Friday, February 24, 2017

EUC Lecture Series: "Leadership in Hard Times: How Angela Merkel Learned to Love the European Union" with Doctor Joyce Mushaben

Angela Merkel in Hamm, courtesy of Dirk Vorderstraße
By Rachel Johannigmeier

On February 16, 2017, the European Union Center sponsored a lecture with Doctor Joyce Mushaben on Angela Merkel and the impact and evolution of her leadership style.  Doctor Mushaben is the Curators' Professor of Comparative Politics & Gender Policies at the University of Missouri Saint Louis; her most recent area of research has been on Angela Merkel, Germany's first female Chancellor.  Doctor Mushaben's lecture focused on Chancellor Angela Merkel's leadership over the years within the framework of Merkel's identity as a woman, as a pastor's daughter, as a physicist, and as a citizen of East Germany.

Doctor Mushaben presented her research and results through the examination of three key events of Merkel's leadership over the years.  She preceded this exploration with information regarding the beliefs held about the differences between male and female leadership; men are often regarded as "rational" and "aggressive" in their leadership style while women are seen as "community-minded" and "nurturing."  However, these beliefs focus more on personality and behavior rather than leadership style, and it can lead to traditional, male leaders underestimating female leaders; for Angela Merkel, politicians underestimating her was incredibly useful in her growth as a leader.

Due to her experiences, Angela Merkel did not start her political career with instinctive understanding of the European Union and its institutions.  However, when in 2005 the EU faced a variety of challenges, Merkel used her skill as a fast learner to aid in these times of crisis, and she also adapted and changed her leadership style when needed.  Doctor Mushaben used the events of the EuroCrisis, the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, and the 2015 Refugee Crisis to demonstrate how Merkel developed her leadership style within the EU with her transformational leadership style.  Transformational leadership, as Doctor Mushaben explained, requires proactivity and efforts to "motivate and empower" workers.

Before finishing the lecture, Doctor Mushaben made clear the "Merkel Method" of leadership, or the ability to lead with long-term goals in mind, is one of the main reasons for Merkel's longevity in politics.  I found the lecture to be very informative, and I left the lecture with a better understanding of leadership in the European Union.


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