Top Ten Leadership Quotes by Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela served as the first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He is seen as one of the greatest leaders of all time. Here are his top ten quotes on leadership and what we can learn from them.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

You can’t know if something is possible or not until you try it. You have to try it. Saying it’s impossible might be an excuse for you not to start. Leaders like Nelson Mandela, who know that and are brave enough to try, are the ones who achieve extraordinary things.

Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.

Leaders who are on the front are visible. Leaders who lead from the back intend not to be visible. Leaders who present themselves as great leaders, putting themselves in the limelight, are the ones who are likely to fail.

On the other hand, if a leader lets others run in front, they will work much harder. A great leader is not always visible but sets the direction in which the others in front are running.

When the water starts boiling, it is foolish to turn off the heat.

If you see success, you must double down. Great leaders do not become complacent with initial success. And they are not feared of things to come or that they might grow out of control.

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

Success is never a straight path. And great leaders know that. After some success, there might be many failures before the next great thing happens. Knowing this will allow you to prepare yourself and those you lead mentally.

Forget the past.

Taking the past into account is one of the most common mistakes leaders can make. A great leader must optimize the outcome in the future. What matters is the status quo and what decisions you can take to improve on that. To understand this concept better, you might want to explore sunk costs and the sunk cost fallacy.

Sometimes, I feel like one who is on the sidelines, who has missed life itself.

Great leaders are often competitive. And even if they have achieved great success, they might feel otherwise. Don’t be foolish and expect inner piece because you’ve had success. Expect that you’ll start comparing yourself with Elon Musk and Bill Gates.

One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.

Everything will start with your beliefs. If you don’t believe in something, you’ll act accordingly. It is possible to act opposing your beliefs, but this is exhausting and not sustainable in the long run. And this is why great leaders are great believers. And they are great at transferring their strong beliefs to those who follow them.

As a leader of a mass organization, one must listen to the people.

Nelson Mandela was a great leader and a great listener. You’ll learn a lot if you listen to those you lead. Of course, not everyone is smarter than you, but everyone has a different perspective or unique insights. Great leaders are able to digest this information to come up with the best possible actions to take.

Unlike some politicians, I can admit to a mistake.

Nelson Mandela could admit a mistake. Bad leaders cannot; they will always blame others. Admitting a mistake and owning your mistake will build trust with those you lead. And it will make you much more believable in the long run.

A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.

Success never comes overnight. If great leaders seem to be successful overnight, things are probably in the making for many years. A product might take off overnight, but nobody talks about the years in research and development or other failed product launches.

If you want to be successful, never give up. As long as you don’t give up, you can’t fail.


About the Author
James has over 20 years of experience as a leader and entrepreneur. As a founder, he led startup teams as well as million-dollar companies. He has recently turned to leadership coaching and writing to pass his knowledge to the next generation. If you have any questions or comments regarding the content of this post, please send us a message via the contact page.
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