Lesson #1 – Courage is not the absence of fear – it’s inspiring others to move beyond it
As a leader, people model their behavior after you. If a situation comes up and you appear panicked and fearful, those following you will respond in the same way. Mandela’s learned to appear fearless and as a result inspired others.
Lesson #2 Lead from the front – but don’t leave your base behind
Be loyal to the people that put you in power. When there is a difficult decision to be made, or a situation that is sticky to deal with, make sure that your supporters understand your actions and motives. Having honest communication with you base increases your level of support even if they don’t fully agree with you.
Lesson #3 – Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front
It is often said that the greatest conversationalists do the least amount of talking. That is because they spend their time listening. Listen to those you lead and don’t enter the debate too early. When the discussion is winding down, summarize points of view, share your thoughts and steer the decision in your direction without imposing it. Mandela said, “It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.”
Lesson #4 – Know your enemy – and learn about his/her favorite sport
Learn as much as you can about those you will “go to battle with.” By seeing the world from their eyes, it is easier to identify strengths and weaknesses and formulate tactics accordingly. Knowing their favorite sport and teams allows you to identify on a more human level outside of the board room or “battle field.”
Lesson #5 – Keep your friends close – and your rivals even closer
Mandela believed that embracing and flattering rivals was a way to control them. They were less dangerous in your circle of influence than they are on their own. Invite those you don’t fully trust to dinner, compliment them, call them on their birthday and send them gifts. You can neutral your rivals with charm.
Lesson #6 – Appearances matter – and remember to smile
First impressions are lasting impressions. Strength and size are a matter of DNA and not a requirement for being a great leader but remember, appearances can do much to advance your cause and career. People who are dressed well, smell good and are groomed appropriately immediately gain an advantage called the halo affect. The halo affect associates your appearance with certain traits, either positive or negative. For instance, looking professional, people assume you are a professional and give immediate credibility – whether you deserve it or not. What traits does your appearance associate you with?
Lesson #7 – Nothing is black or white
Embrace the power of “AND” and let go of the “OR.” Why choose between a raise OR more vacation time when you could figure out a way to increase productivity to earn a raise AND more vacation time. Life is never either/or. Decisions and situations are complicated so get comfortable navigating through contradictions.
Lesson #8 – Quitting is leading too
Recognizing when to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is one of the most difficult decisions a leader has to make, especially when it was your idea in the first place. Ingratiate reality and know when to gracefully accept defeat.
“Long speeches, the shaking of fists, the banging of tables and strongly worded resolutions out of touch with the objective conditions do not bring about mass action and can do a great deal of harm to the organisation and the struggle we serve.” (Presidential address to the ANC Transvaal Congress, also known as the “No Easy Walk to Freedom” speech, Transvaal, South Africa, Sept. 21, 1953)
“I had no specific belief except that our cause was just, was very strong and it was winning more and more support.” (Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 11, 1994)
“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” (Chief Albert Luthuli Centenary Celebrations, Kwadukuza, Kwazulu-Natal, April 25, 1998, South Africa)
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” (90th birthday celebration of Walter Sisulu, Walter Sisulu Hall, Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 18, 2002)
“It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.” (Closing address, 13th International AIDS Conference, Durban, South Africa, July 14, 2000)
1) Discover and embrace your passion in life.
‘The struggle is my life’ – Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela personifies passion. He has sacrificed his private life and his youth for his people, and remains South Africa’s best known and loved hero. Mandela participated actively in politics to oppose the apartheid movement. Seeing the unfairness and discrimination that the black, coloured and indian people are subjected to in South Africa, he strived to end the racial segregation. His whole life is lived in the vision of creating racial equality.
When you are passionate, you have a clear purpose in life. You attract passionate people into your life. Passion is the fuel of life. It creates an abundance of energy that sustain your actions. We all now what it is like to be near someone who has found their passion in life. They have this charisma and forcefulness that compels us to follow their lead and do great things.
ACTION: FIND YOUR PASSION AND LIVE YOUR LIFE ACCORDING TO IT. ONLY BY DOING THIS CAN YOU ACHIEVE GREAT HEIGHTS IN LIFE.
2) Never give up, ever.
