As I watch the news reports about Nelson Mandela’s passing I am struck by a number of things.
Firstly, the extraordinary power created when a leader operates with a profound relationship to their humanity and, through that, a deep commitment to people. This man has been loved by millions around the world as much for what he has done as for who he was being. He was being authentic. From the stories we are hearing today, people’s experience of him was universally that. He was authentic in expressing himself as an ordinary human being, he was authentic in living true to his commitments – to the truth, to challenging what needs to be challenged, to treating people with dignity and respect, to approaching life as an opportunity to continually learn, contribute and enjoy.
Secondly, in hearing again how he resigned his post as the South African leader (‘Don’t call me, I’ll call you’) I am struck by what I am sure he recognised as a fundamental truth – relying on any one person to save the day, to lead the way, is not sufficient. He knew that what is required is many people stepping into leadership if we are to have a real future – not just in South Africa, but in the world.
Finally, Mandela’s passing is an opportunity for all people in leadership positions, or aspiring to being a leader, to honour who he was by doing whatever work you need to do to BE the kind of leader that uses the privilege of that position to make a profound difference today and for the future.