Happy 90th Birthday Nelson Mandela!

Leadership can be a very complex and messy subject but in the end it’s really about one simple thing: bringing about positive change within a system. The system could be a team, family, organization, community, nation or, in rare cases, the world. It’s most impressive when this change is effected by someone who stands outside the traditional bounds of the formal authority of the system. Time cover w Mandela

In my lifetime no single individual embodies this notion of leadership more than Nelson Mandela and today he celebrates his 90th birthday.

Time Magazine has a knack for effectively simplifying complex subjects and has done so this week with it’s cover article Mandela at 90 – The Secrets of Leadership. This is the 4th occasion that Mandela has graced the cover of Time.

The article was written by Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel who helped Mandela write his popular autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. He also wrote an interesting sidebar A Leader for the Ages in which he accounts his personal experiences working with Mandela and there is a great slide show which he narrates entitled Nelson Mandela: Modern Hero.

The subtitle for the article is “Eight Lessons from One of History’s Icons” and true to form Time lays things out in a simple way with each effectively illustrated by a story from Mandela’s life. Please make sure you read the entire article to get the full measure of Mandela’s lessons. Any leader would benefit from employing them.

  1. Courage is not the absence of fear — it’s inspiring others to move beyond it
  2. Lead from the front — but don’t leave your base behind
  3. Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front
  4. Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport
  5. Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer
  6. Appearances matter — and remember to smile
  7. Nothing is black or white
  8. Quitting is leading too

Mandela’s leadership lessons may be simple but they are never easy.

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Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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