"The Cell is an Ideal Place to Know Yourself"
Posted November 1, 2014

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Leadership According to Nelson Mandela.

I’m currently traveling in South Africa. It’s an amazing place for the natural and cultural beauty. And, you’re never too far from an image of Nelson Mandela. His face appears on signs, souvenirs, sides of buildings, and even as graffiti in places it “should not” be. But you know it will not be removed.

My beautiful wife and me visiting South Africa.

My beautiful wife and me visiting South Africa.

Conversations about him are full of reverence and admiration, but also laced with fear of what might happen now he is no longer around to propel the vision and control those that might stray.I participated in anti-apartheid rallies in Philadelphia in the mid-80s and organized letter-writing campaigns to release an imprisoned a South African pastor. And now I am walking the streets of Cape Town and driving past the Townships.Tonight I read a posting from the respected theologian and author, Jim Wallis of Sojourners. He too traveled to South Africa recently and shared this quote from Mandela:

“The cell is an ideal place to know yourself. People tend to measure themselves by external accomplishments, but jail allows a person to focus on internal ones, such as honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, generosity and an absence of variety. You learn to look into yourself.”

I can’t think of a better explanation of why leadership begins first and foremost with an understanding of self. And, I can’t think of a leader worth emulating more than Nelson Mandela.

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