Who was He?Nelson Mandela was the first Black President of South Africaand he was one of the most instrumental figures that helpedend apartheid in South Africa. After his term as president,Nelson Mandela went on to become an advocate for avariety of social and human rights organizations.
A Quick HistoryNelson Mandela was born in a Mvezo, a small village in theSouth Africa. He was the first in his family to attend school andit was there that his English teacher gave him the name Nelson.His political activity started when the National Party whichsupported the apartheid policy of racial segregation won theelections. He began actively campaigning against the policiesusing non violent methods, as inspired by Mahatmas Gandhi.However, when he began to realize that non violence wouldnot suffice, he began resorting to guerrilla warfare to achievehis means. The United States deemed Mandela as a terroristand refused him entry.
After being on the run for 17 months, Nelson Mandela wasfinally captured and imprisoned for 27 years.However, toward the late 1980s, there was mounting pressurefrom the international and local community for the South Africangovernment to release Mandela. He was finally released on 11February 1990.South Africas first multi-racial elections in which fullenfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994,Mandela’s organization won that election and became the firstBlack President of South Africa.As President, Mandela presided over the transition fromminority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for hisadvocacy of national and international reconciliation.
Awards and Honours1. Nobel Peace Prize 1993.2. Amnesty Internationals Ambassador of Conscience Award.3. Honorary citizen of Belgrade, Serbia.4. Listed as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004 byTime magazine.5. and over a 100 more…
Leadership Lessons1. Your vision in life must be for greater goodNelson Mandela saw an Africa where apartheid would finally beabolished and every man would be free and equal in the eyes ofthe Nation.It was this vision that propelled him to do what he had to do,and it was this vision that sustained him through the darkest daysin prison.Sometimes we think that having a vision in life means thinkingabout having a big house, a big car and lots of possessions; there’snothing wrong with that. But when the going gets tough, you’llgive it up easily because there’s really no big deal about havingthose.Your purpose here on Earth is to be a blessing to the rest ofsociety and living it out gives you the energy you need to persistuntil your vision comes to pass.
2. Not everyone will support your visionBefore Nelson Mandela successfully abolished apartheid fromAfrica, he had to face a lot of opposition from individuals andorganizations all over the world.No matter how ideal your vision is, the fact is that a vision meanschange for people. Not everyone wants to change because changeis uncomfortable. For some, change is outright painful.Although everyone today seems to be supporting NelsonMandela’s vision and lauding him for his achievements, this wasnot the case many years before.During the early years of Nelson Mandela’s movement, he waseven deemed a terrorist by the United States and also thrown inprison for many years.This will be the same case for you. If you’re pursing a great visionfor a better world; don’t expect everyone around you to rallybehind you. Expect people to stand against you.
3. You need to fight for your visionThis means that you have to fight for your vision. Your journey toseeing your vision come to pass won’t be a walk in the park. You’regoing to face many obstacles along the way and individuals whowill oppose your movement.Because of that, you have to be conscious about it and not getdiscouraged at the first obstacle. You have to fight. Break down thewalls and breakthrough every time you feel like giving up.Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison before he was electedPresident of South Africa. Faced with such a huge setback; henever gave up his vision.Though you will never end up in prison, but you must alsounderstand that you will face such setbacks in your life too. Don’tgive up and keep pressing on.One day you’ll get there.
4. Lead From the BackAs a boy, Mandela was greatly influenced by Jongintaba, thetribal king who raised him. When Jongintaba had meetings of hiscourt, the men gathered in a circle, and only after all had spokendid the king begin to speak. The chief’s job, Mandela said, was notto tell people what to do but to form a consensus. “Don’t enter thedebate too early,” he used to say.I think that more than ever before, people now want to berecognized for the value they bring to the table. They want to beheard. And they want their leaders to listen! This means that ifleaders are going to move in sync with where the people are, theywill need to remember Mandela’s words when reminiscing abouthis boyhood and herding cattle. “You know,” he would say, “you canonly lead them from behind.”
5. Lead with the Knowledge that ‘Nothing is Black orWhite.’ (no pun intended)Mandela acted on the belief that life is never either-or; right orwrong; black or white. He understood that decisions are complex;that there are always competing and complicating factors; thatnothing is ever as straightforward as it appears; that the leader doesnot have all the answers or the best answer.Think about how dramatically our worlds have changed today.What we took for granted as being our reality is no longer thesame. Everyone is loudly expressing their different needs, feelingsand perceptions. More than ever leaders need to think like Mandela– they need to be comfortable with contradiction; they must be ableto listen and they must invite authentic dialogue and debate. Whenthey do these leaders will not fall into either-or thinking and willmake profoundly and fundamentally better decisions.
6. Quitting is Leading TooKnowing how to abandon something that is not working, a failedidea, goal or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decisiona leader has to make. This takes enormous courage. In the historyof Africa, there have been only a handful of democratically electedleaders who willingly stood down from office and did not hold thecountry hostage. Mandela was determined to set a precedent forall who followed him by choosing to set the course but not steeringthe ship forever. He understood that leaders lead as much by whatthey choose not to do as by what they choose to do.We are seeing leaders in business and government in the USAtoday, who are holding on tightly to outmoded goals, policies,approaches and opinions. It is time for such leaders to catch upwith how the world has changed, listen to the people, and changetheir perspectives accordingly – or else make way for those whocan.
7. Be Humble about your strengths and honest aboutyour flawsMandela had a deep understanding of himself. He knew thatalthough he was a great leader, he was also a man of flesh andblood; of weaknesses and flaws. He was willing to own up to hisflaws and worked hard at triumphing over them. He alsounderstood his weaknesses and found ways to make sure that hecompensated for them.We don’t see a whole lot of this kind of honesty and humility intoo many leaders today. What we do see a lot of is leaders whochoose not to look in the mirror and as a result are in denial aboutthe fact that their weaknesses are getting in the way of real changeand progress.Would you agree that the world would be a better place today ifthe bulk of those who call themselves leaders applied Mandela’sleadership gifts? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Books on Nelson Mandela LeadershipGreat Souls: Nelson MandelaDavid AikmanNelson Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a NationWinnie Mandela, Ne…DK Biography: Nelson MandelaLenny Hort, Laaren …