It was inevitable that Nelson Mandela would pass on and we understood that his life was sun setting; however, we did not want to believe that someone as iconic as Mandela would not be with us. The world needs this person as he was the social glue for what is just and right in this world. Even this spell check knows the name Mandela and does not bring it up in error. He was the light in a world that can be dark at times.
His passing got me thinking that we are in a critical state when it comes to leadership. I was too small when Martin Luther King Jr was on his Freedom March, or when Kennedy was trying to re-define the States and Gandhi was well before my time; however, these people are still held in high regard. Mandela was the formidable presence of our generation and lifetime. I appreciate what he stood for and some of the words that I use to describe him are/were – authentic, caring, charismatic, persistence, courageous, trusting, and approachable. I think those who hold influence in the world might try to posses some of the words but not the essence of those words. I think the situation that Mandela was in and who he was created the foundation of his strength and movement. It is this combination that raised his profile but all the while he just wanted what was right. Someone who spent so many years of his life being in prison for his basic rights…he put the cause over himself. How could someone be in prison and emerge stronger and without hate? That was Madiba!
Leadership is not about self. People wonder what they have to do to be recognized as a leader. They try hard to gain recognition and implement words they think describe them and then realize that it does not work. Leadership is about followership. You have to be authentic and true to you and those who appreciate you will follow you. There are times we are a leader and times where we have to be a follower. There is honour in both aspects and it is about accomplishing what you set out to do and all the while, care about what you do and the people who are with you. Leadership is not a destination to be achieved but a journey to be enjoyed. Mandela showed us what it meant to be a humble leader. We know his story, legacy and words…but we just can’t replicate the formula.
I weep with your passing because I got to know you even though I never got to meet you. Time to rest Madiba…thank you for lighting the way and for what you leave us which I hope makes us better.
“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.” Mandela
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