Leadership Lessons From Mandela

medium_2899413103This morning I watched the news of the passing on of a great icon. Nelson Mandela was the epitome of strength, forgiveness, fortitude and forbearance. He was revered and his influence was evident all over the globe.

He emerged from twenty-seven years of incarceration under the Apartheid rule a stronger man. He led a nation to start healing from years of racial segregation. His presence at the finals of the 2010 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa fired up its team to win the cup for the first time, and on home soil.

As I watched the news at the breakfast table, I completely broke down. I could not hold back my tears. As I mourned Nelson Mandela, it brought back memories of my other hero, my dear brother-in-law, Joseph.

He was closer than a brother, despite the fact that our characters couldn’t have been more different. We could have a very heated political discussion one moment and jump right into our love for our dear wives in the next sentence. He was my brother from another mother.

From these two great men, I learned three critical lessons in leadership; being steadfast, having compassion, and showing forgiveness. [TweetMe]

A leader needs to remain STEADFAST, regardless of the prevailing circumstances. I had the opportunity to visit Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island. It is one island that even the strong-hearted would rather avoid. It helped me realize that to be a leader, one has to have a strong will to prevail.

COMPASSION is at the core of a leader’s mantra. I constantly remind myself that I am serving people. They have feelings and need to have full knowledge that I care for their welfare. “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” Nelson Mandela. People willingly follow leaders who care. [TweetMe]

FORGIVENESS is a leader’s mantra. It does not matter how much others have wronged or shortchanged me. I should always forgive them, but also learn from the experiences. On being released from prison, Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead me to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

We can fall down or fail to meet our obligations. But always remember, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Alexander Pope (1688-1744). The giants may have gone ahead of us, but they have left us great shoes to fill. Rest in peace…

When you are gone, what kind of leader will people say you were?

 photo credit: The PIX-JOCKEY (no comments, no groups!) via photopin cc

Leadership Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.

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  • Ciru

    Great piece Kimunya. The learning to drop bitterness and forge forward is a true mark of leadership. Forgiveness brings healing and hope for better things. If we take time to learn from the experiences we shall discover the silver lining behind the cloud. Forgive, forgive let’s live it

    • Exactly Ciru, forgiveness is the silver lining to hope. A hope for a future that matters.

  • Great post Kimunya .. and some great lessons from an icon of my times!

    As to your question, I’d hope that people would say I was a leader who made a real difference in the lives of those he served.

    Have a brilliant week ahead my friend!

    • I love your view John, service is key for a leader. Have a wonderful week…

  • Kimunya,

    Thank you for sharing your heart. How fascinating to have visited his prison cell. I loved the story of Joseph as well and especially appreciate this quote from your post… “I constantly remind myself that I am serving people. They have feelings and need to have full knowledge that I care for their welfare.”

    • It was a humbling opportunity Chery, monumental and life-changing. Thank you for taking time to leave your wonderful comment.

  • Cheruiyot

    Visiting Robben Island in 2006 was an eye opener to the strength of perseverance of Mandela and other freedom fighters. Our leaders need to pick several lessons from him. He will be dearly missed but his example will always guide those willing to live like he did. God bless Africa.

    • What a blessing to learn from those who have gone before us. Remember, it’s only a fool who doesn’t change his mind…

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