NMK – Political Coaching and Communication - Leadership Styles and Skills that Made Angela Merkel So Powerful

Leadership Styles and Skills that Made Angela Merkel So Powerful

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel takes different approaches to leadership styles depending, first, on what the situation requires from her, and second, on the ‘political role’ she is ‘playing’ in a particular situation.

Merkel has great ‘problem-fighting’ skills; yet, people usually underestimate them especially that “she hides them under her placid exterior”.

Her dealings with the European financial crises of Greece, Spain, and Italy showed that “she is adept at hardball tactics”. However, she deals with politics using her soft hands approach, especially that she’s aware of the benefits of this tactic, and keeps her hardball approach hidden!

She is so tough, just like Margaret Thatcher!

The German leader is a consensus builder who is guided by pragmatism. Indeed, the deliberations under Merkel’s leadership are fairly unstructured and everyone gets the chance to voice his/her opinion. Specialists claim that the Chancellor of Germany’s leadership styles have been influenced by the communist rule she had lived under. For example, “the consummate lesson of East German life was always to try hard but never attract attention to oneself”. This taught Merkel an important lesson which is currently reflected in the way she allows everyone to state his/her point of view or position on an issue before she speaks of her position.

Angela Merkel does not intimidate others, nor speak arrogantly or badly of people. Whenever she has any criticism, she gives it in a ‘well-meaning advice’ manner.

She works on maintaining a broad network of relationships through phone calls and casual meetings, “often with her loudest and most public critics, such as having a beer with SPD parliamentary faction chair Peter Struck.”

Merkel’s academic background and training as a research scientist also influenced the leadership styles she adopted.

For instance, she “has a good grasp of the nuances of the details of every policy. She brings a scientist’s efficiency to everything she does, including politics.” In that too, experts compared to The Iron Lady; i.e. they both share a scientific businesslike character, an encyclopedic range of information, an instant grasp of issues and their political implications, an emphasis on practicality, and a refreshing absence of jargon and spin.

NMK – Political Coaching and Communication - Leadership Styles and Skills that Made Angela Merkel So Powerful - The Guardian
Merkel v Thatcher: how they compare (2013) - Source: The Guardian

Part of Angela Merkel’s leadership style is learnt from Helmut Kohl. Indeed, she learned from him how to:

  • organize political majorities
  • negotiate and win debates
  • sit out political controversies until they fade away
  • deal with political rivals and former friends
  • set up media contacts
  • wait for the situation to develop before committing herself to a particular policy until the last moment
  • build coalitions

Merkel is seen as a mother, not only in “her image as the metaphysical mother to Germany” (also known as her nickname “Mutti” which means mother to all Germans), but also in how she nurtures and cares for her colleagues. She even tries to focus her efforts to try to get everyone behind a certain policy and allow them to get along properly just like “what a mother does everyday in getting her family to agree to visit dreadful Aunt Mabel or to clean out the garbage…”!


Genovese, M. A., & Steckenrider, J. S. (2013). Women as Political Leaders: Studies in Gender and Governing. London: Routledge. Retrieved from www.routledge.com

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NMK – Political Coaching and Communication - Leadership Styles and Skills that Made Angela Merkel So Powerful