20 Leadership Quotes From Nelson Mandela: A Leader Who Truly Changed The World

Today Nobel Peace Prize winner and iconic symbol of hope and freedom Nelson Mandela died at his South African home.  South African president Jacob Zuma made the announcement in a nationally televised address and said,” Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”

We use the phrase “change the world” very liberally.  The following are 20 Leadership Quotes From Nelson Mandela, a leader who truly did change the world.

  1. “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. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
  2. “My people, Africans, are turning to deliberate acts of violence and of force against the government, in order to persuade the government, in the only language which this government shows by its own behavior that it understands.” – 1962
  3. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
  4. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.”
  5. “Long speeches, the shaking of fists, the banging of tables and strongly worded resolutions out of touch with the objective conditions do not bring about mass action and can do a great deal of harm to the organisation and the struggle we serve.”
  6. “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for loves comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
  7. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
  8. “We were expected by the world to self-destruct in the bloodiest civil war along racial grounds.  Not only did we avert such racial conflagration, we created amongst ourselves one of the most exemplary and progressive nonracial and nonsexist democratic orders in the contemporary world.”
  9. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.  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.”
  10. “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”
  11. “I would like to be remembered not as anyone unique or special, but as part of a great team in this country that has struggled for many years, for decades and even centuries.  The greatest glory of living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.”
  12. “People tend to measure themselves by external accomplishments, but jail allows a person to focus on internal ones; such as honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, generosity and an absence of variety.  You learn to look into yourself.”
  13. “We have confounded the prophets of doom and achieved a bloodless revolution. We have restored the dignity of every South African.”
  14. “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”
  15. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
  16. “I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.”
  17. “Let the strivings of us all prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war. Let the efforts of us all prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Let a new age dawn.”
  18. “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.”
  19. “AIDS is no longer just a disease; it is a human rights issue. It affects people of all ages but particularly young people. For the sake of all of them and our future, we must act and act now.”
  20. “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.  I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for eternity.”

As I read those quotes, I am overwhelmed by President Mandela’s willingness to die for a cause he believed in.  May we as leaders have equal passion for the causes God has called us to.

What are some additional Mandela quotes that have resonated with you?

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3 Responses to “20 Leadership Quotes From Nelson Mandela: A Leader Who Truly Changed The World”

  1. Good day Brian, thank you for reminding us of the remarkable human being Tata (father) Madiba was. The world is indeed a poorer place.

    His legacy of forgiveness and reconciliation will certainly live on forever and ever.

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