Many are Proudly Stood on His Shoulders
We all have days we will never forget. I happened to be in Pretoria, South Africa, the morning we lost one of the greatest leaders of our generation.
We were driving past the Pretoria hospital where he had been for some time. There was a security cordon around it as many had come to pay their respects. The love and support shared by millions was always apparent right until the very end.
We waited in silence in the car, it somehow felt a poignant moment. I had been privileged to have met him a few times and I somehow knew that we would not be seeing him again.
As we drove off in silence, it was announced on the radio that we had just lost him, Nelson Mandela.
We stopped the car and again sat in silence. We knew that he would always remain with us because of all he stood for. We were not wrong, 10 years on his words still hold relevance to the way our leaders must act, “it is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger.”
He was not perfect, and he frequently acknowledged that, and in many respects, his sharing of his own frailties and imperfections gave us all hope and confidence to embrace the most challenging situations we faced.
An old phrase tells us to never meet our heroes, but I’m glad I never listened to that. I had the incredible privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela on several occasions, it was a bit of a lifetime dream. I’ll never forget the touching moment of Mandela remembering my name, I had seen him enter the building, greeting everyone, cleaners, security, receptionists, they were all shocked and honoured to meet him, but for Mandela, it did not matter the role you played, he was willing to give everybody the time of day. Our initial meeting was short and sweet, but later, he addressed me by name immediately, there isn’t a time that I do not smile when reminiscing about it. It may seem like a simple gesture, but the impact it had is indescribable.
Over the years so many leaders have paved the way for diversity, leadership and inclusion, Mandela was a huge pioneer for all three. Losing someone, who is an idol for many, is never easy but what they teach us during their time are lessons we must continue to learn and pass on for each generation. In a world where times are tough, look to be the leader you want to follow.
At a time when our world is raging at each other again, he reminds us that “courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
There is an old Senegalese saying, “when an elder passes, a library burns down.”