Mandela - From Prisoner to President Who Promised to Make the World a Better Place

2013 (4 pages)
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Although Nelson Mandela was not an Army Soldier, I believe he embodied everything we stand for, from our own Army Values straight through to our Warrior Ethos. Mandela was a man of staunch character, strong presence and great intellectual capacity. All of these attributes enabled him to lead and develop and ultimately achieve (Department of Army, 2012) his goal of a united South Africa.

His legacy has had a lasting impression on both the world and myself. My leadership style and that of many other leaders has been influenced by the way he led and achieved goals. Mandela epitomized the Army Values with virtually everything he did. With a loyalty to his nation and a duty to his people, Mandela set out to unite his country as one people. He continually showed respect to all even those who had mistreated him. His Selfless Service and Personal Courage are displayed in 1985 when he was offered his freedom. He refused on the principle that the people of South Africa were still prisoners in their own right. (Parks, 1985) Mandela realized that integrity and honor would be the quickest way to unite his nation. Displayed by showing love and compassion as opposed to anger and resentment to those who had wronged him.

He cared for and viewed all South African’s as equal, regardless of color, education, or social status. It was at tribal meeting that a young Mandela learned the importance of empathizing. Listening whole heartedly to other tribal chiefs’ express their grievances and never passing judgement. (Gormley, 2015) It was this trait that would help him unite a fractured country. Mandela knew from a young age that a united South Africa was possible. He also knew that there would be many personal sacrifices along the way to that unification. But he steadfastly placed South African unification above anything else. He never allowed hardships to defeat his dream, he never quit regardless of physical or mental anguish. When victory was finally in sight he did not leave anyone behind, instead he embraced everyone as his brother. (Corner Alliance, 2013) (Stengel, 2008) It is safe to say that Nelson Mandela was perhaps one of the most awe inspiring leaders of the free world. After almost 30 years in prison, Nelson Mandela began dismantling the apartheid in South Africa, fostering cohesion to the racially splintered nation and shining a light for human rights the world over. ( Staff, 2009) Throughout his time in prison, Mandela remained resilient, envisioning his future as opposed to his current situation. (Williams, 2013) Daily personal fitness supported his resiliency, despite being forced to work in quarry mines and break rocks into gravel. (Deliberate Rest, 2015) From his book A Long Walk To Freedom (1994) Mandela had this to say of exercise:

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I have always believed exercise is a key not only to physical health but to peace of mind. Many times in the old days I unleashed my anger and frustration on a punchbag rarther than taking it out on a comrade or even a policeman. Exercise dissipates tension, and tension is the enemy of serenity. I found that I worked better and thought more clearly when I was in good physical condition, and so training became one of the inflexible disciplines of my life. In prison, having an outlet for my frustrations was absolutely essential. (Mandela, 1994) His humility also inspired many, having always been “honored” to meet anyone, no matter their position in the world. His self-confidence was shown through his utilization of self-deprecating humor. He had a strong understanding on the importance of personal bearing, always knowing how he was being viewed by others. (Corner Alliance, 2013) Mandela was an erudite man that showed great intellectual capacity. Educating himself as much as possible in anticipation of the apartheids collapse shows great mental agility. Even learning Afrikaans, the white minority language, so he could better communicate and understand his opposition. He also study the mistakes of other world leaders, to ensure South Africa did not repeat their fate. (Krupp & Schoemaker, 2014) One example is appointing former president F.W. de Klerk to deputy president and opposition party members to his cabinet. He realized that kindness rather than resentment was the only way to unite the nation. Mandela Socialist views were altered once he realized the devastation socialism had on the Soviet Union. Mandela’s leadership ideology lead directly to the development of others which drove his overall achievements as a leader. Even when he was in prison he did not stop thinking like a leader.

Continually strategizing, trying to find the ideal opportunity to launch his movement to continue fighting for his vision. (Mandela, 1994) Further proving him to be an innovative strategic leader. Mandela was people and task oriented. Mandela once refused a prison release offer from current President P.W. Botha. The release conditions called for Mandela He supported and listened to his followers’ concerns but always remained mindful of his key goal. He increased people’s willingness to help and achieve goals by making them each feel important and necessary. He was a shepherd, leading with vision and courage. Mandela would set the direction from the front and once things were in motion he would lead from behind. He was not nullifying his leadership responsibilities by leading this way. Instead this enabled him harness the shared creativity to better achieve his vision. By doing this people had a greater national interest, it was truly theirs. (Hill, 2010) In 1993 Mandela and de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa”. (The Nobel Foundation, 1993) During the 1995 Rugby World Cup, held in South Africa, Mandela encouraged all South Africans’ rally behind their team. Traditionally rugby predominantly white and hated by black South Africans’. However, his message was well received by both sides and was perhaps one of the first steps true steps to promote reconciliation.

