5 things Nelson Mandela taught me
Madiba was a unique revolutionary, icon and humanist. As the world celebrates this great leader in what would have been his centennial year, I pay homage to a man who enriched my life
Leading SA out of apartheid, Mandela displayed strength, dignity, conviction and bravery. He stood up for his beliefs, even when it cost him his freedom. While imprisoned, he supported his fellow convicts throughout his lengthy sentence, despite the harshness of their living conditions, brutal warders and limited contact with their families.
DON’T LIMIT YOUR BRILLIANCE
Mandela said: “There’s no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that’s less than the one you’re capable of living.” This quotation has inspired me enormously. As an entrepreneur, I’ve learnt never to settle. No sooner do I reach a big milestone than I immediately set a higher goal to reach for. Mandela never gave up his ideals, even when he had a chance to get released by renouncing his views. He’s inspired me always to challenge the status quo. This focus helps me overcome obstacles and drives me to release my true potential.
Mandela took action – but shifted and adjusted his position, when needed. His mind was open to modifying his opinions, if it was for the greater good. The best example of this was his shift from embracing peaceful methods of resistance to the apartheid regime to espousing the armed struggle, when he realised that it was necessary to accelerate change. Later he reframed his views on economics, learning from other countries’ failed attempts at socialism and Marxism. As a leader, I meet challenges head-on, not letting pre-determined ideologies or belief systems hold me back.
LEADING FROM BEHIND
Mandela negotiated without compromising his integrity. As a leader, he was confident enough to lead from behind. Once in office as President, he exercised restraint and eased into big changes. He used sports to help close the rift between blacks and whites. Allowing SA to participate in the Olympic Games with a mostly white team sent a strong message, as did supporting the country’s primarily white rugby team at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Taking Mandela’s lead, I dabble in the art of persuasion, allowing others to come to a consensus, even sometimes letting them believe it was their idea.
Mandela strategically used his intellectual abilities
MANDELA NEGOTIATED WITHOUT COMPROMISING HIS INTEGRITY. AS A LEADER, HE WAS CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO LEAD FROM BEHIND.
to effect change. He predicted that social change was coming and rode that wave. Sometimes this meant he had to find common ground with his enemies and turn them into allies. Mandela realised that Afrikaners also felt they’d been discriminated against – by the British, during colonisation – and used that common ground to form a connection. True leaders get to know their opposition and keep them close.
LET THE PAST GO, BUT REMEMBER IT
Mandela never let his struggles dictate his life’s path. Following his unwavering moral compass, I’ve been inspired to put others above myself and maintain dignity at all times. He taught the awesome lesson of forgiveness – but not forgetting. I apply this principle to my life by relinquishing grudges and continuing to move forward.
Mandela never stopped working to overcome injustice. Even after he’d retired, he carried on working through the organisations he’d founded. He gave SA democracy, improving its image on the world stage and ending sanctions against it.
He remains the most inspiring – and wisest – leader of our time.
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