On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.  On December 5, 2013, he passed away. And today, almost a decade later, his commitment to equality and to the moral transformation of human behaviour continues to shine through after sparking a revolution in a country that, for nearly half a century, had been governed on the basis of the racial segregation dictated by apartheid. A legacy that has made Mandela eternal. A personality from whom there is much to learn. Even in the field of work. Among the different types of leadership, Mandela was a paradigmatic example of a leader of integrity, charisma and tenacity; essential virtues in the workplace. There are many lessons we can learn from good leaders to improve in our jobs. Leaving a handful of lessons that every brand that aspires to transcend must cherish and that every employee must follow so as to answer the eternal question: “How can I improve my job performance?


An innate knack for charisma

Mandela had the ability to move a crowd. To provoke the silence of others when he spoke. To capture attention through his charisma. Leading rather than being led, proposing rather than complaining. Charisma is an unmistakable trait of leaders who create a motivated and committed workforce. It’s also a virtue that helps us to improve at work. How can it be cultivated?

  • By connecting with people.
  • By acting promptly and with confidence in decision making.
  • By showing empathy while appealing to the emotional because, no matter how technical a task is, there’s always a team behind it.

How to improve my work through integrity

If Nelson Mandela is remembered for anything, apart from his distinctive transformational leadership, that’s his integrity. Mandela was an honest and respected man who led South Africa to free and fair elections. To improve at work, integrity is a very important trait for leaders to have in order to increase motivation and organisational commitment. But it requires an honest and seamless groundwork.

Only by keeping promises, showing solidarity with the project and drawing basic and unambiguous objectives that focus on the team and do not act with their back to it so as to deliver better projects.


Moving forward tenaciously

Determination to achieve goals and resilience in the face of adversity help forge the character of a leader. It includes a certain amount of flexibility to adapt to circumstances, but with the tenacity that great goals require. It’s a successful recipe that Mandela applied to never give up his ideals which, if applied in the workplace, can increase a company’s profitability. As Mandela himself summed it up: “After climbing a very high mountain, we discover that there are many other mountains to climb”.


Courage to assume consequences

Committing to transformational leadership so as to improve at work doesn’t always mean being bold when making decisions, but also taking them back, admitting the mistakes made in order to learn from them and improve the strategy. since getting everything right all the time is scientifically impossible. Mandela himself once coined that “Unlike some politicians, I can admit a mistake“. And if there is one thing that’s repeated in any company, no matter how different its sphere of action, it is that poorly rated bosses have one trait in common: they don’t admit their mistakes. This leads to confrontations that prevent improvement at work. Not to mention that the motivation of the group depends to a large extent on the attention given to each professional in their personal and work needs and concerns.


Proactivity to improve my job performance… and that of others

The ability to react and anticipate makes all the difference in any field. By combining proactivity with open-mindedness, success and the possibility of improving one’s work are assured. The desired horizon when we ask ourselves how to improve our work often requires tenacity and patience, but there’s no doubt that Mandela was able to foresee from prison the social movements that were taking shape. He understood that he had to turn the trial he was facing into a trial of the apartheid system of laws. Anticipating movements makes it possible to minimise the damage when times are bad and to be the first to take advantage during favourable times.


Being a true source of inspiration

Mandela’s greatest achievement was arguably helping people out of a complex and overwhelming situation through communication and cooperation. A fundamental change in attitudes, values and beliefs takes a long time to reach most people. But setting realistic expectations and inspiring and preparing people for an incremental process of improvement and growth is the most effective way to motivate your staff towards a safer, happier and more secure future.


Don’t forget active listening

Listening to customers and making them feel heard is a business maxim. But the lesson can be applied to the teams themselves. If there’s one thing that characterises a leader, it is the ability to listen actively. And not only for the integration into the group that it represents for the rest of the members, but also for the extra help it brings when it comes to making decisions and arguing for them. Mandela knew very well what the South African people wanted, and his work consisted of turning these desires into concrete proposals, gaining a base of support and fine-tuning his aim with the master lines to be drawn up. Active listening in the labour world is a crucial factor in optimising the work-life balance of the members of a team.


The dimensions that make up Mandela’s transformational leadership are beyond question. And their influence and impact on organisational culture and organisational effectiveness continue to be analysed and improved to further refine business success in a given context or situation.


Sources: Tribe, The Association of Business Psychology, Forbes