Today South Africa and the world wakes up differently. Today, we honor one of the greatest leaders of our time; we honor the life and contribution of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
I once had the privilege to meet alone with Madiba and talk with him, and like many (if not all) who met him it was a profoundly memorable experience, made so by his gentleness, wisdom, humility and his presence.
There will be an outpouring of grief, remembrance and celebration for him around the world, but as someone who has worked with many leaders and taught, supported and encouraged many to become leaders I feel compelled to acknowledge the man who has given us one of the greatest examples of leadership in the last century.
What he offers us is an example of how to dance with complexity. The social, economic and political forces in South Africa leading to the end of apartheid and the years of Mandela’s presidency were enormously complex and out there on the edge of chaos. But it was Mandela’s absolutely uncompromising values, his timing of key decisions, driven by the principles of reconciliation and power sharing and an unswerving vision on a future of racial harmony that in my mind made him an outstanding leader.
Much has been written about him and much will no doubt continue to be written. Analysis of his qualities and approaches to leadership and bringing about change will continue. I remember him saying that he was not special or outstanding.
Someone delivered a eulogy this morning for my dear friend and inspiration Helen Bryant. She described Helen as passionate, accepting, committed, non-judgmental, visionary, a person who transcended age, social background and race. She could have been describing Nelson Mandela; there is a small part of him in everyone who shows courage and leadership when combined with forgiveness.
For me his words, “It always seems impossible until it’s done” epitomizes the nature of the man and his leadership. And although today I feel sad, I also feel like celebrating his life and that of my friend Helen.
Nelson Mandela will continue to provide inspiration for me as a person and in my work and I truly hope he does for you as well.
CEO: Dalmau Consulting