Leadership lessons from the life of Nelson Mandela


Nelson Mandela
Illustration by Manas Maisnam courtesy Kanglaonline.com

On 18th of July, in the year 1918,  Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo in South Africa, who grew up to be anti apartheid revolutionary, served as the President  of South Africa and became a great champion of humanity for the world.

Here are some quotes from Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations


On life

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.

On death

Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.

On determination

Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.

On time 

I never think of the time I have lost. I just carry out a programme because it’s there. It’s mapped out for me.


Leadership Traits of Nelson Mandela

In an article in theguardian, Andrew Rawnsley wonderfully describes the leadership traits of Nelson Mandela that made him one of the greatest leaders of the world.

  • Nelson Mandela had natural charisma, grace, exquisite manners, sense of humour and an air of dignified command around himself.
  • His mission in life was to replace apartheid with democracy. He had the moral courage and clarity of purpose to relentlessly pursue this ideal.
  • He had a powerful sense of destiny, but what made him so very rare was that unlike many other politicians, he did not succumb to megalomania, nor did he elevate himself to the pedestal of a demi-god.
  • He was a rebel, a warrior against the established order. In old age, he liked to remind people that Rolihlahla, his given first name, means troublemaker. There would have been no Mandela, the healer, had he not been preceded by Mandela the fighter.
  • A lesser known aspects of his character is guile. His ideal of a democratic and free society was non-negotiable, yet on most other matters he was flexible, even opportunistic. Being a politician, being a human being, he had his frailties.  He was loyal to a fault to old comrades who were mediocre and corrupt.
  • Mandela did not punish others to affirm their own moral superiority. Mandela affirmed his superiority precisely by forgiving. He won over his enemies with respect, empathy, forgiveness and superhuman magnanimity.

Read the excellent complete article at


Last but not the least, I thank my friend Manas Maisnam for making this beautiful illustration and sharing it.

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