18 July 2022 

Written by: Dr Joseph Sekhampu - COO, Milpark Education

There are many lessons we can learn from Mandela's life, but for me I am reminded that the greatest leaders can be the humblest of all. Mandela was born into a world that expected him to be a mine worker or a domestic servant but went on to liberate his people from apartheid. While he was seen as the sole hero against a system, he was often quick to point out that he was not the only person involved in ending apartheid in South Africa. It was his ability to listen to a wide audience, even when it meant those who were architects of a system that saw his people as lesser human beings that stands out for me. He understood that true leadership requires humility and knew that all people have value and deserve respect simply because they are human beings.

Humility is a term often used to describe leaders who have great confidence but know that they don't know everything. Humility doesn't mean being meek or weak-willed. True humility means acknowledging that there are things you don't know, and that you can learn from others – even if their ideas differ from yours. It means being open to the possibility that you might be wrong, or that someone else's way of thinking might be better than yours. Humility requires courage because it requires you to be vulnerable and admit mistakes without getting defensive or feeling attacked (which doesn't always come naturally).

Mandela's humility is a lesson that all leaders should take to heart. Humility is hard — especially in today's competitive world where we're encouraged to stand out at all costs. The best leaders serve others. They need to be able to listen, learn and lead. They must be humble enough to accept that they don’t have all the answers, but also confident enough to make decisions and lead others toward a shared vision. Humility is about character and integrity – qualities that are essential for anyone who wants to be successful as a leader or manager.