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Not surprisingly, I'm already getting emails about the death of Nelson Mandela…and this morning, I'd like to share one of them, from MNB reader Mike Bach:

I had the opportunity to work in South Africa during his Presidential years and in the years since. Mandela’s leadership was very visible to the world, as evidenced by the Invictus storyline. I was fortunate enough to meet him (albeit briefly) and he spoke the same way to everyone who shook his hand regardless of their position in the company. He always knew that it was the corporations, like the one I where I worked, which would deliver BEE and other initiatives that would move South Africa beyond Apartheid.  He very smartly counted on the global corporations to be among the first to lead the business community out of Apartheid. I think back to those days and consider the “culture changing” work we had to do some of the toughest change work I’ve ever done. And, the most gratifying.

Madiba was well quoted; I’m sure that in the coming days, we’ll see many remember him with his quotes that touched their heart. I’ve got an example, one that I personally took to heart. Ironically, its exactly opposite to what I had been taught but his belief (and approach) was, to me, a better way.

Madiba said “"Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front."

As you know well, there are countless books on leadership and methods, but often we are led to believe that for leaders who want enduring change, to not hesitate to get in front, to mentor / drive change as a component of transitioning others to lead. Particularly for those in ex-patriot roles, this is essential if the change you want is to last and be enduring.

Madiba’s approach, far more selfless, requires EQ and confidence to execute.  In a world where Presidents worry about their legacies and whether or not their leadership will be remembered, Madiba built his legacy from the back and never looked back to keep score.  (It’s a lesson that his family never absorbed, sadly, but that storyline will play out in the coming weeks.)  For MNB readers who visit Johannesburg, a “must-see” is the Apartheid Museum, which takes a walking tour through what really went on during those dark years. I have been 4 times and learn something new every time I go.

It is my hope is that, one day, we have a global holiday in recognition of Madiba’s contributions to the World. He’s earned it. I can’t imagine we’ll ever see another leader like him.


Thanks, Mike. We all appreciate the perspective.

Just saw another quote from Mandela that struck me as enormously insightful:

"I am not a saint, unless you think that a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying."
KC's View: