Magazine article The American Organist

Leadership Mandela-Style

Magazine article The American Organist

Leadership Mandela-Style

Article excerpt

As the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela, his legacy prompts me to reflect on leadership and lessons we might learn from him. South Africa occupies a special place in my heart. When you read this, I will have just returned from my eighth trip there, leading a group of Wesley Seminary students to engage with the spirit of the country and the people, its particular history of struggle and success and its work to embody "ubuntu," the idea that we are human only through the humanity of others. "I am because you are," it says. It's a concept that can inform the way we work with each other.

Leadership is a subject often addressed by the Guild-the individuals who are currently good leaders, those who have the potential to be leaders, and ways we might encourage and develop those with the potential. The Guild doesn't reside in the world of politics where issues are hotly debated and at the end there are "winners and losers," but it has political aspects. There are strategies from Mandela that can inform our approach to the Guild, the church, the university, to life.

I will paraphrase some of the ideas to which Mandela has spoken in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (required reading for my trips) and in various interviews over the last two decades. Mandela encourages us to be clear on our goals and not let our emotions get away from us; he encourages us to make partners of theose with whom we have disagreed, especially those who might have been on the losing end of an argument; he encourages us to form our opinion not on our own. but through shared experinece; he encourages us to treat people so that "everybody feels bigger in [our] presence" and to build a team to work with you on the cause or project that you care about most. His life was defined by the belief that "in the end, it is kindness and accommodation that are the catalysts for real change. …

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