News / Arts & Entertainment

    Leading from Behind

    Lessons in life and leadership from Nelson Mandela

    TIME magazine editor Richard Stengel came to know Nelson Mandela as a leader, a freedom fighter and a man.
    TIME magazine editor Richard Stengel came to know Nelson Mandela as a leader, a freedom fighter and a man.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Faiza Elmasry

    Richard Stengel considers Nelson Mandela — anti-apartheid activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner and the man who led South Africa to democracy — to be an inspiring role model for everyone.

    For nearly three years, the TIME magazine editor collaborated with the former South African president on his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom." Interviewing Mandela, traveling with him and listening to him think aloud, Stengel came to know Mandela as a leader, a freedom fighter and a man.

    'Mandela's Way'

    Now Stengel has written his own book, "Mandela's Way: 15 Lessons on Life, Love and Courage", which sums up lessons the African leader learned throughout his life.

    "I wouldn't wish all the struggles that he had on anyone, but I think there are lots of lessons that he can teach us that we can use in our lives in everyday ways," says Stengel. "You don't have to be the head of a country or a revolutionary leader to understand some of these really important life lessons that he teaches."

    'Mandela's Way: 15 Lessons on Life, Love and Courage', sums up lessons the African leader has learned during his lifetime.
    'Mandela's Way: 15 Lessons on Life, Love and Courage', sums up lessons the African leader has learned during his lifetime.

    Stengel found that leadership seemed to be in Mandela's genes.

    "He came from a kind of aristocratic African background. His father was a headman of a tribe," he says. "When his father died, he was raised by the king of his local tribe. He was immersed in African historic customs. I think that helped shape him as a young man."

    Formative years

    But perhaps the most powerful influence on the Nelson Mandela we know today, Stengel says, was the 27 years the anti-apartheid activist spent in prison.

    Initially a supporter of non-violent resistance, Mandela eventually established the military wing of the African National Congress, and led a campaign of bombing attacks against military and government targets. He was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other crimes against the state.

    The man who emerged from prison at age 71, Stengel says, was a very different man than the one who went in.

    "When he went into prison in 1964, he was this hot-headed, tempestuous revolutionary who wasn't always in control. And the man who emerged was a model of self-control and maturity. Prison taught him that in a way, because the only thing you could control in prison was yourself. That made him stronger rather than weakened him."

    Nelson Mandela says prison was his greatest teacher.
    Nelson Mandela says prison was his greatest teacher.

    Prison also taught Mandela discipline and focus. Stengel says in his tiny prison cell, Nelson Mandela also discovered what courage means.

    Meaning of courage

    "Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is triumphing over the fear that you have. He constantly told me that he had been terrified," he says. "I was amazed because here is this great hero telling me he was frightened. What he would say is that courage comes not from not being afraid, but from figuring out a way to suppress it, to overcome it, to tamp it down."

    During his nearly three decades in prison, Mandela had enough time to come to understand white fears and black frustrations, according to Stengel. Mandela learned to look for the good in others and to put himself in the shoes of those who disagreed with him. That perspective helped him recognize that life is not simply black and white, but shades of gray.

    "I used to ask him questions like, 'You embraced military maneuvers as a revolutionary because you thought you could topple the government or [because] you just wanted good PR for the fact that you guys were frightening?' His answer used to be, 'Why not both?' For Nelson Mandela, it's never either, or. It's always and, and both.' He sees both sides of different arguments. He thinks people are often too passionate, too certain about things that they shouldn't be certain about and that life is complex, that there are no black or white answers to questions."

    Looking the part

    Stengel writes that Mandela realized early on that paying attention to appearances — looking the part of a leader — was important.

    "He always wore beautiful suits when he was a young man. But the lesson is larger than that. He basically says you have to sort of look and pretend to be the thing we want to be. If you want to be a leader, you have to act like a leader. If you want to be an artist, you have to look and act like an artist."

    According to Stengel, it was as a youth in the South African countryside that Mandela learned another valuable leadership skill: how to lead both from the front and the back.

    Leading from behind

    "Lead from the front is the more conventional kind of leading that we know — getting up on the podium and giving a speech or saying follow me. But leading from the back is a different idea. We used to take these early morning walks in the countryside near where he grew up. He once asked me if I ever herded cattle before. I said, 'no.'

    He said, 'It's interesting because there are lessons for leadership because the way you herd cattle is you lead them from behind. You find the most able and smartest cattle and have them lead the way. You empower them.' He said that's a good lesson for all of us. You basically have to kind of share the wealth. You have to find people who can execute your vision and ideas. I think that's relevant not only in politics, but again even within families."

    Nelson Mandela is godfather to both of the author's sons.
    Nelson Mandela is godfather to both of the author's sons.

    Stengel says his friendship with Mandela changed his life in a very personal way:

    "I met a young woman photographer in South Africa whom Mandela knew before I did. When we started dating, he urged us each to marry the other because he thought it was a match made in heaven. He was both the godfather to our marriage and he became a godfather to both of my sons. Both of them have middle names that come from Mandela's real name."

    Stengel says "Mandela's Way" sums up the wisdom of a leader who came to understand that his role in politics and in life was to set the course — and let others steer the ship.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs