His 8 Lessons of Leadership

Based on

Richard Stengel's Time Magazine Article, Mandela: His 8 Lessons Of Leadership.

Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership

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

"I can't pretend that I'm brave and that I can beat the whole world." But as a leader, you cannot let people know. "You must put up a front." He knew that he was a model for others, and that gave him the strength to triumph over his own fear.

2. Lead from the front - but don't leave your base behind

For Mandela, refusing to negotiate was about tactics, not principles. Throughout

his life, he has always made that distinction. His unwavering principle — the

overthrow of apartheid and the achievement of one man, one vote — was

immutable, but almost anything that helped him get to that goal he regarded as a

tactic. He is the most pragmatic of idealists.

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

Mandela loved to reminisce about his boyhood and his lazy afternoons herding

cattle. "You know," he would say, "you can only lead them from behind." He

would then raise his eyebrows to make sure I got the analogy. The trick of

leadership is allowing yourself to be led too. "It is wise," he said, "to persuade

people to do things and make them think it was their own idea."

4. Know your enemy - and learn about his favorite sport

As far back as the 1960s, Mandela began studying Afrikaans, the language of the

white South Africans who created apartheid. His comrades in the ANC teased

him about it, but he wanted to understand the Afrikaner's worldview; he knew

that one day he would be fighting them or negotiating with them, and either way,

his destiny was tied to theirs. He even brushed up on his knowledge of rugby, the

Afrikaners' beloved sport, so he would be able to compare notes on teams and


5. Keep your friends close - and your rivals even closer

Mandela is a man of invincible charm — and he has often used that charm to

even greater effect on his rivals than on his allies. He cherished loyalty, but he

was never obsessed by it. After all, he used to say, "people act in their own

interest." It was simply a fact of human nature, not a flaw or a defect. The flip

side of being an optimist — and he is one — is trusting people too much. But

Mandela recognized that the way to deal with those he didn't trust was to

neutralize them with charm.

6. Appearances matter - and remember to smile

When Mandela was running for the presidency in 1994, he knew that symbols

mattered as much as substance. He was never a great public speaker, and people

often tuned out what he was saying after the first few minutes. But more

important was that dazzling, beatific, all-inclusive smile. For white South

Africans, the smile symbolized Mandela's lack of bitterness and suggested that he

was sympathetic to them. To black voters, it said, I am the happy warrior, and we

will triumph.

7. Nothing is black or white

Mandela is comfortable with contradiction. As a politician, he was a pragmatist

who saw the world as infinitely nuanced. Every problem has many causes.

Mandela's calculus was always, What is the end that I seek, and what is the most

practical way to get there?

8. Quitting is leading too

Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most

difficult kind of decision a leader has to make. He knows that leaders lead as

much by what they choose not to do as what they do.