Madiba: The Gentle Giant

nelsonmandelaMy interest in leadership developed during a difficult period in my life.  As I begin to consider my current reality and possibilities for my future, I developed an intense focus on positive self leadership.

This journey took me to a study of the lives of great men & women who have made amazing contributions to the world.  Thus far, the greatest I have found, barring the Lord Jesus Christ, just may be Mr. Nelson Mandela.

After enduring nearly three decades of imprisonment, (much of it at hard labor in a lime quarry,) Mr. Mandela emerged as a “gentle leader” who was elected (by the people) in 1994 South Africa’s first black president.  He is now 94 years old and remains a treasure in the hearts of many, including mine!

Mr. Mandela, (lovingly referred to in his native country as Madiba) is credited with changing race relations in South Africa and ending (non-violently) “the obnoxious system (known as apartheid) which gave white people huge socioeconomic and political advantages denied to blacks.”  I was utterly astounded when I recently read a story about a true event that took place in his life a few weeks after he took office.

Just a few weeks following his inauguration Mr. Mandela found himself in a meeting with his new staff.  (All of them white.)  After the initial small talk and complements, the staff finally and uncomfortably told him why they had called the meeting.  They wanted to know why he was torturing them!  They told him that obviously they would all have to be terminated, (they understood very well that he should have and would have to have his own people around him) and they didn’t understand why he hadn’t done it yet and why he was being silent.  This is what he did…

Excerpt from Leading like Madiba by Martin Kalungu-Banda:

“With a huge smile on his face, casting his eye on everybody in the room, the President said, “But you are my people.  Since I came into this office, everything has been managed extremely well.  I am pleased with the way you are all working.  Unless you do not want to work with me, all I can say is that I find you very supportive and competent in your role.  Maybe you would like me to request formally, “May I work with you?”

I just can’t help but to see greatness here.  After all the decades of whites wielding power over blacks and the nearly three decades of his imprisonment, after fighting and being willing to die for the cause of ending the evil objective of apartheid whose main objective was to keep power from the blacks and elevate the whites, he responds with such acceptance, such humility and such love.

He ends the meeting simply by saying (through the silent amazement of his subordinates) “Ladies and gentlemen, since we know that silence means consent, you will excuse me because I have to attend to my next appointment.”

Thank you God for a man such as this, for his life and his example.  May we all strive to become such.

Onward & Upward My Friends, Lisa



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