I was in San Francisco yesterday, getting ready to deliver a talk on Wholehearted Leadership, when I heard the news that Nelson Mandela had passed away. I can think of no national leader who exemplifies wholehearted leadership more than Mandela.
What many don’t know is that Mandela viewed his own leadership practices as simply, pragmatic. As reported in the New York Times obituary today:
When the question was put to Mr. Mandela in an interview for this obituary in 2007 — after such barbarous torment, how do you keep hatred in check? — his answer was almost dismissive: Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.
I always end my speeches with a reminder that while leadership and employee engagement definitely drives business results, that’s not the “why” that will enable us to remember to practice leadership on a daily basis. The true “why” is the impact we’ll make in the lives of our team members, and the impact we’ll even have on their families. As Nelson Mandela once wrote,
“It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”