What I’ve Learnt From … Nelson Mandela


I’ve long admired Nelson Mandela. I remember staying in the same hotel as him in Bahrain, well over a decade ago and catching a glimpses of him as he walked by. He was a lot taller than I imagined him to be and his smile was striking and as full of warmth as you’d expect.

He was someone I considered to be a true leader, an inspirational man and a transformational figure. His inspiration and motivation spanned countries across Africa and beyond.

There are plenty of characteristics and traits this charismatic man had that leaders and people in general would benefit from emulating, including: honesty, integrity, fighting spirit, persuader / negotiator, and dreamer. That’s just  to name just a few!

I’m currently reading “Portrait of an extraordinary man”, which is a biography written by Richard Stengel, who was a close friend and confidant of Mandela. (It’s a brilliant read if you’re after a new book). I’m enjoying discovering more about this man and what went on behind that smile.

The book is structured to capture lessons that Mandela himself learnt both of life and of leadership. These are his lessons:

  1. Courage is not the absence of fear
  2. Be measured
  3. Lead from the front
  4. Lead from the back
  5. Look the part
  6. Have a core principle
  7. See the good in others
  8. Know your enemy
  9. Keep your rivals close
  10. Know when to say no
  11. It’s a long game
  12. Love makes the difference
  13. Quitting is leading too
  14. It’s always both
  15. Find your own garden

Of course, some of these are more applicable to business over personal life, however, quite a few are very relevant to both.

The ones that resonated with me were:

To finish off, here are my favourite quotes from this legendary man:

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“We must use time wisely and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right.”

“Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

“When people are determined they can overcome anything.”

May I say just how hard it was to limit myself to only 6 quotes!

Long may his legacy live on.


Katherine Bugden

The beautiful Katherine Bugden is a co-founder and contributor to A Conscious Beauty blog.

This English lass is an avid writer, tea drinker, reader and can chat the hind legs off a donkey. She loves to travel and has a serious case of wanderlust, which is providing ample fodder for day-dreams. Love, family, friends and laughter are constant themes in this beauty’s life. When not working, reading or writing, she’s on the beach lapping up the sunshine and letting the ocean wash any worries away.

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