11 Leadership Qualities of Nelson Mandela

Copyright Skip Prichard

Visiting Robben Island

I didn’t quite know what to expect.

 

I wasn’t sure what I would feel, what I would see, or what I would learn.

Earlier this year, I was visiting Cape Town, South Africa and had the opportunity to visit Robben Island.  Robben Island has been a prison for over 400 years.

 

“One of the most difficult things is not to change society but to change yourself.” -Nelson Mandela

 

Today it is most famous as the place where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 years in prison.  As a student of great leaders and an admirer of Nelson Mandela’s leadership, I knew that this visit was a must.

 

A Moving Experience

 

After a brief ferry ride, we boarded a bus to tour Robben Island.

photo-38One of the stops was at the limestone quarry where prisoners toiled in the hot sun.  The work damaged Nelson Mandela’s lungs and also his eyes.  His tear ducts were damaged, preventing him from ever crying again.

Visible in the background is a cave.  This cave was used as a bathroom and the guards almost never approached it.  Our tour guide explained that the cave became a great place of learning and exchanging information.  Some say it held the most important political meetings of the time.

We later drove to the prison where we met our prison tour guide, Ntando Mbatha.  Ntando was a prisoner for seven years at Robben Island.  His story was moving.  Hearing him explain the conditions of the prison first hand will be forever etched in my mind.

I followed him to the cell of Nelson Mandela.  It was small, roughly 7×9.  A thin mat lay in the corner.  It was stark.  There was an unmistakable feeling I cannot quite explain throughout the entire cellblock.

That day, I learned more about the many heroes who fought against apartheid.  Some beaten.  Some killed.

Seeing this all in person increased my admiration for Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela Cell

 

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” –Nelson Mandela

 

Qualities of an Extraordinary Leader

 

Nelson Mandela demonstrated remarkable leadership qualities:

Leading With Others in Mind

 

Who do you think of when you think of a servant leader
What are the traits of a servant leader?
Is it possible for an entire organization to have these characteristics?

 

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I love to watch baseball.  Live, up close:  Hearing the “thwack!” of the bat making contact, feeling the crowd take a collective breath as a ball heads for the outfield, peering through the dust to see if the runner made it to home plate.  There is something incredibly different about being there versus watching it on television.  It’s just not the same reading about the game in the newspaper the next morning.

 

“Servant leaders give more in value than they receive.” -Skip Prichard

 

Make the Choice to Learn

When I was young, I had the extraordinary opportunity to watch a different game.  It was also live and up close.  It was servant leadership at home.  My parents literally took people in from all walks of life, individuals who needed a place to heal for all sorts of reasons.  That childhood experience taught me the incredible lessons of a servant leader.  There’s nothing better than watching servant leaders in action, in person, live in the game.

It was early in my life when I started studying leadership.  Attending seminars and listening to teaching became a success habit.  Even more importantly, I realized what I didn’t know, what I had to learn, what I was missing.  I became determined to learn from those who were further along the leadership journey than I was.  Because of this, I began to seek out leaders and ask them questions.

What I’ve learned is that learning is a choice.  The most successful people I meet are constantly learning.  They realize that they don’t have all the answers.

 

“Servant leaders have your best interest in mind.” -Skip Prichard

 

Look for Opportunities to Learn and Share

I’ve run a few global companies and, as the CEO, have hit home runs and have also struck out.  Still, I’m always excited to keep improving my game.  The learning continues.

Launching this blog a few years ago, I decided to share what I am learning from my own experiences, from books I read, and from thought leaders in many industries.  Many of you have said these articles have helped you, but the real beneficiary has been me.  I learn to be a better leader every time I share one of these ideas.  And I also learn from your comments and engagement and the relationships I have established online.

Leaders realize that sharing and giving to others paves the way for more opportunities.  It reinforces ideas and opens unexpected doors.

Today I want to share a new resource.  It’s my free e-book, Servant Leadership: Leading With Others in Mind.  It is free to anyone who signs up on our e-mail list.  (Note: I will never sell your e-mail address.)  Signing up for these posts will help you become a more widely read, more informed leader.

