Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela

A few years ago, when Nelson Mandela turned 90 years old, Time magazine featured the statesman on its cover, and printed Mr. Mandela’s 8 lessons of leadership.   If you haven’t read the article, take a moment and click on the link – it’s worth a few minutes of your time to read the stories that accompany the lessons from this great leader.  This is a great example of packaging one’s life experiences into a few concise lessons that will likely stand the test of time.

Reading the article again, I was reminded of an exercise that I’ve used in numerous leadership programs.  Whether you are 10 years into your career or had the remarkable experiences that Nelson Mandela had in his life, try this: look back on your career, and craft your leadership lessons from your experiences.  What has stuck with you?  What did you learn from good or poor managers?  How do blend your life lessons with your work experience?  What advice would you give a young manager who wants to know how to effectively lead others?  Grab a pen and a piece of paper and see what comes to mind – don’t worry about it being perfect; just jot down what you’ve learned about leadership.

Obviously, Mr. Mandela’s lessons were drawn from a very unique life.  While most of us won’t even come close to achieving what Mandela did in his career, we each have our own unique view on the topic of leadership.  Plato said: “the life unexamined is not worth living.”  Take Plato’s advice and reflect on your life and work career and craft your own lessons of leadership.  And then, don’t keep them to yourself – get out there and start sharing your lessons.