Understand your “here and now” to build a greater future
“It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
Mandela’s future-focused efforts have always been based on “here and now”. It’s the ability to see reality as it really is and make decisions based on facts knowing exactly the resources available. Nelson Mandela excels in making the best out of his own skills, gifts and potential. He is also exceptional in seeing the talent, skills and potential in others. Throughout his life he has shown an unbelievable strength of character, patience and humility. He was unsure of his future but confident in his own greatest strengths: fearlessness, passion and dedication. He showed that our human life has the greatest value. With a natural ability to influence he could always count on the support of those around him. He respected and appreciated their skills and knowledge that were there, available and needed at the time, to build a better future.
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
The Elders (http://www.theelders.org/) was a concept that emerged as a result of a conversation between entrepreneur Richard Branson and the musician Peter Gabriel. “The idea they discussed was simple: many communities look to their elders for guidance, or to help resolve disputes. In an increasingly interdependent world – a ‘global village’ – could a small, dedicated group of individuals use their collective experience and influence to help tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the world today?” In July 2007 they launched the group having support from such “global elders” as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan or Jimmy Carter.
What if your possibilities are greater and your potential is much greater than you think? What if you are capable of so much more and have so much more to offer? Do you know and appreciate the knowledge and skills that you have right now? Do you fully understand your current circumstances and fully benefit from the support system that you have around you?
It’s a normal human tendency that our attention goes toward what we don’t have as opposed to the wealth we already have in our personal “treasury”. Take stock and review what’s in your personal “bank account” – your life experiences and achievements. Be honest with yourself and work from a place of clarity. Keep your head pointed towards the sun. Shift your focus from what can’t be done towards what can be achieved with the assets available to you, right now in yourself and others.
Understand first before you ask to be understood. Aim for “Win-Win” situation.
“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.”
According to Mandela’s official biography, during his years in prison he developed an ability to relate to people on a wide variety of different levels. He became a skilled negotiator, effectively representing and standing for the rights of others. It was during this time that he gained his understanding of leadership and the role of a leader. The author of Mandela’s official biography described his gift as an ability to know ” how to turn his warders into his dependents” and “eventually become master in his own prison”. There is no doubt that throughout his life he showed a natural ability to connect with those around him, an ability to not only understand but also to persuade.
“Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport.”
One of the prime examples of his exceptional leadership skills was the time of the Rugby World Cup played in South Africa in 1995. Thanks to Mandela’s efforts and ability to influence, the South African “Springbok” team united the entire country. At that moment the nation, so racially divided and torn by its past, became one for a common goal – the game.
However the meaning of the game was much greater. It was about the greater victory.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Morné du Plessis, South African rugby player and a former Springbok team captain, understood that greater meaning and the role he had to play in uniting the country. To support Mandela’s efforts he encouraged his team to learn the old song of black resistance as a new national anthem Nkosi Sikelele Afrika (God Bless Africa).
This is how he once described Nelson Mandela, “the father of this nation, the one who inspired to come together when we never ever believed that we could do it. That’s called leadership”.
At the end of the successful game Mandela walked on to the pitch to shake the hand of François Pienaar the captain of the Springbok team at the time. As he handed over the cup to his captain, he said: “François, thank you for what you have done for our country.” Pienaar, replied: “No, Mr President. Thank you for what you have done.”
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Listen in order to see the world through the other person’s eyes. Meet them halfway showing respect and offering understanding. Lead the relationship and in communication allow for all voices to be heard, allow for everyone to be equal. Your openness will guide others and they will follow your lead.
Lead and inspire
“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
Nelson Mandela proved that very early on he understood social psychology and the way to influence masses. He inspired. Those who were closest to him during his years in prison also succeeded later in life, becoming politicians and holding senior government positions. He not only knew how to get the best out of himself but also how to get the best out of others.
His leadership style was empowering, underpinned by his great ability to recognise most significant skills and strengths of every individual. Mandela understood the power that lies in collective effort and wisdom. By guiding those around him, he was able to achieve most by showing trust and confidence in others. Once in power, Mandela equally included white and Indian. Fairness can be recognised as one of his core values.
“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.”
It is important to remember that Mandela was a president of South Africa for 5 years only. It is the consistency of commitment throughout his entire life that made his work so profound. He believed first before he encouraged others to believe. He knew how to ask for help and support and made those around him feel valuable and included.
Nelson Mandela’s life is a testament to demonstrate that one person can successfully change the lives of millions for the better. He united people, not around himself, but around an idea. He believed in the greater future of his country and the greater future of humanity. And he made others believe.
Is he gifted? Definitely, but now the responsibility is ours. What we can do is learn, follow his lead and through his greatness achieve ours. Whatever your goal search, learn and be inspired by those who have already walked this path in the past. But once you have the knowledge, act! Practice what you preach. And once you do that, be it. Embody your beliefs and give back, guiding others towards their own greatness.
References: Mandela, The Authorised Biography
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