Learning from Madiba: lessons on life and leadership

2010-06-30 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life

Richard Stengel

Virgin Books

IT took Richard Stengel nearly three years of data gathering to put together Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life.

Throughout those years Stengel did everything Mandela’s way, literally. It was a struggle for him to get the acceptance he envisaged from Madiba, having to learn to be patient and punctual. He was mostly disturbed by the difficulty he had to endure in order to get his appointments, but later the old man began to open up bit-by-bit, paving the way to the beginning of the journey into his life experiences.

In this book Stengel tells how Madiba, from his early years in missionary schools and later at university, learnt to lead from behind. During his single term in office he ensured that there were people in front, while he would drive them from the rear ­towards the desired direction.

The hardships he went through, ­after leaving Transkei for Johannesburg and on Robben Island where he was incarcerated for decades, moulded him into the type of leader it seems will never be found in our generation.

In numerous instances Madiba has been put to the test. But he has proved that in order for South Africa to prosper, ethnic and racial tension needs to be defeated. In 1993 the country was on the brink of a civil war when the communist leader Chris Hani was assassinated by Janus Walusz. Madiba never instigated people to “shoot the boer” when many saw that as the only answer to the problems of the day. When Hani was killed, an Afrikaans woman witnessed the murder, ­memorised the number plate of the killer’s vehicle and reported it to the police and justice was served. In his speech on national television Madiba made it known that the woman had risked her life to bring the assassin to justice.

He has been and is still exemplary to all African statesmen and that has been proven when he, after only one term in office, decided to give way to others. That should be an example for all other leaders to follow who wish to leave office with their heads held high.

Mandela’s Way is an easy read and is a book that contains lessons in leadership skills that can be absorbed by current and future leaders.

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