4 Lessons for Leadership at Any Level


There is never a need to reinvent the wheel as they say. So if you are trying to hone your style as a small business leader and employer look to great leaders in history for inspiration. You will become a more effective leader in your organization when you adopt these techniques modeled by Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid activist and first black president of South Africa:

1. Be a model in times of fear. A leader does not have to be fearless, but the best leaders appear to be fearless in difficult times so they set an example for others. Even as a prisoner, Mandela walked tall and proud.

Tip: Speak with confidence about new initiatives and challenges your team faces.

2. Bring your followers along. Negotiating with the apartheid government was a risky change of course for Mandela because others thought he was selling out. He had to convince skeptical members of the African National Congress that the time was ripe to change tactics.

Tip: Although you see a clear course of action, take time to explain the situation to your team members before you ask for their support.

3. Sit back and listen. During meetings, Mandela would listen first and then summarize his colleagues’ points. While adding his own points, he would guide the group toward the decision he wanted. “It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea,” Mandela said.

Tip: Instead of just issuing orders, ask questions that direct your team to the outcome you desire.

4. Dress for your position. As a young man,Mandela was one of the few black South Africans to wear a suit. As the ANC’s military leader, he ensured that any photographs showed him in battle fatigues.

Tip: Dress to fit the image you want to project.

— Adapted from “Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership,” Richard Stengel, Time, www.time.com

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