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7 Great Lessons of Leadership from Nelson Mandela

By Danel Homméus on September 29, 2013 in The 4 Ps, Wisdom of Quotes
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Nelson it always seems

Before digging into these seven great lessons, let me share with you a short bio of this great leader:

Nelson Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on 18 July, 1918. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance after 1948 against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies before his arrest in August of 1962.

He was sentenced repeatedly and served time in several prisons, including Robben Island and Pollsmoor (1663-1982). Released from prison in 1990, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993; later in 1994, he was elected president of South Africa.

And these 7 leadership lessons are:

1-On education: a great weapon

“Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” —Nelson Mandela

I am starting with this quote from Nelson Mandela: it is a great lesson from someone who went from being in jail to later becoming president. He knows the power of education and how this powerful weapon helped him to negotiate with his opponents to end the inhuman system known as “apartheid.” Anyone who wants to thrive in their field of choice should heed his words. Education is the means for reaching your goals. However, along with the minds of the great masters like Mandela, there are people you interact with on a daily basis. Mandela used the power of education to reach the top and become one the greatest leaders of our time. What about you?

You don’t need to wait until everything is in place in order to start your life: a journey of ten miles begins with just one step.

2On the past: don’t live in it

“Forget the past.” —Nelson Mandela

Among the seven lessons, this one seems to be the most difficult for people. Living in the past makes one suffer for nothing. Why? I know it can be hard to forget the past, but it is in fact dead. Chances are that delving into the past is where you spend your longest hours of meditation. You probably blame whatever doesn’t go well in your life on whatever happened to you. From this perspective, like it or not, your past plays a key role in making you depressed and deflated. Let me ask you: is it this the kind of life you want? No, no! You deserve a better life and you have to actively choose the kind of life you want.

I recently bought a book by James Altucher, Chose Yourself!, on Amazon Kindle and I avidly read it in a few hours. The author, who lost millions of dollars and went broke several times, has decided finally to choose himself. To reach this turning point, you have to live in the present and strive to illuminate your personal path in order to build a bright, new world from the wreckage of the old.

3-On courage: learn to be courageous

“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.” —Nelson Mandela

Courage is not defined as living without fear: courage is a virtue you learn to cultivate. I haven’t met anyone who was born fearless. The attainment of strength and courage takes a long period of practice and discipline.

Today you might feel a lack of courage and want to escape from your responsibilities rather than face them head on. To combat this feeling, there’s something you absolutely must do. Opting to train yourself to be courageous will certainly pay off in the long run. How can you do it? Here are two suggestions from Psychology Today by Dr. Richard Zinbarg:

a)      We cannot be courageous or strong in situations in which we have no fear or anxiety whatsoever.

b)      Prepare for potential outcomes and accept your results.

4-On life: dream big

“There is no passion to be found playing small-and settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” —Nelson Mandela

In Creole there’s a well-known quote that says: when you create a dream, dream a cow instead of a cabrit.” This means that your dreams should be bigger than you can imagine —a great tactic for bringing animation and goal orientation into your life. Your life will be challenging, yes, but the effort you put in is well worth your time.

Here is another important point about creating the best outcomes in your life: “the more precisely and positively you can define what you want, and the more you program your brain to seek out and notice possibilities, the more likely you are to get what you want.” (Introducing NLP, O’Connor and Seymour)

5-On harmony: combine perfectly your heart and your head

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” –Nelson Mandela

Today in the internet age, more than ever before the world seems separated into two kinds of people: passionate people on one side (who primarily use their hearts to make decisions) and rational people on the other (who primarily use evidence and solid proof in order to decide). You have to create a proper balance and avoid being too much on one side or another. Remember that you are a human being living among other people like yourself—you don’t live in the clouds. You will thrive if you use your heart and your head properly: it is a sign of intelligence in this fast-paced world.

6-On money: find your passion

“Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.” —Nelson Mandela

For someone who lived so long in prison, Mandela knows a great deal about freedom, its importance and value. For someone who was the president of Africa and received so many people from around the world, he also knows a great deal about reaching success while still staying passionate. Today, you have a choice to make.

Let me ask you: how can you reach success and still be free? Strikingly, it’s sad to see how people in the pursuit of their dreams and goals become so enslaved. You won’t reach the point of freedom, even when you make your dreams come true, if you haven’t preset a framework for it. You have to feel and enjoy this freedom every day; and if this is not the case, then there is something about your plan that needs to change. As the captain of the ship of life, take a step back to reevaluate the plan or even completely change it if you see fit. In the end, success will not serve you well if you become enslaved.  

7-Make thing happened: be actionable

It always seems impossible until it’s done.” —Nelson Mandela

Do you have something you care so much about that you can’t sleep? Have you ever wanted to realize something but it keeps you fully awake day in and day out? If you’re a big dreamer, you know what I’m talking about. The good news is that the world is made for dreamers; and if you’re one of them, you are on a good side. Being a dreamer is a part of becoming successful, but you also need to have a plan and actionable strategies to stay on track: they will ultimately lead you to achieve your goals.

Remember that action speaks way louder than words.

So take action, follow a step-by-step plan, stay focused, be persistent, surround yourself with like-minded people, and you will make a difference. 

We, human beings, need warm connections to feel alive. Let’s connect on TWITTER to be notified of other interesting articles that might benefit you: @danel209.

I would be pleased to connect with you on Linkedin, too.

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Photo credit: Red Touch Media, Flickr

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About the Author

Danel HomméusView all posts by Danel Homméus


Danel is the author of the book The 4 Ps: How these Four Pillars of Success Will Change Your Life. He is someone who devotes himself in inspiring and helping amazing people like you find their true inner drives.
Follow Danel on Twitter to be notified of other great articles: @danel209

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