Leadership Lessons I learned from Mandela

Nelson MANDELA'S CELLI have traveled and lived all over the world. Whenever people ask me the question “where are you from?” I stop and think about it for a minute before I give my answer.

My parents were missionaries so I was born in Zimbabwe, I hold a US passport, I grew up in South Africa, I attended schools in five different countries and I now live in Paraguay. However nine times out of ten when people ask me where I am from, I proudly respond “I’m from South Africa”. One of the reasons I proudly say that I am from this sub-Saharan African country is because of its rich history of struggle, strife, triumph and freedom and at center of this history of which I was a part of lies a great leader named Nelson Mandela.

Few people will ever walk this earth that will measure up to the caliber of Nelson “Madiba” Mandela. I grew up in South Africa right at the time Mandela was in his last years in prison up until his release and presidency.

I can honestly say that though Madiba was not part of my real family he was more than family to all South Africans, and this is something that I truly felt. He is affectionately called “Tata” by many South Africans, which means grandfather.

I intensely felt the influence and leadership of Madiba during my school years. I attended an all-white school and lived in a white neighborhood, but all of my best friends were black and the church where my father was a pastor was mixed with all races. This caused me, my family and friends to face discrimination. However because of Madiba’s leadership I experienced the change that took place in South Africa, where he untied a divided people and gave us all hope for a great future.

Mandela led with love, humility, forgiveness and compassion; he was a true example of what leadership is. Who else can come out of 27 years in prison, forgive, love and then work with the same people that locked him up? Here are some simple yet great leadership lessons that we can learn from Mandela:
1. It is better to love than to hate; hate cannot make things right, only love can do that.
2. It is better to forgive than to seek revenge; seeking revenge burns down all everybody’s house.
3. It is better to be humble than to seek recognition; be humble to the point that when the people you lead look at their accomplishments they say “We did it ourselves”.
4. It is better to listen than to speak; there is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth, you never learn anything by speaking.
5. It is better to leave a legacy than to leave a treasury; material possessions and money are gone in an instant, love and legacy last forever.
Last year South Africa lost its father and the world a great leader, but heaven gained an angel and a legacy has been left that should we honor and follow this legacy, we will all become great leaders ourselves and make this world a better place.

I leave you with a final great thought from Mandela:

“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.”

About the Author

TimoTimo is a leadership and success coach living in Paraguay. Timo and his team conduct workshops and events that include such leadership greats like John Maxwell and Robin Sharma.