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Leadership Qualities of Nelson Mandela

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Angela Johnson

Angela teaches Adult Basic Education and has a masters in Management and a masters in Higher Education

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Nelson Mandela was a man known for his leadership and activism against inequality in South Africa. Discover the leadership qualities of Nelson Mandela, which included sharp focus, solid integrity, strong passion, and unrelenting persistence. Updated: 01/11/2022

Leadership Qualities of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela and he was the son of a tribal counselor to the chiefs. After the death of his father, he was sent to live with Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo and his family. There, Mandela was raised as if he was the chief's own son and was provided the opportunity to an education. In school, Rolihlahla's first name was changed to Nelson.

Throughout his journey in life, Nelson became a focused activist for the people fighting against inequality, oppression, and apartheid, the separation of races. During the age of apartheid in South Africa, blacks faced oppression, which Mandela experienced when he moved to Johannesburg. Mandela's passion to see equality persuaded him to join in the fight to end apartheid and he joined the African National Congress. Mandela's voice against apartheid became so powerful and his influence so strong, that he was stifled by the government and was ordered to no longer speak to groups of individuals.

Refusing to give up on his integrity and beliefs in non-violence, Mandela was imprisoned and was sentenced to life in prison. His leadership power, however, still held strong with protesters and the people in South Africa. As protesting against apartheid in South Africa grew stronger on a national level, the demand for Mandela's release also grew and on February 11, 1990 Mandela was released from prison by President F.W. de Klerk who was also an advocate to end apartheid. Mandela was still persistent in his passion to see a free South African society and to end all forms of apartheid, as well as de Klerk, so they became partners in their pursuit for equality. In 1993, both Mandela and de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize for establishing an anti-apartheid South Africa and a year later South Africa held its first election that included all races. In the election of April 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president. His focus was backed up by many other leadership qualities that enabled Mandela to lead in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and to become successful.

Let's take a look at these leadership qualities and how they played a role in Mandela's political achievements in South Africa.

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  • 0:02 Leadership Qualities…
  • 2:20 Focus
  • 2:47 Integrity
  • 3:21 Passion
  • 3:41 Persistence
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Nelson Mandela had extreme focus on equality and the fight against all types of oppression. His focus and passion did not just begin when he encountered the extreme situations relating from apartheid when he moved to Johannesburg. Mandela began his focus early in his years as a student and when he was president of the Student Representative Council. It was there Mandela began to realize how important equality and fair treatment was to all individuals.

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Additional Activities

Prompts About Nelson Mandela's Leadership Qualities:

Essay Prompt 1:

In an essay of at least 1-2 pages, discuss the role of apartheid in shaping Nelson Mandela's life and leadership qualities.

Example: You could explain that he experienced apartheid firsthand, and that his integrity helped shape his fight against it.

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay of at least 1-2 pages that describes how you have used one (or several) of Mandela's leadership qualities in your own life.

Example: You could discuss how your passion for numbers and calculations has led you to seek higher education in the field of Accounting.

Graphic Organizer Prompt:

Create a poster, chart, or other type of graphic organizer that depicts Mandela's four main leadership qualities (focus, integrity, passion, and persistence), providing brief examples of each. You could draw the graphic organizer by hand, or use software such as Excel or PowerPoint to make it.

Example: For focus, you could draw a microscope.

Letter Prompt 1:

Write an inspirational letter to your future self who is encountering a hard time. The purpose of the letter is to encourage you to consider Nelson Mandela's leadership qualities and how to utilize them in your trying situation.

Example: You could note that if you really believe in your cause but are having a hard time getting where you want to, utilize the leadership quality of persistence.

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