He spent 27 years in prison, once remarking, “I went for a long holiday…”
Nelson Mandela, who left this planet just over one year ago, will forever be remembered as a great defender of human rights.
While he led millions out of oppression, Mandela was a leader of himself first.
These words from Nelson Mandela show us how we can all lead ourselves to a better tomorrow in business and in life.
1. “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Many of us settle for the status quo. But there is one thing I know about you without ever having met you. You are far more capable than you realize. Your power to affect change is waiting to be unleashed.
Do not, for a second, underestimate yourself. Instead, look forward to surprising yourself by going beyond what you thought you could do.
Holding back on yourself is holding back on others. Your business, your family, your friends, indeed the world – needs you. All of you.
Dare to leave your comfort zone, if not for yourself, then for others.
2. “The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…”
There is a lot of talk these days about being honest with others, but very little about being honest with ourselves. This means we need to stop doing things that are hurting us and which are against what we believe in.
Mandela, true to himself and his values, refused to accept conditions that would have let him out of prison at an earlier time. He did not compromise his beliefs.
While being honest with yourself is a priority, Mandela also believed it is important to stay humble and not be boastful. We live in a world where everyone is competing for attention. But in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Mandela explained that leadership with humility carries great power, because: “Then people will embrace you. They will listen to you.”
For a happy career and life, be true to yourself. Use humility to influence others.
3. “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Ever notice how, when you are relaxed and just being yourself, others around you also relax and become themselves. Drop the facade. You don’t need it. The real you is perfect. That’s who the world needs to see and do business with.
When you are yourself, you are inviting others to be genuine and authentic as well. Superior, honest communication will result.
Don’t be a cheap imitation of yourself.
4. “I am the captain of my soul.”
People only hurt us if we give them permission to do so. If there is a lack of respect for you at work, at home or within a friendship, withdraw your permission.
As the captain of your soul, you not only have the power to choose how you will react, but you have the power of forgiveness.
Mandela forgave many people in the apartheid movement as a way to build bridges. He was a master of collaboration, choosing not to retaliate – and, to the surpise and shock of many, he even hired people from the former racist regime to work for his government.
You are in charge of how you will react, and your forgiveness will build bridges.
5. “Appearances matter — and remember to smile.”
Often in business meetings, I forget to smile. Being too serious makes everyone tense and often, that can produce a less than desirable outcome. The moment I crack a smile, I can almost see the tension flowing out of people.
Mandela’s famous smile showed warmth, forgiveness, wisdom and understanding. You too can bring all of those qualities to the table through your smile.
Exercise your power – smile.
6. “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up”
We may feel like a loser if we do not succeed in our goals. But what if we never give up? What if we modify our approach, experiment and keep our dreams alive?
If you keep on trying, you are forever a winner.
7. “Courage is not the absence of fear — it is inspiring others to move beyond it.”
Mandela knew that eliminating fear is an impossible task. Instead, he asked his followers to take action in spite of fear. In other words, to work around it.
Even when we have all of the talent, know-how, determination and resources to accept a challenge, we often decide not to proceed because of our fear of the unknown. I spoke recently with an out-of-work friend who has amazing entrepreneurial skills. She has chosen not to start a business, admitting she is afraid.
Fear is highly overrated.
8. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Something is only impossible if we lack the courage to make it happen. You will find that courage when you remind yourself that what you are doing is the right thing to do.
For decades, it seemed impossible that Nelson Mandela would be President of South Africa. But it was the right thing to happen.
If it’s the right thing to do, find the courage to turn the impossible into the possible.
Leadership is not about the position you hold.
Mandela was a leader from a prison cell for almost 3 decades, and had been President of South Africa for only 5 years.
He once said that when he was negotiating, he realized that until he changed himself, he could not change others.
Leading others and leading yourself go hand in hand.