POINT TO PONDER
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other"
STORY LINE Nelson Mandela’s Lessons in Leadership - originally printed in Time Magazine
1. Courage is not the absence of fear — it’s inspiring others to move beyond it.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison and stated there were many times he was afraid but he never showed it. He held his head high and gave others strength to survive
2. Lead from the front — but don’t leave your base behind.
As a tactic he would refuse to negotiate and would never waver on that principle. He knew what his mission was and he stuck to that.
3. Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.
He was known to let others speak their mind first and then give his opinions. He has stated a leader's job is not to tell people what to do but to form a consensus and guide them appropriately, respecting their ideas. "Don’t enter the debate too early," he used to say.
4. Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport.
“As far back as the 1960s, mandela began studying Afrikaans, the language of the white South Africans who created apartheid. His comrades in the ANC teased him about it, but he wanted to understand the Afrikaner’s worldview; he knew that one day he would be fighting them or negotiating with them, and either way, his destiny was tied to theirs.”
5. Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer.
Mandela is a man of invincible charm — and he has often used that charm to even greater effect on his rivals than on his allies.
6. Appearances matter — and remember to smile.
He knew he wasn't the best public speaker, but he knew that everyone was paying attention to his vibrant smile once he took the stage.
7. Nothing is black or white.
“Life is never either/or. Decisions are complex, and there are always competing factors. To look for simple explanations is the bias of the human brain, but it doesn’t correspond to reality. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it appears. Mandela’s calculus was always, What is the end that I seek, and what is the most practical way to get there?”
8. Quitting is leading too.
“Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make. In many ways, Mandela’s greatest legacy as President of South Africa is the way he chose to leave it. When he was elected in 1994, Mandela probably could have pressed to be President for life — and there were many who felt that in return for his years in prison, that was the least South Africa could do.…. ‘His job was to set the course,’ says Ramaphosa, ‘not to steer the ship.’ He knows that leaders lead as much by what they choose not to do as what they do.”
REFLECTION by Analisa Hightower
A few weeks ago I witnessed some of my father’s closest friends, through the years, gather in a room and thank him for his leadership. It was something I could tell touched my father’s heart as well as mine.
It got me thinking of his leadership and the impact he's had on people in his life. I thought about those who have mentored me and the impacts they've made on me.
More recently had to say goodbye to someone at work who I very much looked up to. She has been one of the most influential people I have worked with and she took me aside and told me she had faith in me. She revealed that she wasn’t born a leader, she made a choice to lead and led each of her groups to success.
I realized what I found valuable in a leader. They were strict, but not dictators. They welcomed my thoughts and challenged me. They led me to success at every chance and allowed me to learn from my experience. Most importantly, they walked alongside me instead of in front of me.