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Exemplification of Leadership Nelson Mandela

"He was a role model unlike our leaders of today," said Annah Khokhozela, a nanny, a commoner from Johannesburg, hours after the death of South Africa's first Black President and antiapartheid icon, Nelson Mandela. If the news of Mr. Mandela's death brought similar sentiments to you as Annah Khokhozela, chances are that you are just one among millions feeling the same. Such reverence was seldom given to even many popular leaders of the past and the lesser said the better about our current crop of leaders. Among the many attributes that make Mandela a role model, the most striking feature has been his compelling leadership ability.

Is it right to gauge corporate leaders with the same scale as one would gauge a political leader? If we understand leadership as explained by John. C. Maxwell "Leadership is Influence, nothing more and nothing less"*, then it is a fair call to say 'yes'.

The essence of leadership in corporate lies in the ability to balance 'the sensitivity to personal needs of the people you lead' and 'the urgency to accomplish tasks effectively to achieve business goals'. In Mandela's own words "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination". This fine ability to balance the two is what creates the leadership of Nelson Mandela. It is almost never inculcated by management degree programs. On the contrary the pace that is set by Leaders to achieve business goals leaves them with no opportunity to exercise their 'good heart' (if at all they have one). Even so let's admit many Leaders do manage to achieve their goals but the people who were with the leader at the start of the journey very rarely get to see the finish line.

That brings us to the next question, "Should we consider a Leader a success if he achieves business goals but fails to ensure his people cross the line as well?" I think not. To call yourself a successful leader one needs to imbibe what Mr. Mandela epitomised - "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."

Finally, whether one grows as a Leader or stagnates with just a singular accomplishment or two is determined by the Leader's character. It is the character that sets a Leader apart. It is the character that will inspire, motivate and change others, long after you are gone. Former South African White President, FW de Klerk had this to say about Nelson Mandela - "a remarkable lack of bitterness". South African President Jacob Zuma says, "We saw in him what we seek in ourselves" In fact Nelson Mandela's own idea of a good leader, best describes his character - "A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed".


Exemplification of leadership- Nelson Mandela  
Exemplification of leadership- Nelson Mandela