Leadership Lessons From Nelson Mandela

December 7, 2013 by
Sinead O'Shaughnessy

Nelson Mandela, anti-Apartheid icon, South Africa’s first black president and Nobel Prize winner, died yesterday at the age of 95.  He will be remembered in history as one of the most remarkable men who ever lived.  There was so much courage, sacrifice, humility and wisdom in his life – characteristics that have much to teach us and the generations to come.

I’m a project manager and team leader, and today as I reflect on his passing I am especially motivated by the lessons his life teaches me about leadership.  And I find inspiration in Mandela’s own words of wisdom.

Conquer Your Fears

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Lead From the Back

“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.”

Have a Core Principle

“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.”

Know Your Enemy

“Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport.”

Always Look the Part

“Appearances matter — and remember to smile.”

Persevere

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

Know When to Stop

“Quitting is leading too.”

 Walk Tall

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all.”

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013.  Rest in Peace.