Sunday, August 17, 2008

The maturation of Mandela: His 8 lessons of leadership

If you haven't yet read Time magazine's article on on Nelson Mandela, it's an impressive recap on Leadership from the man who's now 90 years young. I've listed 3 out of his 8 leadership lessons that I'm most passionate about -- you can read the article and choose your own.

Lesson #1: Courage is not the absence of fear -- it's inspiring others to move beyond it.

That is so true. Often we have to take some action ourselves in order to help others see that it's o.k. And sometimes it requires great faith in ourselves, our abilities, the unknown and a higher spiritual power. One of the best quotes of all time is from Gandhi, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

Lesson #3: Lead from the back -- and let others believe they are in front.

This is a critical leadership lesson. I've seen many leaders make the mistake of always thinking they should be in front instead of drawing out the greatness in others. And they can't even begin to see how and what it costs their companies in terms of creativity, innovation, engagement, speed, client relationships, (I could go on and on). It's like they forget that their role as a leader is to teach and inspire others to lead.

There are two books that I've devoured on this subject, because I felt the authors were humble in their writings, realizing the mistakes they had made and where they had achieved success within their organizations. The first is from Michael Abrashoff, "It's your ship" and the second from Belasco & Stayer, "Flight of the Buffalo." Both books are in my Amazon recommended read list.

Lesson #7: Quitting is leading too.

I don't think we hear this very often in leadership advice but it is good advice to heed. Mandela says, "Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make." And I would add that knowing "when" to equally critical.

His 90th Birthday

Quoted from the end of the article... Ultimately, the key to understanding Mandela is those 27 years in prison. The man who walked onto Robben Island in 1964 was emotional, headstrong, easily stung. The man who emerged was balanced and disciplined. He is not and never has been introspective. I often asked him how the man who emerged from prison differed from the willful young man who had entered it. He hated this question. Finally, in exasperation one day, he said, "I came out mature." There is nothing so rare — or so valuable — as a mature man. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Nelson Mandela is proof that one person can make a difference. Let's never stop asking ourselves, each day and each present moment, how we can make a difference in the lives of others. Be inspired by one man's life.
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