“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. ”
Nelson Mandela, 1918–2013
Attribution: South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za
Nelson Mandela had a vision: That all people of all races should have the same opportunities to live and thrive. He was willing to die for that vision. Ultimately, he spent 27 years of his life in prison for it. He watched his children grow up from behind the visitor safety glass. He lived a lifetime without the things many of us take for granted: a sheltering home, good food to eat, a stable job, a new car every now and then, time spent with family and friends, vacations, physical comforts…. In the end, through his sacrifice, will and constancy, his vision was attained.
As the world mourns Nelson Mandela and remembers his accomplishments, the word that comes up again and again is “leadership.” Global leadership. Selfless leadership. A True Leader. One person went so far as to say, “I honestly don’t think the world will see another leader like Nelson Mandela.” He risked much, he dared much, he achieved much.
And in the light of his example, we must ask ourselves that tough question: How far am I willing to go to achieve my leadership vision?
Granted, our visions may not be as epic as Mandela’s. Expanding an agency mission or entering a new market probably won’t require prison time or death. But what do they require? Are you willing to make those sacrifices and take those risks? Would you talk to that rival who betrayed you? Would you set aside your pride to ask for help? Would you lose a night’s sleep? Miss your child’s soccer game?
If you have more “No” than “Yes” answers, maybe you need a clearer, more compelling vision. Maybe you need a vision that goes beyond your own interests or even those of your organization. Maybe you need to be thinking farther into the future.
Research has shown that a shared vision is an important driver of sustainable change and organizational engagement.
This week, as we remember Nelson Mandela and honor his life, take some time to reflect on your own leadership vision and what you’re willing to do to achieve it.