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Nelson Mandela’s Servant Leadership Principles

Many people embrace servant leadership because it empowers them to enrich their followers’ lives. Several politicians and leaders have managed to exhibit the major principles of this style. This paper examines how Nelson Mandela employed servant leadership traits to lead, motivate, and influence others.

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Principles of Servant Leadership

After assuming power, Nelson Mandela managed to move beyond the challenges and difficulties suffered in prison. As a patriotic president, Mandela employed most of Greenleaf’s servant leadership principles to achieve his objectives. The first one was that of empathy. He managed to address most of the issues his fellow countrymen faced, such as apartheid. The foresight principle guided him to lead his people to a better future (Pieterson, 2014). He promoted the concept of healing after many years of suffering. He never encouraged his followers to chase their former colonialists and abusers. He was always committed to the growth and welfare of all people. Mandela also established communities that could support all people’s needs.

Examples: Followership

Several examples can be presented to explain how Mandela portrayed the major principles of servant leadership. For instance, he focused on the best approaches to make South Africa a democracy. He achieved this aim without considering his personal losses and pains. He also collaborated with his fellow prisoners to ensure a smooth power transition in the country (Ingram, 2016). This achievement created the best environment for establishing better communities for all. He went a step further to identify new opportunities that would bring all South Africans together. He always used his abilities to empower the citizens and ensure they achieved their potential.

Nelson Mandela can be described as a great leader who managed to inspire his followers. The above principles encouraged the hero to hand over power at a time when no one expected. This action was a clear indication that people should always focus on the welfare of others. They should also embrace the best practices to lead, build, and support their followers (Pieterson, 2014). Mandela also preached messages of peace and harmony. These achievements inspire and encourage others to follow his steps.

Lessons Borrowed from Nelson Mandela

There are various attributes and practices that I would seek to emulate in my organization. The first one is that of stewardship. This principle means that leaders should be ready to guide and mentor others to ensure that positive results are realized. The attribute is also supported by empathy, foresight, and awareness. Our leaders can embrace these aspects to empower every employee to achieve their potential. Managers should also consider their followers’ needs and the challenges they face (Coetzer, Bussin, & Geldenhuys, 2017). I am ready to borrow several ideas from Nelson Mandela and use them to provide adequate leadership to my colleagues. I will also be committed to their developmental needs. This means that I will empower and train them to achieve their goals. Such attributes will eventually make my organization successful.


The above discussion has supported the power of servant leadership. Nelson Mandela employed most of the principles associated with this style to lead South Africa and make it a democratic state. He was also aware of the challenges many citizens faced and used his abilities to address them. Such attributes of servant leadership can, therefore, be embraced by those who want to emerge successfully.


Coetzer, M. F., Bussin, M., & Geldenhuys, M. (2017). The functions of a servant leader. Administrative Sciences, 7(1), 5-36. Web.

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Ingram, O. C. (2016). Servant leadership as a leadership model. Journal of Management Science and Business Intelligence, 1(1), 21-26. Web.

Pieterson, W. (2014). What Nelson Mandela taught the world about leadership. Leader to Leader, 76, 60-66. Web.

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