An ode to Nelson Mandela

While most of Singapore was busy battling the haze in June 2013, Nelson Mandela was struggling for his life.

Mandela, 94, hasn’t made a public appearance since South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010. President Barack Obama was hoping to see him during his recent visit to South Africa, but the plans were dropped as news of Mandela’s condition filtered through the press.

Imprisoned for 27 years for his beliefs in a free and just society, Mandela led the charge for a multi-racial democracy and a country where the freedoms of one are the freedoms of all.

Not only did he become South Africa’s first black president, he also led the world in its struggle for peace and social change.

The BBC  quotes, “His charisma, self-deprecating sense of humour, and lack of bitterness over his harsh treatment, as well as his amazing life story, partly explain his extraordinary global appeal”.

How many world leaders can claim to be the source of inspiration for worldwide struggles against injustice.

Instead of writing a long article on his lifelong achievements, we thought it was more apt to highlight some of the values and principles his life and successes can inspire all budding leaders, whether they are in the business or the political sphere.

Action is louder than words

Motivating and inspiring people are no easy feat. Speeches and praise are one way of motivating people, but actions are much more telling. Whether it’s by example or by being encouraging, each and every one of your daily actions can be a learning opportunity for you and for those around you.

Be the bigger man

No matter how big or how small, every wrong that’s done to you can get the worst out of you. Whether it’s bitterness, revenge, or simply apathy, we are all sometimes tempted to give in to our worst impulses in order to repair or avoid the things that make us suffer. Embracing those very things we fight against and going beyond them is one way to grow as balanced individuals.

Don’t forget to listen

Completely trusting your instincts and deeply believing in your values doesn’t mean other people don’t have interesting or relevant points of view. Whether they agree with you or not, being open to discussion, critique, or advice gives you an objectivity that allows you to focus on doing the right thing, not just being right.

Find the right people

Most battles can’t be fought alone. A team of like-minded and mutually-encouraging individuals can achieve much more than someone trying to take on multiple roles at the same time. Working as a team means putting ego and pride behind, something many of us see as being weak. Sometimes strength is knowing when to step aside and let someone else find an appropriate solution or an innovative method.

Speak from the heart

Communicating values and ideals doesn’t always come naturally to leaders, especially when considering all the different ways things can be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or even modified. Inspiring leaders don’t simply get messages across; they take into account linguistic, cultural, and contextual cues to make sure their message and its true meaning are clear to all.

Build strong relationships

Our highly utilitarian societies sometimes make us forget that other people are not here simply to do things for us. Being genuinely interested in people and their hopes and dreams is key to building strong and meaningful relationships that go beyond a single and short-term purpose. If you want people to believe in you, show them you believe in them first.

These are just some of the life lessons we can all take away from Nelson Mandela’s incredible life.

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Vince Chen

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