Nelson Mandela: From Revolutionary Leader to Healing Leader

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela!

95 years old, in the hospital and still inspiring his people to celebrate, Nelson Mandela remains an inspiration all over the world for his persistence, revolutionary values, healing work in uniting his country as a strategic leader who demonstrated that radical change can happen, at a cost, but with good results.

Schoolchildren sing "Happy Birthday" to former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Medi Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria. (Stephane De Sakutin / AFP/Getty Images / July 18, 2013)

Schoolchildren sing “Happy Birthday” to former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Medi Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria. (Stephane De Sakutin / AFP/Getty Images / July 18, 2013)

For a reflection on his passing, and a tribute to his life, click here. (“Five Ways Mandela’s Leadership Changed the World….”)

Here’s a link to key events in his life from the LA Times.

Despite frequent news reports about his imminent death and/0r need for total life support for a recurrent lung infection, family members report that they are hoping he can come home soon, and is making progress. Whatever his condition, he is much celebrated today.

Of his long journey, Mandela wrote:

“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 lies defeat and death.”
-From Long Walk to Freedom

He also said:

“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
-From Long Walk to Freedom

Mandela’s leadership journey was shaped by his early years as a revolutionary, and his long years in prison, leading “from behind” bars, if you will. His life embodies the tragedies, triumphs and complex transformations that shaped post-Apartheid South Africa. Mandela retired from public life in 2004. He began his work fighting for freedom and equality in 1942.



  1. […] is clearly walking in the revolutionary, influential and risky footsteps of Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. The dangers are as great as the possible […]


  2. […] the loss. Mandela changed us by changing his country, and by embodying a changing story — from revolutionary to ruler, he modeled healing leadership with determination, grace and consistency. From the beginning, […]


  3. […] who have achieved a great deal carry many stories,many projected identies. When they move, like Nelson Mandela, from revolutionary to healer, even after becoming mythic heroes in their own time, they inspire many emotions — fear, joy, […]


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