Saint Francis of Assisi
Rachel Carson
  Dorothy Day
  Mohandas Gandhi
  Jiddu Krishnamurti
  Dalai Lama
  Martin Luther King
  Nelson Mandela
  Anita Roddick
  Eleanor Roosevelt
  Albert Schweitzer
  Mother Teresa
  Desmund Tutu
Chair in Ethical Management
HEC Montreal


Mandela, a man of engagement

Who doesn’t know Nelson Mandela? Most people have heard about the man who liberated South Africa from a system of Apartheid. Most people have heard about the prisoner, the Nobel Prize winner and the President. But aside from those great achievements that represent him as an iconic figure, not many know who he was aside from what he did for the struggle for freedom and peace. Wasn’t this same man imprisoned for terrorism? Wasn’t his family life a failure?

As we know, Nelson Mandela is a man of engagement. And as he specifies, his achievements are driven more by his sense of justice rather than by moral preoccupations. When the peaceful struggle became inefficient, for example, he decided to use violent practices. And in terms of his family, it was his biggest source of pain. This other side of Nelson Mandela is often glossed over by the mass media, which prefers to conceal the darker sides of Mandela’s life. In reality, Mandela isn’t a man with super-human abilities for fighting injustice – he is a man with weaknesses and defects like any other. In short, he is a common man who led his life according to his convictions.

He grew into integral leadership with moments of epiphany across different realities - individual and collective, inner and outer. Upon his release from prison, we could have easily thought that he would have been weakened by 27 years of incarceration. In fact, he was stronger than ever and deeply connected with people. Consequently, he was able to bring about the political transition from an Apartheid government to a democratic one using peaceful means. This could not have been achieved if both white and black people hadn’t subscribed to his philosophy of reconciliation and forgiveness. Mandela is more than a good leader; he is a great leader.

Today, at eighty six, he’s still active and still exerts an influence on different conflicts all around the world, despite the fact that he is no longer active as a politician.

We present this leadergraphy as a piece for reflection for leaders everywhere, in the hope that the courage, wisdom and sense of justice conveyed by Nelson Mandela become a greater part of our common aspirations. Let us be inspired by the strength of his mind, by the effectiveness of his actions, by the ingenuity of his structural creations and by his mark on our cultures. And, last but not least, as human beings, let us be inspired by his spirit of collectivity. As he said: “I would like to be remembered as part of a team, and I would like my contribution to be assessed as somebody who carried out decisions taken by that collective,".

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Quotes from Mandela

About a moment of epiphany: 'I am grateful for the 27 years I spent in prison because it gave me the opportunity to meditate and think deeply.... But since I came out of prison, I haven't had the time.' "
About the iconic image: "If you come across as a saint, people can become very discouraged," he says. "I was once a young man and I did all the things young men do,"
About a critic: "Why would anyone say that I am leaning too much towards whites? Tell me the record of any black man in this country who has done as much as that [for black people].... I am not aware of any other black man who has spent so much time addressing the problems of poverty, lack of education, and disease amongst our people,"
About his philosophy of reconciliation and forgiveness: "It enables me to go to bed with an enriching feeling in my soul and the belief that I am changing myself [by reconciling with former adversaries],"

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Key documents on Nelson Mandela

1. Autobiography: Mandela, N. (1996). A long walk to freedom, Paperback

2. Biography: Sampson, A. (1999). Mandela: The Authorized Biography, Jonathan Ball: Johannesburg

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Key Websites on Nelson Mandela

1. The long walk to freedom of Nelson Mandela:

2. The 100 top leaders of the 20th century by Time Magazine:

3. The Mandela Children’s Fund:

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