Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Born in Mvezo on 18 July 1918, died in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013. A South African man who fought against the apartheid and became a politician. A man who is worldwide considered a great leader. I’m of course talking about Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. From 1944 Mandela was involved in the fight of the African National Congress (ANC) against the apartheid regime in South Africa. As leader of the military branch of the ANC, he was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1990 he was released and the ANC was legalized. Together with President F.W. de Klerk, Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for “their efforts for the peaceful end of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa”. At the time of the first free, non-racial elections in 1994, 75-year-old Mandela was elected president of the Republic of South Africa. He resigned in 1999. In South Africa, he is considered the “father of the fatherland”. His nickname was Madiba, the name in his clan for ‘Thembu kings’.

Nelson Mandela was the son of a tribal chief, and he was asked one day: “How did you learn to be a great leader?”, Nelson responded that he would go with his father to tribal meetings. He remembered two things when his father would meet with the other elders.

  1. They would always sit in a circle
  2. His father was always the last to speak

You are told your whole life that you need to learn to listen, but I would say that you need to learn to be the last to speak.

It happens in boardroom meeting every day of the week, even people who consider themselves good leaders and may actually be good leaders. But when they walk in the boardroom they say: “here’s the problem, here’s what I think, but I’m interested in your opinion. Let’s go around the room” and then it’s too late. The skill to keep your opinions to yourself until everyone has spoken does two things:

  1. Giving everyone the feeling they have been heard, it gives everyone else the ability to feel that they have contributed
  2. You get the benefit of hearing what everybody has to think before you tell your opinion

The skill is really yo keep your opinions and ideas to yourself. If you agree with somebody, don’t nod yes and if you disagree don’t nod no. Simply sit there, take it all in, and the only thing you’re allowed to do is ask questions so that you can understand what they mean and why they have the opinion they have. You must understand from where they are speaking and not just what they are saying. At the end, you will get your turn to tell your ideas and opinions. This may sound easy, but it’s not.

Practise to be the last to speak, That is what Nelson Mandela did.

May we meet again!

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