Nelson Mandela of South Africa is known for many things. While many know him as the former president of South Africa and for his role in bringing down the oppressive Apartheid system in South Africa, there are also those who appreciate him as an icon of exceptional leadership. There are many qualities that Nelson Mandela possessed that made him an effective leader within the realm of emotional competence. To begin with, Mandela possessed the key quality of self-awareness. This is to say that he had of himself and was fully aware of his uniqueness, weaknesses as well as strengths. This could be perceived from his opinion on change. He was at some that one of the most difficult things is not to change society – but to change yourself (Kahane, 2010, p. 117). For one to change him or herself, he or she must be fully aware of the deeper self (i.e. his weaknesses as well as strengths).

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Secondly, Mandela was also compassionate. He had genuine concern for the wellbeing of other people. It was while campaigning for equality and the welfare of his people that he was sent to jail. If he did not have the burning urge to reduce the suffering of those who were being discriminated against, he would not have embraced the path of suffering on their behalf. Third, it is also important to note that the manner in which Mandela articulated issues is a clear indication of how passionate he was about the agenda he was advancing specifically about unity, forgiveness, and progress. This is clearly identifiable in the speech he gave following his inauguration as president in 1994. Lastly, Mandela was also extremely opportunistic. He saw not only the possibility, but also the chance to make South Africa a more equal society where the did not have a place. It is for this reason that he insisted on opposing a clearly powerful government machinery.

In basic terms, a servant leader could be described as a leader who is keen on the advancement of the potential of followers and who is not preoccupied with self-interest (Cole, 2018). In the words of Cole (2018), servant leaders adopt the principles of stewardship: being responsible for the long-term welfare of others (267). There are various qualities of servant leadership that ought to be highlighted. These are inclusive of, but they are not limited to; empathy, awareness, persuasion, and commitment to the growth of people (Sadler, 2018).

When it comes to awareness, the author points out that this relates to sensitivity to what is going on, including self-awareness (Sadler, 2018, p. 164). This is a key quality that Nelson Mandela had – as has been indicated above. Next, in as far as empathy is concerned, the author points out that this has got to do with the ability to not only understand, but also share other peoples feelings. This quality is synonymous with compassion. Without empathy, Nelson Mandela would not have been able to develop genuine concern for his countrymen. Third, Sadler (2018) defines persuasion as seeking to convince others of the rightness of a course of action rather than achieve compliance through coercion (164). For one to be able to accomplish this feat, he or she must be passionate about a certain course of action. Lastly, we have commitment to peoples growth. This has got to do with appreciating people for their contribution and encouraging them to venture even further in as far as their spiritual, professional, as well as their personal growth is concerned. Without being optimistic about the future, a leader cannot be able to effectively perform this role.


Cole, K. (2018). Leadership and Management: Theory and Practice (7th ed.). South Melbourne: Cengage AU.

Kahane, A. (2010). Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change. San Francisco: .

Sadler, P. (2018). Leadership (2nd ed.). Sterling, VA: .