Nelson Mandela (Madiba), the father of our democracy here in South Africa, was an iconic leader who not only transformed the country but inspired the world.
He left an indelible mark through his unwavering commitment to justice, compassion, and forgiveness.
Today, as South Africa faces increasing challenges, it is crucial to revisit Mandela’s teachings and recognise the profound benefits of incorporating his principles into contemporary leadership. By emphasising the importance of doing good, leaders can inspire positive change for the country whether it is in business, at home or in the community.
Much of Mandela’s leadership philosophy, from my perspective at least, revolved around the belief that doing good is not only a moral imperative but also an effective strategy for transformative leadership.
He understood that leadership is not solely about authority and power, but about serving others, promoting equality, and uplifting communities. Mandela once said:”What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
It is a lesson we all need to take to heart right now.
There are many benefits to embracing Madiba’s legacy, not least of all his uncanny ability to inspire unity and in the most unlikely of places and people. His capacity to reconcile and bring together people from different backgrounds during South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, is a testament to the transformative power of doing good. When leaders prioritise the common good over personal interests, they create a sense of shared purpose and a harmonious environment that enables progress.
Whilst much of that has been lost in the last decade and a half or more, the principles remain sound and are still attainable, especially if our young people eschew the rampant corruption and democratic disobedience of the current echelon of role models, to revert to Mandela’s example.
To highlight this, consider the words of renowned Persian poet, Omar Kayam who once wrote: “A hair divides what is false and true.”
This powerful quote resonates with Mandela’s philosophy, emphasising the significance of finding common ground despite apparent differences. Just as a single hair can separate truth from falsehood, leaders who themselves remain true and prioritise doing good can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to build bridges of understanding and cooperation.
Doing good promotes and nurtures trust and respect within a society. When leaders act with integrity, empathy, and compassion, they inspire confidence and gain the respect of their constituents.
Mandela’s consistent pursuit of justice, even in the face of immense adversity, earned him the trust of millions. Leaders who prioritise the welfare of their people and work tirelessly to uplift society create a virtuous cycle of trust, which leads to greater cooperation and collective progress.
Mandela’s extraordinary act of forgiveness towards his oppressors during his imprisonment exemplifies the transformative power of compassion. By choosing reconciliation over revenge, he not only won the respect and admiration of the world but also set an extraordinary example of leadership.
This act of forgiveness helped heal a divided nation and paved the way for a peaceful transition to democracy, demonstrating that doing good has the power to transcend bitterness and bring about change.
Good and strong, morally sound leadership is intrinsically linked to sustainable development. Leaders who prioritise the wellbeing of their citizens, invest in education, healthcare, and social welfare, and tackle pressing environmental issues create the conditions for long-term growth and prosperity – for all.
In software coding, the term “brute force” is used to describe an approach to problem solving, which entails ‘exhausting’ the problem. South Africans are exhausted and the country itself is shattered. Is it not now time to consider a more Laissez Faire approach to solving our challenges and to pave the way for a more compassionate and prosperous nation?
In allowing our youth to step in and do what they know they need to do – with integrity, kindness and calmly – and the old guard stepping aside, the new lions can build the kind of future we all deserve.
Remember, as Mandela famously said: “It is in your hands to make a difference.”
*Dr Survé is the Chairman of Sekunjalo and Independent Media
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