Nelson Mandela
Leadership Case Study

Nelson Mandela Leadership Case Study is a part of Leadership Stories, a series of biographies of great leaders in history that have impacted the world in a huge way.

Nelson Mandela Leadership
Who was He?

Nelson Mandela was the first Black President of South Africa and he was one of the most instrumental figures that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

After his term as president, Nelson Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human rights organizations.

Nelson Mandela passed away peacefully on the 5 December 2013.

A Short History

Nelson Mandela was born in a Mvezo, a small village in the South Africa. He was the first in his family to attend school and it was there that his English teacher gave him the name Nelson.

His political activity started when the National Party which supported the apartheid policy of racial segregation won the elections. He began actively campaigning against the policies using non violent methods, as inspired by Mahatmas Gandhi.

However, when he began to realize that non violence would not suffice, he began resorting to guerrilla warfare to achieve his means. The United States deemed Mandela as a terrorist and refused him entry.

After being on the run for 17 months, Nelson Mandela was finally captured and imprisoned for 27 years.

However, toward the late 1980s, there was mounting pressure from the international and local community for the South African government to release Mandela. He was finally released on 11 February 1990.

South Africa's first multi-racial elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994, Mandela’s organization won that election and became the first Black President of South Africa.

As President, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

On the 5 December 2013, Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95. Tributes from all over the world poured in: Barack Obama said that Mandela had achieved more than could be expected of any man. David Cameron said that 'a great light had gone out of this world.'

Awards and Honours

1. Nobel Peace Prize 1993
2. Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award
3. Honorary citizen of Belgrade, Serbia
4. Listed as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004 by Time magazine
5. and over a 100 more… 

Nelson Mandela
Leadership Lessons

1. Your vision in life must be for greater good

Nelson Mandela saw an Africa where apartheid would finally be abolished and every man would be free and equal in the eyes of the Nation.

It was this vision that propelled him to do what he had to do, and it was this vision that sustained him through the darkest days in prison.

Sometimes we think that having a vision in life means thinking about having a big house, a big car and lots of possessions; there’s nothing wrong with that. But when the going gets tough, you’ll give it up easily because there’s really no big deal about having those.

Your purpose here on Earth is to be a blessing to the rest of society and living it out gives you the energy you need to persist until your vision comes to pass.

2. Not everyone will support your vision

Before Nelson Mandela successfully abolished apartheid from Africa, he had to face a lot of opposition from individuals and organizations all over the world.

No matter how ideal your vision is, the fact is that a vision means change for people. Not everyone wants to change because change is uncomfortable. For some, change is outright painful.

Although everyone today seems to be supporting Nelson Mandela’s vision and lauding him for his achievements, this was not the case many years before.

During the early years of Nelson Mandela’s movement, he was even deemed a terrorist by the United States and also thrown in prison for many years.

This will be the same case for you. If you’re pursing a great vision for a better world; don’t expect everyone around you to rally behind you. Expect people to stand against you.

3. You need to fight for your vision

This means that you have to fight for your vision. Your journey to seeing your vision come to pass won’t be a walk in the park. You’re going to face many obstacles along the way and individuals who will oppose your movement.

Because of that, you have to be conscious about it and not get discouraged at the first obstacle. You have to fight. Break down the walls and breakthrough every time you feel like giving up.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before he was elected President of South Africa. Faced with such a huge setback; he never gave up his vision.

Though you will never end up in prison, but you must also understand that you will face such setbacks in your life too. Don’t give up and keep pressing on.

One day you’ll get there.

Related Books on
Nelson Mandela Leadership

Best Quotes from
Nelson Mandela Leadership

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

“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.”

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

“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.”

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Video on
Nelson Mandela Leadership

This is a video by Nelson Mandela on one of his main social work initiatives: Make Poverty History. Nelson Mandela has been active in social work ever since his retirement from politics.

Other Links

Wikipedia: A highly detailed account of Nelson Mandela's life
Nelson The Official Site for Nelson Mandela

Other Political Leaders

»Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew was the first and longest serving Prime Minister of Singapore; and it was his leadership that brought Third World Singapore into a thriving metropolitan city in a stunning 3 decades.

» Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was the first Black President of South Africa and he was one of the most instrumental figures that helped end apartheid in South Africa. After his term as president, Nelson Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human rights organizations.

» Martin Luther King Junior
Martin Luther King Junior was an Americian Baptist preacher, an activist and a prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. His greatest work was probably to fight for the civil rights of the African-American people.

» Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is the 16th President of the United States and deemed by many scholars as the greatest President of the United States. He led the Republicans to defeat the Confederates who were challenging for a democratic United States.

» George Washington
George Washington is the first President of the United States and is known as the “father of the country.” Before he stepped up as President of the United States, he was the military commander in chief of the then US forces who drove out the British from America.

» Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was the head and leader of Nazi Germany who started the World War II. He was most known for his for his central leadership role in the rise of fascism in Europe, World War II and The Holocaust.

» Barack Obama
Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States, having taken office in 2009 after winning the electoral campaign against John McCain. He is also the first African American to have taken the office of the President in the US.

» Colin Powell
Colin Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State serving under President George W. Bush. He also served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War.

» Tony Blair
Tony Blair is a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He is one of the most respected and admired world leaders in the last 50 years.

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