Leadership thoughts on Mandela Day

As I read about the life of Nelson Mandela, there wells in my soul a strong sense of warmth, courage and admiration.

Today, I thought about what I could do on Mandela Day – a wonderful concept, which has as its slogans, “Take Action; Inspire Change; Make Every Day a Mandela Day”, “Service to one’s fellow human” and “Make Every Day A Mandela Day

Well, the first step I took was to register on the site: http://www.mandeladay.com/ which has great causes for one to get involved in to make a difference.

The key is to use one’s talents, interests and resources in a way that will resonate with you. Part of mine is learning and teaching on the subject of leadership. I believe that everything happens, and changes, because of leadership. And Nelson Mandela is just an inspiring example – certainly the most admired and loved contemporary leader.

These are some thoughts, which may inspire you to lead and take initiative.



1. Leadership defined

There are many thoughts on this subject and many contemporary books with similar and different views. I embrace a commonly accepted definition to build further ideologies upon:

“Leadership is the ability to influence a group towards a common purpose”

It is an ability, which means that even the best of the best can continuously learn, develop and be coached in. The best are always open to improving.  Leadership is about influence, which means that we can teach/ share, develop relationships or choose to model or live by example. I am fond of the lesson that “we must teach and if necessary use words”. An important competent in being able to influence depends on the power or power base we possess. Most people have power because of “what we have” that others need (dependence). Great leaders influence because of “who they are”. If we want to know the extent of our leadership, examine your follower base. Remember the old saying, “He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following is merely taking a walk”

Leadership requires ultimately a cause, one that is worthy, stirs and gives direction. These can be interpreted in formulating mission, vision and values statements.

2. Leadership traits

Leadership traits are a tricky topic. There are many articles and research on what constitutes common leadership traits. If one asserts: forward looking, visionary, intelligence, honesty and passion – there can be fierce debates and cases to counter particular points. One cannot not observe how ‘bad and evil’ leaders have followers and influence. Certainly, most will reason, that moral and ethical leadership is preferred and mutually beneficial.

Honourable leaders aspire to some of the following moral traits:

  1. Effective Persuasion
  2. Kindness
  3. Teachable and Humble
  4. Patience
  5. Knowledge
  6. Discipline
  7. Consistency
  8. Integrity
  9. Courage
  10. Consideration

Great leaders have character, and these are traits learned and developed through learning, error, self awareness and self acceptance.

3. The Courage of Mandela

In February 1985 President P.W. Botha offered Mandela his freedom on condition that he ‘unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon’. Leading ministers had advised P. W. Botha against this, saying that Mandela would never commit his organisation to giving up the armed struggle in exchange for personal freedom. Mandela indeed spurned the offer, releasing a statement via his daughter Zindzi saying “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”

Nelson Mandela could have been a free man much earlier, but his reasoning was ‘how free would I be?’ It takes courage and consideration to think beyond our own selfish and immediate gratification but rather for others and greater good of all.

And on the contrary, leadership can also be lonely: when the voice of the masses is greater than the inner voice of reason and wisdom. It takes discipline and honour to subordinate to values and ideals than the roar of the masses. Indeed, “if you want to lead an orchestra, we must turn our back on the audience”.



1. The Power Principle – Blaine Lee (2007)

2. www.wikipedia.org  – “Nelson Mandela”

3. Mandela Day website – www.mandeladay.org

This article was written by Anil Salick on the 18th of July 2011.


Anil Salick

Anil Salick

Strategist, Facilitator, Coach, Writer. Shares about inspiration, leadership, critical thinking, fun, sports and current events.