Truly Inspired Leadership

 In Team Performance

Truly Inspired Leadership

I was excited recently when a client challenged me by asking: “Who do you think best epitomizes the kind of leader that we all would like to emulate?”

That’s a wonderful question to think about. The person who stands out unequivocally for me is Nelson Mandela. He has brought so much light to this world when he had plenty of reasons to choose darkness. All of his actions speak clearly to leadership by showing courage, fortitude, resilience, humility and humor. And most of all, I love the positive legacy he has created.  Nelson Mandela is a real inspiration for us all.

After I was asked this question, I decided to read some of his writings. That’s when I discovered how aligned Mandela is with the leading with Y.E.S. principles that I advocate. I want to share with you some of his words and the lessons that I discovered.

Six Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

1. Focus on your goals. Mandela showed us how to carry on in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems. You have important things to accomplish now!  Please don’t tell me you can’t get anything done because your boss (coworker, business partner) creates obstacles for you. Stop make excuses and start doing.

“I am fundamentally an optimist…Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.” 

2. Smile and be positive. Mandela has a smile that lights up this world. And it’s so much more than an expression on his face. It emanates from a deep and undying spirit of hope. Share your smile with your closest allies and those you fear. You’ll be all the more powerful for it.

Photo by Yousuf Karsh - http://karsh.orgPhoto Credit: © Yousuf Karsh:

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.” 

3. Have an open mind. Mandela showed us that peace is only achieved when we are willing to ask, hear and truly listen to another’s story. Don’t sit back and complain about how wrong someone else is, find your peace within. Listen to their story. Be willing to change your own story. You’ll be amazed at the results.

“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.”

4. Dream big and act on it. Mandela didn’t let fear drown out his unrelenting hope that all people in South Africa could be free. Set your fears aside except to those closest to you and dare to be grand and fabulous. Inspire others to do the same. Everyone is watching your moves too. Make them all believe your vision will happen.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

5. Nurture positive relationships in unlikely places.Mandela tried to understand the Afrikaner, those that had been against him. He learned how to speak Afrikaans. He learned the nuances of Rugby, the Afrikaner’s favorite sport. Don’t put distance between yourself and those who aren’t on your side–learn about them-and from them. Try to understand how they see the world.  It can make all the difference in creating a more productive and enjoyable working environment.

“We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” 

6. Create a meaningful legacy. Mandela took a stand for a singular change and kept at it over decades against all odds. He rose above criticism and defeat with grace, determination and integrity. He united a nation and inspired the world. What is your legacy? And the style with which you will achieve it?

Positive Vision…Positive Action…Positive Results

As amazing as his life has been, what is more remarkable to me is how Mandela accomplished what he did. He has been a model of true leadership every step of the way. I get goose bumps thinking about how his philosophy reinforces my own story, values and optimism.

I encourage you to use Mandela’s nuggets of wisdom to enhance your life and to enliven your leadership.

Here’s to Nelson Mandela in his 95th year!