"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do and have a fundamental concern for others. There is no passion to be found playing small -- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." - Nelson Mandela
With the passing of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela at age 95, one of the world's greatest icons is lost; but his legacy of leadership remains. He started a movement that positively affected, encouraged, and motivated millions. He inspired and helped others to help themselves.
He was a true leader and in many ways an entrepreneur. What we've experienced from Mandela's life is potentially just the start, and his legend is going to be bigger still. He has given the world many leadership lessons. Future leaders would do well to adopt the Mandela mindset and his profound lessons.
Here is 11 of the South African leader's many timeless lessons on leadership.
1. Seek balance -- Mandela said that a good head and a good heart were always a formidable combination. Today more than ever before, the world seems separated into two kinds of people: passionate people on one side (who primarily use their hearts to make decisions) and rational people on the other (who primarily use facts in order to decide). We will thrive if we can balance the use of our heart and our head, as Mandela was able to do.
2. Be better not bitter -- Mandela put the greater good over his ego. Imagine if you were imprisoned for 27 years under harsh conditions, wouldn't you be craving retaliation? Mandela had many opportunities to take revenge when he became the president of South Africa. To the surprise of the black population, he instead led the country to peace.
3. Forget the past -- Living in the past makes one suffer for nothing. We deserve a better life, and we can actively choose the kind of life we want. Like Mandela we can live in the present and strive to illuminate our personal and professional paths in order to build a bright, new future from the wreckage of the old.
4. Get educated -- To Mandela, education was the most powerful weapon he had to change the world. He used the power of education to reach the top and become one the greatest leaders of our time. Anyone who wants to thrive in his or her field of choice should follow his example. Education can be the best tool for reaching our goals.
5. Dream big -- Nelson Mandela refused to negotiate because he had one impossible dream in mind and accepting anything less wasn't an option. Our dreams should also be bigger than we can imagine. The more precisely and positively we can define what we want, and the more we program our brain to seek out and notice possibilities, the more likely we are to get what we want.
6. Make things happen -- "It always seems impossible until it's done," said Mandela. Being a dreamer was part of his success, but he also had a plan and actionable strategies to stay on track. These ultimately lead him to achieve his goals. We need to take action, follow a step-by-step plan, stay focused, be persistent, surround ourselves with like-minded people, and we can make a difference, as well.
7. Create an image -- Mandela was not only a symbol but he was a brand. He represented himself smiling, well-dressed, polite, and educated at all times. People are only starting to realize now that he was one of the first thought leaders to heavily rely on his public appearance, image, and reputation to achieve his goals.
8. Know your opponents -- This not only refers to the tactics and strategies your competitors have in mind but also to their mindset; especially if your success depends on the actions of others. Fully understanding where the other one is coming from was an essential part of Nelson Mandela's success.
9. Be likable -- Nelson Mandela sent gifts to his rivals on a regular basis. He invited them for dinner and consulted with them, even though he never trusted or relied on them. His charm and likability was a tactical weapon as much as it was a magnet for his followers.
10. Empower people -- Mandela lead his people from behind, valuing them and letting them believe they were in front. He was able to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea. Mandela would interrupt whatever he was doing for impromptu meetings or greetings, and he was able to see and bring out the best in others.
11. Persevere -- During his imprisonment he did backbreaking work in the lime quarry designed to break his spirit. It didn't! Even when the harsh sun on the white stone caused permanent damage to his eyes, he refused to give up. He contracted tuberculosis in solitary confinement, which drove most insane, but that didn't break him either. He fought on, declaring that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
Having discharged his duty to his people and his country, Mandela can truly rest in peace. He showed us how one person with humility, a dream, great self-discipline and a passionate cause could magnify himself and inspire us all.
One of the many things he learned was that until he changed himself, he could not change others. We can help his legacy continue to ripple across the world and future generations by following his example, using our time wisely and forever realizing that the time is always ripe to be better and do what's right.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.