to fight against Batista who was a dictator who treated the Cuba people as slaves in their own country. He relied on his loyal followers for support and depended on them to achieve his win against Batista. The supporters of Castro were ready to do their best to ensure the directions and wishes of their leader complied.

In the fight with Batista, Castro took advantage of his ability to inspire confidence and support among his supporters. The Cuban People’s Party stood by Castro even when the opposing forces had outnumbered them. His great leadership also attracted enemy troops to his, and they offered to support Castro and stand by him. The fight with Batista brought more people on his side which displayed Castro’s capabilities as a good leader. According to Collin and Martin (2013), Fidel Castro exhibited traits that were comprised of both servant and transformational leadership qualities.


Winterkorn was a bad leader because of several reasons that were visible under his leadership. He had an unusual pressure on his managers and generally on his staff. According to an interview conducted by Reuters with former executives of VW, they described the management style of Winterkorn as a work environment that promoted fear among them and their staff. The leadership was authoritarian, and the German Company had no structures in place to check the CEO. According to Almassi (2017), there was a distance, respect, and fear towards Winterkorn and whenever he received bad news, he would create an unpleasant environment that would become demeaning especially for the executives. Northouse (2016) writes that many CEOs operate through a workplace environment where they have created fear. Employees in VW experienced fear in losing their jobs, excluded, rejected, and being criticized by the CEO. Northouse (2016) argues that scared people do not produce good work and they end up costing the company like the case of VW.

Winterkorn was also not transparent in his leadership. He encouraged a culture of breaking the laws as the company manufactured more than 11 million diesel engines with a defeat device. It is also possible that he was directly engaged in these irregularities as the workforce was unable to respond to the pollution problems in an innovative way. They lied to both their customers and the government to create more sales. Volkswagen was found to engage in a corporate con, and the leader did not embrace the value of transparency which ruined the company's brand image and value. Another reason why Winterkorn was a bad manager is that he was obsessed with becoming the world's number one automaker. This kind of leadership is dysfunctional, and according to Northouse (2016), a leader becomes unable to work at full productivity and sometimes unable to create work engagement among the staff.

Fidel Castro displayed some strengths in his leadership traits that portray him as a good leader. He practiced leadership as a shared responsibility with his supporters that is evident in his commencement of the Cuban People’s Party. Guillermoprieto (2012) supports that the group had created a shared vision that was widely accepted by the Cuban people and Castro helped to articulate this dream extensively. Also, all the successes that were accomplished by the party were shared equally among the members. They had an equal opportunity to express their views in the party.

Castro as a leader showed an excellent public speaking trait that he was able to utilize to persuade and move his followers. Guillermoprieto (2012) adds that the leader also possessed a quality of being action oriented that was evident in his readiness to take actions on behalf of his supporters. He led a revolution that helped him gain respect among the Cubans. He also showed traits of persistence, determination, and a strong character. Collin and Martin (2013) supports Castro as a good leader as he was known to be dedicated and persistent in the Cuban political system. He was able to invite people to fight for their rights using his selflessness, personal courage, and integrity. In his first appearance in an influential position, he was accepted among citizens because of his moving speaking ability that gained him recognition worldwide. The influence of Fidel Castro is still visible in Cuba from the numerous billboards having his image.

Different Leadership Styles of Each Leader

Martin Winterkorn portrayed an authoritarian leadership style. Northouse (2016) defines this leadership style as one where the head provides a command over the followers. The leader has set what supporters need to achieve, when they should accomplish, and how they should undertake actions. In addition, authoritarian leaders come up with decisions that they have made independently with little or no input from the other executives. Former VW CEO had not fully engaged other members to create the vision of the company to become the leading automaker. Also, there were no visible communication lines between Winterkorn and the staff. However, conforming to the behavioral theory, autocratic leaders perform authoritarian style, and they need to be more present to their workforce. According to Northouse (2016), the group members remain unhappy with this leadership style, and they express hostility.

Sweig (2016) writes that Castro demonstrated some form of leadership since his childhood days. This aspect relates to the great man theory and trait theory of leadership where the leader is born and not made (Northouse, 2016). He had a natural know-how to influence his followers to fight for their rights, and it had a positive impact on the people of Cuba as he finally became their president. Castro demonstrated contingency theory of leadership as he took the opportunity to deliver freedom to his followers. The contingency theory applies where leadership is shaped by the environment to suit the current situation (Northouse, 2016). Castro has been shown to gain the trust of people of Cuba, and he utilized the position to redeem Cuba from oppressive leadership styles of the Batista government.


Almassi, B. (April 01, 2017). Climate change and the need for intergenerational reparative justice. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 30(2), 199-212.

Andrus, L., De, B. A. J., Levitt, A. J., & Maher, S. R. (January 01, 2016). The Volkswagen emissions scandal. Trial, 52(2), 32-37.

Collin, R., & Martin, P. (2013). An introduction to world politics: Conflict and consensus on a small planet. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Ewing, J. (2017). Faster, higher, farther: The Volkswagen scandal. London: Bantam Press.

Guillermoprieto, A. (2012). Looking for history: Dispatches from Latin America. New York: Vintage Books.

Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE

Sweig, J. (2016). Cuba: What everyone needs to know. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

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