South African Iconic

Here Are 7 Unforgettable Leadership Lessons From South Africa’s Iconic Leader Nelson Mandela


  • July 18, 2021, marks the 104th birth anniversary of late South African president Nelson Mandela.
  • Mandela Day is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world.
  • South Africa’s first Black president Nelson Mandela, known affectionately as Madiba and Tata, was an iconic figure, human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, and an international peacemaker.
  • Born on 18 July 1918 and died in 2013, aged 95, Mandela was a controversial figure who gained international acclaim for his activism.
  • He devoted most of his life to leading the fight against institutionalised racism in South Africa.
  • He was also the first black president of South Africa, serving in the role from 1994 to 1999.

According to Business Insider Report, In November 2009, the UN officially declared July 18 the Nelson Mandela International Day, with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010. According to the UN, Mandela Day is not a public holiday but a day to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former President, and his values through volunteering and community service.

Every year since 2009, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has marked his birthday with Mandela Day to carry on his work and inspire others to take action against poverty and change the world. This year, the Foundation is highlighting the intersection between food security, climate change, poverty, and inequality and urging people to: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”.

Here are 7 unforgettable leadership lessons from South Africa’s iconic leader Nelson Mandela.

Be optimistic

“I am fundamentally an optimist. 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.

Be courageous

“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.

Learn and teach

“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that in 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

Strive to make a difference

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Love others

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, background, or religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Make mistakes

“Do not judge me by my successes; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Lead from the back

“A leader…is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realising that all along they are being directed from behind.” – “Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” written by Nelson Mandela in 1994.

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