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:

13 Inspirational Quotes by Nelson Mandela

Today the world says goodbye to Nelson Mandela.  He once said that “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”  May he rest in peace.

The man who spent 27 years in prison for opposing apartheid before becoming the President of South Africa inspired millions around the world.  Here are 13 inspiring quotes that remind us of his spirit.


Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. –Nelson Mandela


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


It’s not where you start but how high you aim that matters for success. –Nelson Mandela


Lead from the back, and let others believe they are in front. –Nelson Mandela


Where you stand depends on where you sit. –Nelson Mandela


Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world. –Nelson Mandela


For to be free is to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. –Nelson Mandela


Tread softly; breathe peacefully; laugh hysterically. –Nelson Mandela


Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. –Nelson Mandela


Quitting is leading too. –Nelson Mandela


Remember to smile. –Nelson Mandela


After climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb. –Nelson Mandela


I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. -Nelson Mandela


And one more:

“Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” –Nelson Mandela