On 18 July every year, the day of his birth, the world takes a moment to honour one of the great leaders of modern times — the late Nelson Mandela.
The former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent decades of his life in service to humanity, from fighting apartheid to striving for peace and freedom.
So in recognition of his impact and legacy, and in conjunction with Nelson Mandela International Day this month, here are seven lessons from the man affectionately known as “Madiba“, which are sure to inspire us to lead and be better, in both business and our personal lives.
Mandela’s approach to life up to the day of his demise in 2013 was always that change is possible. And the lessons above prove that with determination, resolve, and the right attitude, we are all capable of effecting change, both for ourselves and those who rely on us.
Close to a decade since he left us, the great Nelson Mandela continues to inspire the world to do and be better. Here are some invaluable lessons on effecting positive change and looking to tomorrow from the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate, equal rights icon and former South African president.
1. Pick yourself up
Failure is part and parcel of life and work. Yet leadership often means dusting oneself off and vowing to go again. The road towards an equal and just South Africa, for example, was frequently paved with potholes. Nevertheless, Mandela’s message was always: keep fighting.
2. Look to the sun
It’s easy to lose hope when times are rough. And indeed, by his own admission, there were many instances when Mandiba found his faith tested. Nevertheless, he always chose to be the captain of his destiny and look forward to brighter days. Remember, part of leadership is the ability to look beyond one’s current predicament.
3. Choose Integrity
There are many ways to succeed in both life and business. But to truly make a difference, leaders must strive to be honest and, above all, ethical. Yes, profit is an important aspect of the business. Yet, as Mandela showed in words and action, it is integrity and not material gains that will earn leaders the respect of peers and even rivals.
4. Lift others up
Mandiba could have taken the easy way out numerous times and focused simply on his and his family’s well-being. Instead, he believed that every leader is duty-bound to support others in the pursuit of their dreams. As he said: freedom means “to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. The same goes for business.
5. Find the middle ground
Compromise doesn’t mean conceding one’s principles. Even so, in attempting to instil common goals and foster team spirit, leaders must learn how to strike a balance between competing viewpoints. Mandela, in leading South Africa, often found that compromise means giving and taking, and finding win-win solutions to problems.
6. Forgive and move on
It’s easy to respond in anger and resentment when one feels hard done by. But by forgiving those who had wronged him, the man who was imprisoned for 27 long years proved that it is far more constructive to put hurts behind us. Always remember that growth is about moving forward, not looking back in anger.
7. Embrace change
The early days of Mandela’s presidency were trying and showed that change could be messy and sometimes fraught with challenges. Nevertheless, it also proved that agility is a key component of leadership and that the best leaders are those who are open to change and ready to roll with the punches.