His legacy lives on. Sadness permeated every aspect of life in South Africa after the announcement of the death of Former President, Nelson Mandela. For months we had been expecting the news. Yet when it came, the nation bowed in remembrance of one of modern time’s greatest leaders. Respect was noticeable in every aspect of our daily lives. For example, even radio stations catering to the younger generations ‘toned down’ as a mark of respect for the days following the announcement.
Let me share other diverse examples from everyday life that I experienced on the day of the funeral. The foyer of the Oyster Box Hotel, Umhlanga where we were staying, appropriately had our South African flag flying at half-mast and candles burning in an area of remembrance. The heading above his photo said, ‘In loving memory, you will never be forgotten’. It felt right to honour our leader in a personal way. And although he was such a great man, it seemed fitting to talk about ‘loving memory’ as we would about a family member. He connected so easily and so warmly to all those with whom he interacted, either directly or indirectly, I believe that every South African felt a personal connection. It was as though we knew him personally.
I remember being at a function in 1997 at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg. We were in an open guest tent on the arena when Nelson Mandela, then President of the Republic of South Africa arrived in a helicopter in a different area. As he walked into our arena, we could feel his magnetism. It was as though he lifted up every person there. As he walked towards where he would be seated in our tent, he noticed the children’s musical band and detoured straight towards them. He loved children. And it was wonderful watching him dance with them before making his way to our area where he formally shook hands with us. For me, that is a personal memory of his being a humble, ordinary person who impacted on every person with whom he interacted. His compassion and warmth shone through. That is part of his legacy.
Let me give you another example of how ordinary people honoured him. The day of the funeral, as I walked along the Promenade below the Oyster Box Hotel, I noticed that, a man who makes his living through donations gained from admirers of his sand creations, had built a sand memorial. The words here were ‘Farewell Tata Madiba 1918 - 2013’. Again these words here from a totally different source convey a sense of familiarity. Although Nelson Mandela was a peacemaker, a nation-builder, he impacted hugely on the lives of ordinary people.
The same day, when I went up to the shopping mall, I found that many of the shops were closed on what should have been one of the busiest trading days of the year. This was in honour of the funeral. As an example, the words on the signs in the iStore windows were ‘To honour Nelson Mandela and as a mark of gratitude and respect, all iStores nationwide will be closed for the day of the funeral on Sunday, 15 December 2013. We would like our staff to have the opportunity to spend Sunday with their family and friends and pay tribute to Madiba.’
International TV and other media continue to honour him and remember his greatness in so many different ways. In an example of just one of the thousands of tributes given, The Moses Tembe Foundation KZN Growth Coalition in the Sunday Tribune special Madiba edition on December 15 2013 said: ‘Love conquers all’. ‘Tata Madiba unconditionally loved South Africa and ALL its people. He inspired a new mythological dynamic to world order while reaching out to all and sundry, and ushered hope and peace. May his soul rest in peace’.
This incredible man had a huge impact not only on the lives of present and future South Africans, but he was an example of outstanding leadership in the international context, too. But part of his greatness was his ability to connect with ordinary people, like you and me.
So what does his example teach us? In his words: ‘It is in our hands to make a difference’. Often we talk about the importance of ‘leaving a legacy’. But in order to ‘leave’ that legacy, we first have to live it. And this applies to every aspect of our everyday lives. The smile and words of encouragement we give another could change their lives. Every person has the power to make the difference that Nelson Mandela referred to. We can’t all be great in way that he was an inspiring example to all of us, but as ‘ordinary’ leaders we can leave a legacy in our own unique way.
My questions for you are:
- What legacy will you leave behind – in different aspects of your life?
- What are you doing right now to create your composite and individual legacies?
For more information on leadership development or Executive Coaching, please contact Brenda on firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 82 4993311.