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Nelson Mandela

Inspiring Social Change

As I mentioned earlier, leadership is on my brain this month. And I was reminded over the weekend that inspiration and leadership go hand in hand. You cannot lead real change unless you are able to inspire those you are leading to do great things.

On Saturday I watched the movie Invictus with my sons. The movie chronicles the 1995 Rugby World Cup championship which South Africa hosted shortly after the end of apartheid and the election of their first black president, Nelson Mandela.  Mandela saw, before anyone else, the opportunity the World Cup offered to unite a country divided by decades of segregation.

Mandela also recognized in François Pienaar, the captain of South African rugby team the Springboks, the opportunity to create a real leader. Although at first a reluctant leader, Pienaar finds inspiration from Mandela and uses it to rebuild his disheartened team and eventually go on to win the World Cup.

Although the movie came out several years ago it seems particularly timely now because of Mandela’s recent death. The movie demonstrates what an amazing social change leader Mandela was. He had the uncanny ability to recognize people’s strengths and offer them an opportunity to rise to heights they had never imagined.

It seems to me that what separates great leaders from mediocre leaders is this ability to inspire others to greatness. A true leader asks us to rise above circumstances and do more, be more than we ever thought possible. It is at those times that real change can happen.

Through a seemingly innocuous sporting event, Mandela and Pienaar took the rubble of a horribly segregated and angry country and built unity. It is amazing to watch:

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