6 Leadership Principles Mandela lived by

To refer to Nelson Mandela as a role model seems inadequate. Role model to a nation is somewhat better. Global role model better still but still falls short.  As a result of his status, legend/ political activist/ conflict resolver/ healer, people and parties often use the Mandela story to fit their own agenda.  I didn’t want to fall into the same trap. However after some serious thought I wanted to record what Mandela demonstrates to me and the messages I am trying to convey through this blog.  It is probably all any of us can do.

Mandela 6 leadership principles

Some thoughts:

1. He tapped into his vision 

He spent time understanding the goal he was working towards, he was so clear on his direction that he was able to map who and how to influence people to ensure his vision became a reality.

He was able to create a vision/ belief / picture that people could buy into, belief that created a new path to follow. A vision that everyone could sign up too. 

Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.
— Winnie the Pooh

2. He demonstrated leadership in every position he had

Mandela didn’t wait until he was president to practice leadership skills, he defined and practiced those leadership qualities in motivating and mobilising others his whole life. 

3. Leadership starts with understanding yourself first.

One of the most difficult things is not to change society—but to change yourself.
— Mandela

He took time to understand his self awareness, his flaws, how to control his emotions, how to bring out the best of himself. He made himself vulnerable being open and honest about his flaws and failures of his youth. 

4. He choose his mindset 

27 years in prison, predominantly in Robin Island, spending his days breaking rocks apart with small hammer, and nights in his 8 by 8 cell.  You would allow the man to think he was a victim - this isn’t fair, and to have some hatred towards his jailers. Yet he didn’t, instead of hatred he choose to forgive, he had his vision, a bigger plan to work towards and because he focused on that, he had the ability to choose forgiveness. 

5. He choose to listen and work in partnership with others.

If you speak to people that have met Mandela most will say he always asked questions, he was interested in your views and perspective on life.  

He choose to work with people rather than go it alone. 

6. He gave others the credit and protected them in their failures. 

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.
— Mandela

If only our politicians and leaders today had this same sense of leadership, to both allow others the credit and limelight in the good times, and take responsibility when things aren’t going to well. Little empathy, or compassion are demonstrated. 

Are you a leader? 

Here are some traits you may well demonstrate: 

1. You have vision - you can see possibilities / solutions that others don’t. 

2. You don’t wait to be given positions of authority to practice your leadership skills, each and everyday,  wherever you are in your career, you are able to inspire those around you to be better,  regardless of recognition you receive. 

3. Change yourself first - demonstrate vulunability admit your flaws, learn from mistakes, no one is perfect. 

3. Choose growth mindset, don’t feel sorry for yourself or become a victim, rather choose to focus on the things you can control. 

4. You realise its not about you, but about listening and learning from others, influencing others, and giving others the limelight, practicing Unbuntu - doing what you can for the greater good.   

As the week unfolds, try to remember some of the leadership qualities Mandela demonstrated. Don’t copy them, but be challenged by them to tap into your own authentic leadership style. Although maybe we can copy that ever radiant smile.