9 Leadership lessons learned from Nelson Mandela

Mandela's Leadership styleWhen I heard the news of Mandela’s passing I remembered an African quote I once heard “To go fast go alone to go far go together”; Mandela’s legacy embodies every single word in this quote.

Nelson Mandela” is a name that will be forever be forged in the minds and hearts of many generations to come, he joins the ranks of eternal leaders as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa.  Mandela’s legacy extends globally and forever.  He had all the characters that make a GREAT leader.

I decided that in this homage to Mandela I will not share his bio or his resume, I would rather share the human and heart of Mandela’s leadership styles and the lessons we can learn from it

Mandela imagined a better world, he didn’t only dream but he took action, being human he did few missteps starting his life with violence, then denouncing it for a united country.

What I learned from Mandela’s leadership (who was imprisoned for 27 years) is that leaders have to have a clear vision and a purpose both greater than themselves extending beyond them, and have a sense of perseverance, leading through adversity no  matter what obstacles they might meet and suffer.

I learned to have a big heart full of forgiveness.  Mandela said on his way out of prison “As I walked out toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I would still be in prison”.

He was hopeful to change the world starting with his own country, he hoped to fight discrimination and oppression, to fight AIDs, and poverty and to unite his country as one.  He knew that hope comes from tenacity and perseverance but also combined with a sense of gratitude for what he has rather than looking at what he doesn’t have

He chose peace versus violence, he chose forgiveness and kindness versus bitterness and hate

Gratitude is a practice not an attitude, that generates feelings of content and of joy and even generate happiness; it is a choice that leaders or anyone can make

Mandela took different people from different walks of life that think differently and think differently and brought them together towards a common goal and that is to work towards the good for humanity embodying virtues like love, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, gratitude, and acceptance.

Mandela was an effective leader as he inspired people to reach beyond themselves, he created an emotional bond with his followers, he accepted them no matter how different they were and he respected who they are.

As a leader he was assertive knowing when to say NO, and when to stand his ground without being aggressive.

As an inspirational leader he shared his vision he shared the “WHY”, he shared his passion, his dreams, and when he shared the Why his followers adopted his dream and it became theirs.  Everyone knows what they do 100%, some know how they do it through their value proposition, but very few people know why they do what they do meaning what is their purpose, what is the cause, what is the belief, why do they exist, why do they get out of bed in the morning and why should anyone care.

Inspirational leaders communicate from the fuzziest to the clearest level from the inside out to inspire others.  People respond to the why, they follow, and become loyal;  we all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves so when inspirational leaders like Mandela shows the way and demonstrates the Why, thousands if not millions of people will follow cutting across races, cultures, ages, genders and beliefs

We observed the same in other remarkable leaders like MLK that shared the why of his vision; MLK said “I have  dream” he put the vision into words he told people about his dream and what he saw some 250,000 people marched to Washington even before the days of Facebook and Twitter, same as Gandhi that said “Be the change you want to see in the world” he used the word see he did not say plan or practice he said see, he made it visual, a vision which when it becomes a reality where people can see it and share it, it becomes a conviction beyond belief

Mandela’s leadership style displayed behaviors like delaying gratification, planning, and investing in the future, he saw the dawn while still enveloped in the darkness of his nights.

When he spoke, every person listening physically or virtually felt like he was talking to them individually, he had a strong sense of love and belonging as well as a deep sense of worthiness.  He had courage facing his fears and all barriers in his way, including the walls of his 8×8 cell where he lived 27 years.  He had the Heart to do it, Courage as a word originates from Latin COR or “heart” a common metaphor for inner strength.

To sum it up, the lessons Mandela left are those of going back to the basics of being a human being:

  1. To have a clear vision and purpose and know the “WHY” you are doing what you are doing
  2. To respect and value others no matter how different they are
  3. To love unconditionally,
  4. To forgive with no remorse,
  5. To be grateful for everything no matter how small or big- easy or hard,
  6. To be peaceful,
  7. To trust that there is always a brighter future,
  8. To have compassion and empathy and
  9. Most of all to believe in yourself and others, to dream and achieve your dreams no matter how long it takes or how hard is your journey.

Mandela Rest In Peace, you will be missed but your message is forever engraved in our hearts.

Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh

Diversity, Inclusion, and Leadership Consultant- Social Media Strategist
Home of the D.I.A.L.O.G. Programs
Diversity And Inclusion for Leadership Organizational Growth”
T: 818 861 9434 

Sahar Consulting, LLC

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Contact me: Skype SaharConsulting


3 thoughts on “9 Leadership lessons learned from Nelson Mandela

  1. Pingback: The Art of Leadership and lessons from the Past – introduction. | We dream of things that never were and say: "Why not?"

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