Top Five Reasons for Being a Mandela Wannabe

Published on August 28, 2015 | Written by

A special blog post from Youthprise President Wokie Weah.

An official UN designated day, July 18th marked the celebration of President Nelson Mandela International Day in communities across the world. I had the privilege of attending the Minneapolis Celebration, held at the Sabathani Community Center. Organized by the Minnesota South African Counsel International Leadership Institute and many others, the event was a powerful metaphor of Mandela’s life: people of all races, religions, and ages linked together by a shared humanity. As I watched the crowd dance and swirl to the music of African drums expertly played by Voices of Culture, I was reminded once again why Nelson Mandela tops the list of world leaders I most want to emulate. Below are my top five reasons for wanting to be like Nel:

1. Mandela was a master teacher of courageous leadership, helping others under his tutelage to learn to lead by their vision and chase their dreams with a reckless passion. He knew how to stand in moments of controversy and adversity and was not afraid to stand alone. But his preference always was to build bridges of harmony and lift up a collective vision.

2. Mandela was a humble leader who knew how to temper criticism with a kind word. His secret sauce was his understanding that his humility was in fact his greatest strength and the precise reason why others would happily follow his lead. He was exceptionally patient and kind and his generosity of spirit and forgiving nature kept the most unlikely players at the table.

3. Mandela was a servant leader, understanding that the most wondrous gift of all is to give back to your community. He modeled practices that inspired others to give back in ways that could create ripples and waves of change.

4. Mandela was a lover of young people and saw in them the ability to create change. Embedded in his “youth for a change” philosophy was the unwavering belief that nothing is sustainable without an intentional involvement of young people. His unflinching belief in the gifts of youth, often found in memorable quotes, guarantees new Mandela followers for generation to come.

5. Mandela was a hopeful leader who remained hopeful in the face of hopelessness. His laugh and spirit were infectious, propelling others to believe that an unrealized vision was in fact in sight and not out of reach. This ability enabled him to ignite the civic imaginations within and across cultures around the world.

An examination of Mandela’s life will always yield rich examples of transformational leadership worthy of emulation. I am thankful for the lessons of his life that will inspire me to stretch and grow my leadership skills. The challenge for all of us Mandela wannabes is to continuously find ways to honor his legacy through our own actions.

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