The life of Nelson Mandela is full of lessons on leadership such that it is a learning experience picking out five important lessons. These qualify to be our top five learning lessons on leadership from Nelson Mandela.
1. Don’t hold people to ransom
Nelson Mandela spent almost three decades in prison due to an unfair system. As soon as he was out of prison he became the first President of South Africa in the post apartheid era. Instead of begrudging the world and holding the South African economy and society to ransom for compensation of the time he spent in prison, Nelson did not ask for more than one term neither did he demand wealth as a compensation. This for us is the number one leadership lesson. A lot of leaders think leadership is a compensation for their suffering yet leadership is an opportunity and honor to serve.
2. Serve first to deserve respect
The second lesson is service. A lot of leaders demand respect before they serve their people, hence they demand big houses, cars, and packages before they even do anything of note. If a leader is going to be great then they must serve first before they can demand respect. As a leader you cannot build a legacy by demanding respect, but legacy can only be built by serving excellently.
3. Lead all people and not a section of people
The greatest mistake leaders make is becoming leaders of a section. If you are elected by a political party, region, race or section of the population it does not mean those are the people you show favoritism to. A leader is a leader of all people, if elected by Republicans then you are a leader of the entire country including Democrats. There must be no exception. Nelson Mandela by embracing rugby at the rugby world cup created a rainbow nation.
4. Don’t be petty be a leader
When a leader tries to micro-manage a country then they create favoritism in which everyone clamors to be in their favour. A leader must build an honest transparent system which respects the rights of all the people. Being petty and trying to rule every little thing creates a bottleneck leadership which destroys trust in any form of leadership.
5. Know your time and boundary
Nelson Mandela could easily have led for ten years but he chose one term as president. The temptation is always to think that because you are good today then you are still needed tomorrow. Yes people may need you but allow for them to need you at the right level. Allow for others to be groomed and be leaders as well. We all have limits. Each period of time requires different types of leaders, some periods call for revolutionary leaders, some periods call for economic leaders, some require military leaders and other types.