There is no shortage of books, no shortage of articles, no shortage of videos, on the remarkable and extraordinary lifestyle of Madiba Nelson Mandela, Africa’s greatest leadership and political icon.
There is more to Mandela life that we have to embrace. Humanity requires the injection of Mandela leadership DNA in our mentality if we have to pursue dreams of our choice.
In the midst of hatred, Mandela teaches us tolerance. Significantly, Mandela’s life is a great teaching for a life that stands on values no matter what. What is right should always be right and advocated as being right despite the wishes of other people to devalue it.
When he was being charged with treason, Mandela had this to say: “During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. 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.”
The question is, do we have ideals which are in the interest of uplifting lives of other people such that we are ready to die for them?
The Mandela philosophy we have to live calls for authenticity. One of the world’s renowned leadership guru, Rene Carayol, says that business leaders can take steps to encourage authenticity in the workplace – and, in the process, show their own authentic selves . By encouraging people, stresses Carayol, to be whom they truly are, and by welcoming differences, leaders create a more supportive, productive work environment. Employees then become more engaged and willing to take risks. They channel their energy into innovation, which inevitably benefits the company.
We are unable to lead authentically as we let the past walk with us to the future. Because we failed at one point then we think that we can fail again. Despite the seemingly impenetratable hopelessness of never being released from jail, Mandela kept on believing and never allowed his past to blind the path of his dreams. It is not surprising, therefore, that he forgave his jail guards and had dinner with them. The journey is lighter, Mandela says, when you learn not to carry your past with you.
Life will always be hard with us. Not everybody will ever agree with us. Some decisions taken may throw us in the jail of disappointment and abandonment but we should never give up in realising our dream. Business may seem to be falling, academic opportunities may seem to be dwindling, the economic situation may seem to be sliding into a quagmire but we should consider that to be the 27 years of Mandela jail term. There has always to be optimism that the 27 years shall come to an end and glory shall reign.
We may not all remember every word Mandela said but most remember how he made them feel. When he arrived at a rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand, he entrenched in the people that rugby was no longer a game of the oppressors but a uniting factor. It is always said not many people will always remember whatever you may say but they will remember how you made them feel. This entails that we have a positive touch with all people we come across. This entails that our presence in the midst of people should be a signal of hope and progress than lamentations and tears.
In unmasking the Mandela leadership style, the big question becomes, what do you stand for? Mandela stood for the liberation of people from the tyranny of white domination. He stood for a life of equality. As a leader in your own right, what do you stand for? If you are fighting corruption, are you not silently being involved? Are you not just an anti-corruption campaigner all just because you do not have the opportunity to be corrupted? Do your words and deeds match? How do people know you?
It is what we do in our unguarded moments that matter most as that is exactly what we are. We should run away from the conference mentality of presenting magnificent papers on matters that we least apply. It is just for the delight of the ears, the chewing gum of the ears.
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