January 6, 2010 Getting to the Soul of Leadership
Last weekend I saw the movie Invictus and really enjoyed it. The film managed to capture the challenge of transitioning South Africa from a country under the racist regime of apartheid to a nation that was lead by a black South African leader. It’s a great movie because whether you are well versed in South Africa’s history and politics or you barely know who Mandela is, you can get something valuable from it. It was a film that left me thinking. I wondered why rugby shorts were so short and how long Matt Damon had to prepare to acquire such a convincing South African accent. But most importantly, it left me reflecting on what leadership really means. The way Mandela lead South Africa was more than just strategically ingenious. It required a degree of personal fortitude that was bigger than just political or economic objectives. After twenty-seven years of being imprisoned, and having his family be harrassed, he found within him, the ability to forgive. Think about what it took for you to really forgive someone. I’m not talking about insisting to someone that what they did was ” cool”, then telling everyone you know behind their backs why they suck. I mean truly forgiving someone for their actions. Now think about what the task must have been for Mandela. This quality was the foundation of his leadership. What is the foundation of your leadership?
As young people I think we are so optimistic and ready to go out and fight the injustices and inequalities that exist out there, in the world. Our creativity and energy is poured into learning about and devising interesting ways of taking on the things we do not approve of society. We are huge fans of the men and women who are devising creative, enterprising ways of changing the world.
But watching this movie about Mandela made me realize that without iphones, blogs and twitte this man had the audacity to ask an entire country to forgive the institution who had terrorized them for generations. And it worked. His ability to find a human way of transitioning power was driven by his values, the way he lived his life. It was his mastery of self that he was able to bring into his work, his strategy, and ultimately, his historic vision for South Africa. Cultivating that degree of love and forgiveness in himself is what enabled him to demand it of others.
How much of our time is spent focusing on what must be changed on the inside? Yes, we’re doing lots to become more efficient. We want to hack our way to answering more emails faster, completing more tasks in a day, increasing our blogging networks, and page views, and followers. But how much time is spent improving the quality of our “souls” if you will? How important do we consider the way we live our lives in our pursuit of improving others’?
I think these are important questions for all of us to ask ourselves because at the end of the day, the quality of what we do for our community on the outside is limited by who we are on the inside.