The Oxford dictionary defines leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organization, typically towards a common goal. Leadership can take many different shapes and is unique to every individual. Nelson Mandela is one individual who is often considered as one of recent history’s greatest leaders. Nelson Mandela was a revolutionary philanthropist. He was also the first black president of South Africa, serving in the role from 1994 to 1999. However, his efforts extended beyond his presidency. He devoted most of his life to leading the fight against the institutionalized racism in South Africa. Here are 10 Nelson Mandela quotes on leadership that capture his ideologies and political works.
10 Nelson Mandela Quotes on Leadership
- “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” – Chief Albert Luthuli Centenary Celebrations, April 25, 1998, South Africa
- “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” – “Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” written by Nelson Mandela in 1994
- “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – “Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” written by Nelson Mandela in 1994
- “A leader…is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” – “Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” written by Nelson Mandela in 1994
- “If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important – and you do that by being genuine and humble.” – An interview with Oprah for O Magazine, April 2001
- “It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” – Address at Kliptown, Soweto, South Africa, July 12, 2008
- “A real leader uses every issue, no matter how serious and sensitive, to ensure that at the end of the debate we should emerge stronger and more united than ever before.” – Nelson Mandela’s personal notebook, January 16, 2000
- “Difficulties break some men but make others. No ax is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.” – A letter to Winnie Mandela, written on Robben Island, February 1, 1975
- “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.” – Address at Kliptown, Soweto, South Africa, July 12, 2008
- “A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial and uninformed.” – An interview with Oprah for O Magazine, April 2001
Nelson Mandela’s quotes of leadership and wisdom remind us that there are many qualities of a great leader. To be a great leader, one must never give up, try to bring people together and be selfless. Leadership is about working with and for others to achieve a common goal that benefits everyone. Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to the people of South Africa and to undoing the harmful, institutionalized racism in the country. As part of his great legacy, these 10 Nelson Mandela quotes on leadership continue to inspire millions around the world. Further, his accomplishments show us that positive change is attainable.
– Emily Young