Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the 20th century. After Mahatma Gandhi, it was Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. who held up the beacons of hope, not for the people living in South Africa and the African Americans in the US, but for all of humanity.
Nelson Mandela was a great leader. His leadership style was unique and it cannot be compared with fellow politicians or business leaders. However, Nelson Mandela leadership style does have resonance in every field, in every industry or profession, in everyone’s life.
To understand Nelson Mandela leadership style, one has to delve into his life, his psyche, principles and how he led his people. What made Nelson Mandela the great beacon of hope was his commitment for the cause. Like Gandhi was committed to the Indian freedom struggle and King Jr. was committed to civil rights, Mandela was committed against apartheid and in favour of a fully representative democracy. Every great leader is committed to the cause entirely. One has to be willing to take up the onus and face all consequences to be considered a leader. Mandela was willing to sacrifice his life but not his commitment to the cause. This is in sharp contrast to how leaders are today, in various walks of life. Politicians of the day are more interested in claiming credits when Mandela wanted to face the wrath of the people in power. Corporate leaders of the day are more interested in saving their own jobs than that of others when Mandela wanted people to celebrate while he would toil on their behalf. Leaders are not supposed to be the privileged ones and they should not act to meet great ends for themselves. Leaders must be dedicated to a cause and what would benefit others. The greatness achieved in the process along with the privileges or rewards are not the ultimate goal but the by-products of doing well.
Nelson Mandela leadership style was about leading by example. He sorted out his life first. He practiced what he spoke and transformed his words into actions. He was ambitious but not himself. He inspired people but not by coercion. He moved others but not by fear. It was his love, his own sacrifices, his struggles, devotion and dedication for the welfare of others that made him a great leader.
He went on to become the first black president of South Africa and also the first to be elected by a fully representative and completely democratic election. Good leaders can succeed but great leaders achieve unprecedented success.