I run a lot of Leadership courses. We often start with a round table discussion on ‘leaders you admire’ Whether you do just leaders (when we get a mixture of politicians, present and past, plus a smattering of media savvy business people), or if you ask for ‘idols – people you admire’ – Nelson Mandela would always be chosen by at least one of the participants. And often, others would jump in saying ‘I had him too!’
Everything said last night and this morning could be cited. One of the BBC’s Africa Service correspondents – Nomsa Maseko – was 10 when Mandela was released. Her story of seeing her mother in tears watching the TV, and she not understanding why – ‘are you ill?’ – mum shook her, and said ‘Nomsa, you will remember this day for the rest of your life. You are now free’. And seeing pictures of The Nobel Peace prize being presented to President Mandela and ex President FW de Klerk (The last white President – and possibly the bravest white man in South Africa at that time) – how can we not be inspired?
(And listen again to BBC Radio 4 “Today” on the iPlayer – 7.45 Bishop Tom Butler, and 8.55 – a round table including Nomsa – BBC at it’s absolute best)
Words like humility, emotional rapport, love in action, charming – all serve to show a normal person achieving abnormal things.
27 years incarcerated – and the regime trying to break both the prisoners and their supporters – but he emerged both with his mission intact, and with reconciliation in mind. My wife said ‘it feels like his life was on hold for that time – and he was blessed with more years of very active life to make South Africa better’. Yes, that’s how it felt.
We cannot all become like him. But we can emulate some of the ideas and ideals. Even if it is standing up to a bully at work, whistle blowing, smiling at each other, listening well, having conviction in your aims and having very strong core values – you are being a little bit Mandela.
What a legacy. What a man. May he rest in peace.