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“A servant leader cultivates a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Servant leaders are not doormats, nor do they take on all of the work.” -Skip Prichard

 

“A servant leader takes care of himself in order to take care of others.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Servant leaders do not falsely take credit nor practice fake modesty.” -Skip Prichard

 

“A servant leader often realizes that she benefits as much from giving as the receiver.” -Skip Prichard

 

 

9 C’s of Lincoln’s Leadership

Photo by netdance on flickr.

When it was in the theatres, I watched the extraordinary movie Lincoln.  Rarely do I watch a movie a second time, but I’m such an admirer of President Lincoln that I couldn’t wait for its video release.  My family watched it last weekend.  To me, the acting is so perfect that I feel like I am truly watching Lincoln himself.

There are thousands of articles and books about Lincoln.  As I watched the movie, I noted some of his attributes for achieving his goals.  The movie was primarily focused on Lincoln’s goal to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  Throughout the fight in the House of Representatives, Lincoln was:

1.  Committed.  He was willing to risk his reputation to do what was right.

2.  Clever.  How he won votes in the House of Representatives is part of the story that intrigues me.

3.  Calm.  In the midst of incomprehensible stress, Abraham Lincoln was calm.  He would tell a story, a joke, or quietly sit by himself.

4.  Compromising.  He didn’t compromise his values, but he understood the political necessities and how to negotiate in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Lead With Friendship (Bread)

 

When we first moved to Nashville, someone gave us a “starter” for Amish Friendship Bread.

It looked like a Ziplock bag of liquid glue.  It came with instructions.  It was the “starter” for Friendship Bread.  Follow the instructions and mix in other ingredients, and you will end up with magnificent dessert-like bread.

We loved it.

And my wife loves to bake, too.

When you bake this bread, you end up with more of the “starter” mixture.  It seemed to be a mixture of yeast, flour and sugar.  Before long, my wife was baking this bread as if our kitchen was a commercial bakery.

If you visited our house to change the locks, you walked out with Friendship Bread.  Same for the plumber, the handyman, the electrician and the alarm salesman.  Basically, if you walked within one hundred yards of our house, you were going home with Friendship Bread.

 

 

Still, it kept growing.  Our kitchen counters were literally overflowing with this stuff.

Until, one day, we had enough.  My wife gave all the starters away, and we were finished.

(I’m not sure how much weight I gained during this period, but it was worth it.)

Friendship Bread really was named perfectly.  It was a great gift, a good conversation starter, and who wouldn’t immediately like someone giving them homemade bread?

The experience is a good lesson for leaders:

 

Leaders Give With No Expectation of Anything in Return

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader

Photo by Michael W. May on flickr.

Leading With Others in Mind

At first blush, you may think a servant leader literally takes on the role of a servant. Taken to an extreme, that definition would look like this:

As you pull into work, the leader meets you at your car, opens your door, and welcomes you to the office.  Maybe the leader gets you coffee mid-morning and drops by in the afternoon to see if you need anything.  When you need assistance on a project, or maybe just someone to do the grunt work, there your leader is, waiting for you.

No, that isn’t servant leadership.

 

“Servant leaders lead with others in mind.” -Skip Prichard

 

Servant leadership is a blend and balance between leader and servant. You don’t lose leadership qualities when becoming a servant leader.

A servant leader is one who:

1. Values diverse opinions.

A servant leader values everyone’s contributions and regularly seeks out opinions.  If you must parrot back the leader’s opinion, you are not in a servant-led organization.

 

“Servant leaders regularly seek out opinions.” -Skip Prichard

 

2. Cultivates a culture of trust.

People don’t meet at the water cooler to gossip. Pocket vetoes are rejected.

 

“Servant leaders cultivate a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard

 

3.  Develops other leaders.

 

The replication factor is so important.  It means teaching others to lead, providing opportunities for growth and demonstrating by example.  That means the leader is not always leading, but instead giving up power and deputizing others to lead.

 

“Servant leaders give up power and deputize others to lead.” -Skip Prichard

 

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4.  Helps people with life issues (not just work issues).

It’s important to offer opportunities for personal development beyond the job.  Let’s say you run a company program to lose weight, or lower personal debt, or a class on etiquette.  None of these may help an immediate corporate need, but each may be important.