Self Leadership - A Word From Mandela

Nelson Mandela had what the Bible calls the wilderness experience. For Mandela, his wilderness was a small one. It was Robben Island near Capetown. The island is 2 miles x 1 mile in size (3.3 x 1.9 kilometers). On the island was the prison where Mandela spent 18 years. He had a cell that was 8 x 8 feet (or 2.5 x 2.5 meters). Cold in the winter, hot in the summer, sparse, hard, with little contact from the outside. This was the crucible where Mandela was forged.

With no entertainment, no distractions, few options, but much solitude and silence, a woman or man has time to think. Ruminate. Ponder. Obsess. Look within. When you are your own main company, it is possible (not inevitable) that you will come to know yourself. 

Week after week, months turning to years - you come to know your needs, wants, dreams, desires, fears and failures. You may come to see your virtue and your vice, the good, bad and ugly that is within you. You may grow wise or vengeful. You may find love or you may become bitter. You may discover hope or fall into despair. There is NO guarantee one way or the other.

Nelson Mandela became one of the great leaders of the world in that prison. Isn't that ironic. In virtual isolation, with little ability to do what are the typical tasks of leadership, Mandela become great. A deep soul was forged and a loving, gentle spirit was formed.

For all great leadership begins with the single hardest, longest leadership task of all - and that is "Self Leadership."  
Here are the words of Mandela.

Nelson Mandela my greatest enemy was myself.

Mandela's inward journey was to confront his fears. In his understanding, the greatest fear was of himself, of being the man and leader he was created to be. In his case, a man of compassion, love, forgiveness, gentleness and grace. A Leader who would be a visionary, peace-making, voice of reconciliation and justice, first for a country torn by racial strife (horrific in its injustice and brutality). Then for a larger world.

You do not become such a person... such a leader easily or quickly. Mandela became a leader because he came to know who he was and who he could be. And he chose to accept that identity and vocation.  Then, he lived out of that identity and carried out his vocation.

Great leadership always involves MORE than leading one's self. But it never happens without this first act of leadership.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International
BrianRice@lcileaders.org

LCI - here to help you with the first and hardest act of leadership