Although a great speaker Mandela firmly believed in listening to what people had to say. It did not matter who you were, everyone had a right to be heard. Nelson Mandela has received over 250 awards from various countries and organizations for his political achievements. (Aboobaker, 2012) In addition to the previously mentioned Nobel Peace Prize, he also received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom (The New York Times, 2002). However, Mandela was not an infallible man, he had his imperfection. But he was a man willing to risk everything for what he believed in. A man who lived daily to make his nation and the world a better place. He has taught us that our path will not always be easy and we will be tempted to avoid them. But it is in these times that we must hold true to our values and preserver for the greater good. Mandela could have left prison a bitter man and turned the tide on the white minority; instead chose reconciliation and the victory of principle.

Studying Nelson Mandela’s life and achievements has made an impact on my personal growth and development. I did not understand all the celebration behind his monumental presidential victory. It was through my early research that Nelson Mandela became my first political role model. I was inspired by all he had been through and the fact he was able to come out with his sanity. Through this I learned that no matter the difficulties of life, I must always stay true to my principles. I learned to never quit. That my failure spoke volume about my character. I realized that failure is not a bad thing, so long as I get back up and learn from it. Because of him I developed a desire to learn and assimilate anything I could, no knowledge is worthless. He taught that in order to defeat my enemies, I would first have to learn from them. I always try to find the good in a situation or people, and do my best to not hold a grudge. I learned that even though we do not all share the same opinion, we are all in this world together. He taught me that if I lived my life with purpose, passion and dedication I could achieve anything. Perhaps the most important thing I learned was Nelson Mandela was not a man without flaws and quirks. He was known to have a short temper and being impulsive among others. But he embraced these and did not allow them to dictate who he was. This taught me that my flaws are part of who I am, but they are not who I am. That embracing my flaws instead of hiding them, enabled me to spend my time and energy on greater things. Based upon my personal growth and development, I have embraced learned leadership style. In that I mean, I continually educate myself on both the unit mission and my own personal growth. But I also study and learn the people around me; seniors, peers and subordinates a like. Not taking any of them for granted and realizing we all bring something to the table. It is my job as a leader to select the best person for the job. I cannot do that if I do not know who my soldiers are, their strengths and weakness alike.

Additionally, I strive to remain as empathetic as I can. Our institution believes in uniformity, as well as, good order and discipline, but conformity can only go so far. Soldiers come from various walks of life and have our own biases, values, beliefs and outlooks. If I am to be an effective leader, I must first learn who my soldier is as a person and how to communicate with them. Only then do I feel that I can truly lead that soldier. I believe before punishing a Soldier, no matter the infraction, I must first try to understand their mindset. Also, I strive to empower my Soldiers, when time allows I like to get their input. Sometimes I may have to help steer them down a path. But the end goal is that they will feel more empowered. Thus allowing them to take greater pride and ownership in the task, further increasing productivity. I am also a realist and understand this method does not always work. It is in those times, that I hope they trust in me enough to follow without question or hesitation. I hope the legacy I leave behind is one of empowerment and a desire to be greater tomorrow than you were today. To help others, encouraging and motivating them for the greater good. To treat all people with the dignity and respect regardless of who they are or where they come from. To always strive to achieve your goals, no matter the difficulty, and then set new ones. Never being content with mediocracy and never quitting. To accept flaws and mistakes as part of being human, and to never get discouraged by them. Most importantly, to maintain an unconquerable soul. Nelson Mandela leadership legacy will live on for years to come. His unfailing tenacity to stay true to his vision no matter the hardships is almost incomprehensible. The courage for which he held on to his convictions. He had an unshakeable self-confidence and self-belief, coupled with his self-deprecating humor; this left him with no reason to put another person down to advance himself. He may not have been a Soldier, but his leadership qualities are of the finest exemplifications of the Army Values and Warriors Ethos. He had an innate ability to not only lead but motivate people to achieve amazing results. He was able to empower not only his nation, but people across the globe. He did truly stand and deliver a very powerful message, more through actions than mere words. Mandela’s leadership qualities are firmly planted within my own personal philosophy. He was a true legacy leader and I will continue to foster those qualities. Building upon them, in hopes of one day being able to touch people the way he did.

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