Last night, my daughter asked me, “Who was Nelson Mandela?”
How do you sum up the life and work of a man who, over the course of modern history, truly had no equal? I tried my best. I told her he was an optimist, a civil rights leader, a prisoner, a President, and a leader who changed the world.
But that only prompted another question: “What kind of leader was he?” She wanted to know if he was a dictator, or a kind leader, and what he did to make him so important to everyone.
This time, I had a better answer, one that came from Mr. Mandela himself. I shared with my daughter one of his many quotes: “Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front.” In other words, make people feel like they’re part of the process, share the responsibility (as well as the credit) for success, get maximum buy-in and participation from others, and recognize that nobody can do anything meaningful alone.
It’s a sentiment that has shaped much of my professional life. And in the spirit of Nelson Mandela and his approach to leadership, I’d like to share a DCS blog post from last November that reflects on his lead-from-behind strategy, and what it means for do-gooders and civic-minded leaders today.
Finally, we’d like to take this opportunity to add our voice to the great chorus that has risen up worldwide in the wake of this great man’s death: truly, Mr. Mandela, you will be missed.