Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly one of the most famous statesmen of our time. His death on December 5, 2013 evoked unprecedented worldwide emotions, while the gathering of world leaders, celebrities and a vibrant community of mourners at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg stadium to bid him farewell was truly unprecedented. In life, Mandela was a bridge of sorts, bringing people of diverse cultures, races and interests together. In death, it was no different as he was celebrated by millions all over the world, with his burial in particular eliciting eulogies from people of all walks of life.
What was most intriguing was that virtually everyone who had the opportunity to speak at his funeral ceremonies seemed to have been inspired and/or impacted in one way or the other by this hugely revered world leader. Mandela was indeed a committed and consistent leader who showed one of the best examples of authentic leadership through personal commitment and integrity. His leadership style demonstrated the whole essence of being a leader, which is simply being able to see what is needed, and then inspiring others to take action to effect the needed change.
The most essential success factor in this regard is how the personal awareness and energy of the leader match his convictions and vision. This is what builds the kind of trust and commitment, which become amplified in the leader’s sphere of influence when they continually resonate with the followers. That was the effect that Nelson Mandela had on the people that he led, whether as a small group of negotiators or as members of the African National Congress (his political party), or the entire South African nation.
Mandela’s leadership style in many ways typified what is referred to as “Leadership Authenticity”. This is mainly because as a leader, he was able to discover what was most important to him and the people that he led, in such a way that achieving the goal(s) became a non-negotiable task, even at great personal risks. Leadership Authenticity is a test of personal integrity and commitment to high ideals. It thus arises from the level of awareness of a leader’s personal convictions and vision. It is this kind of authenticity that sustains a leader’s passion, energy and tenacity.
The major lesson to learn from Mandela’s example of commitment to a worthy cause and absolute display of personal integrity in achieving set goals is the need for every leader to strive for true authenticity. A real leader will attain such standards essentially by focusing on building the much needed leadership and personal credibility. That is the only way by which a leader can connect with, and amplify leadership authenticity. It is this kind of authenticity that turned a young Nelson Mandela that was previously labeled a terrorist into a revered, respected and highly effective world leader.
Mandela was a leader that people listened to without the filters of fear or suspicion because he manifested authentic leadership virtually throughout his public life and wherever he had the opportunity to lead others. The personal accounts and testimonies of those who worked closely with him or were opportune to interact with him, even up to after his retirement from public life revel as much.
Watching such a creative, committed and consistent leader work, and being exposed to his personal philosophies and leadership strategies could only actively influence his followers. As a result, the real effects of an authentic leader on people are shown in the ways that they are being guided by the leader’s words and actions in a manner that positively changes their perceptions and effectively cast a greater vision for their future. That is the real essence of coach leadership and coach-mentorship. The goal is to build sufficient trust, awareness, energy and motivation as a leader is such a way that people will not only listen to you, but have the confidence to follow you.
In order to inspire others, you must first build your own credibility in a manner that showcases your competence, reliability and trustworthiness.
This in turn enables people to assess how your competence and clarity of purpose will dovetail to common purpose, growth, development and progress. This principle holds true no matter the level, sphere and condition of leadership, whether personal, civil, corporate, political or governmental. The principle of leadership authenticity based on commitment and personal integrity thus creates a much bigger picture for people to focus on and leverage their personal aspirations and hopes.
One of Dr. Nelson Mandela’s most often referenced quotes on leadership, which highlights the issues of trust, selflessness and authenticity required of the leader and which characterized his own life, is this: “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.
You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership…Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people”. These are the words of a true leader and freedom fighter. You can read more about the transformational power of coaching at www.ceedcoaching.com.
By: Emmanuel Imevbore