Mandela spent 27 years behind bars as a political prisoner. But that has not left a dent in his spirit and stop him from continuing his struggle to rid South Africa of Apartheid. In 1994, 4 years after his release from prison, he became the first democratically elected president of South Africa at the age of 75.
Few could say they face the same kind of challenges and setbacks Mandela did. Even against a powerful, repressive government, he persisted. Even with his freedom taken away, his reputation grew as the most significant black leader of South Africa. In prison, Mandela kept at his struggle and influenced greatly the young black activist imprisoned in Robben Island, dubbed ‘Mandela University’, signifying his great influence in the anti apartheid movement even when imprisoned.
‘Not giving up’ has a new meaning observing the life of Mandela. When faced with challenges, he kept working to realize his dream, each time with new vigour, denying his enemy any chance of crushing his spirit.
ACTION: WHEN YOU HAVE A CLEAR GOAL, WORK TOWARDS IT’S ACHIEVEMENT DESPITE ALL CHALLENGES. SETBACKS ARE NOT FAILURES. THE ONLY FAILURE IS WHEN YOU DECIDE TO GIVE UP.
SETBACKS ARE NOT SIGNS OF YOUR INCAPABILITY, BUT OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN TO BECOME THE PERSON WORTHY OF YOUR GOAL .
3) Accepting the differences of others. Practice tolerance and compassion.
Nelson Mandela’s lifelong struggle is about racial equality. It is about having the compassion and being able to live with the differences and respecting each other.
In the Rivonia Trial, Mandela was charged with sabotage. Mandela’s statements in court during these trials are classics in the history of the resistance to apartheid, and they have been an inspiration to all who have opposed it. His statement from the dock of the Rivonia Trial ends with these words:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
‘Even after his release from prison, as President from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.
Mandela encouraged black South Africans to get behind the previously hated Springboks (the South African national rugby team) as South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup.(This is the theme of the 2009 film Invictus.) After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Mandela presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaaner, wearing a Springbok shirt with Pienaar’s own number 6 on the back. This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.’
ACTION: TO BE AT PEACE WITH YOURSELF, LEARN TO BE AT PEACE WITH OTHERS. ONLY THROUGH TOLERANCE AND COMPASSION CAN HUMANITY BE EXPRESSED. ACCEPT THE DIFFERENCES OF OTHERS, RELINQUISH THE NEED TO JUDGE,AND YOU WILL FIND INNER PEACE.
4) Simplicity in life and Humility.
Mandela’s daily habits:
‘The years in jail reinforced habits that were already entrenched: the disciplined eating regime of an athlete began in the 1940s, as did the early morning exercise. Still today Nelson Mandela is up by 4.30am, irrespective of how late he has worked the previous evening. By 5am he has begun his exercise routine that lasts at least an hour. Breakfast is by 6.30, when the days newspapers are read. The day’s work has begun.
With a standard working day of at least 12 hours, time management is critical and Nelson Mandela is extremely impatient with unpunctuality, regarding it as insulting to those you are dealing with’.
It is believed that Mandela’s strict daily habits contributed to his health and long life. Simplicity and good habits pays great dividend in life.
Mandela has honorary degrees from more than 50 international universities and is chancellor of the University of the North.
‘Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, most notably the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly announced that Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, is to be known as ‘Mandela Day’ to mark his contribution to world freedom.’
Mandela retired from public life in 1999 to reside in his birth place – Qunu, Transkei. After retirement, Mandela was active as an advocate in numerous social and human rights organizations.
What’s remarkable is Mandela has successfully maintained his integrity and stature even after taking office when so many freedom fighters become dictators, intoxicated with power. Thus, he is hailed as one the great moral leader of our time.
ACTION: ONE OF THE BEST THING WE CAN DO IN OUR LIFE IS TO SIMPLIFY OUR LIFE. PRACTICE MINIMALISM. KNOW THAT MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER. MANY TIMES, JUST BY SIMPLIFYING OUR LIVES, WE GAIN MORE. THE BLIND CHASE FOR MORE LEADS TO ADDICTIONS, CORRUPTION AND SUFFERING. BE TRUE TO YOUR ROOTS. THE MORE YOU HAVE, THE MORE HUMBLE YOU SHOULD BECOME.
Doing what’s right versus doing what’s popular.
Heroes are not perfect.
(sources: time,washington post & the hub)