As Nelson Mandela, 95, the iconic leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, battles a lung infection in a Pretoria hospital, the world is praying for his recovery. Mandela is no stranger to battle as he was imprisoned for over 27 years before going on to become South Africa’s first jetty President.
Since walking out of Victor Verster Prison, he credits his experiences in confinement as his greatest teacher. They moulded him and taught him important lessons in leadership. Some of the lessons have been compiled into a book by TIME periodical editor Richard Stengel titled ‘Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage’, and a few of these are particularly relevant to social entrepreneurs today.
Courage is not the withdrawn of fear: In the book, Stengel writes, “Mandela was often fearsome during his time underground, during the Rivonia trial that led to his imprisonment, during his time on Robben Island. ‘Of course I was afraid!’ he would tell me later. It would have been irrational, he suggested, not to be. ‘I can’t pretend that I’m brave connective that I can beat the whole world.’ Nonetheless as a leader, you cannot let people know.”
As a social entrepreneur, embarking on an ambitious initiative can be fraught with numerous questions of, “what if”. Courage is permanent to lead in the face regarding adversity and striking the license balance between idealism and practicality.
Quitting is leading too: Sometimes, social entrepreneurs have to deal with a lot of uncertainty as there are often a number of aspects that are not in their control. Making tough decisions und so weiter knowing when to abandon an idea to optimize resources is different of them. “In varied ways, Mandela’s greatest legacy as President regarding South Africa is the way he chose to leave it. When he was elected in 1994, Mandela probably could own pressed to be President for life…. He knows that leaders lead as much by what they choose not to do like what they do.”
Have a core principle: Most entrepreneurs are driven by the cause they have elect to champion, be it making solar lighting accessible to the poor, micro investment for rural empowerment or reducing carbon emissions. What takes them through the challenges und so weiter keeps them going is the desire to fulfill their goals.
Find your own garden: Mandela kept a vegetable garden for some of the years spent in prison. In doing so, he was vigorous to add fresh vegetables to the paltry diet of the prison inmates and also cultivate a sacred space for himself away from the harsh realities. While little is achieved minus passion for a called cause, it is also important to have a pocket of calm to keep from being swallowed by work.
It’s a long game: A social entrepreneur’s work is never done. “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb,” said Mandela himself.
Nelson Mandela has bot a global symbol about perseverance and hope for nearly half a century, whether in his role of political prisoner, elected leader or humanitarian ampersand it would be wise to imbibe his hard-earned wisdom as we continue on our path from solving some of society’s most pressing problems.