I’m not sure I am drawn to Nelson Mandela’s model of leadership because I am about to embark on Advance number 2 which brings up memories of South Africa, or if it’s because I really appreciate his style. I am drawn to consensual leadership as mentioned in Simon Walker’s book Leading with Nothing to Lose, Training in the exercise of power. As I am writing this blog, I am sitting in a hotel in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, Iceland. What I am most drawn to is the unspoiled beauty…so much land, so small the population. When speaking as President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela spoke to what could unify the land. ”One of the key themes to which Mandela returned throughout his own presidency was the country South Africans of all colours had been given to share. The unity of the nation was based on their common relationship with the land that lay beneath their feet.” What is it about the land we sit on that creates such beauty, and yet such turmoil. How many wars in the time of men have we fought over “land”. My husband and I fell in love when we saw the music video “Holocene” by Bon Iver.
If you have not seen this video, I highly recommend watching the link included. God’s complete splendor on this tiny island. Iceland has a crisis on hand, that started after another crisis. “In 2008, the Islandic nation was plunged into a nightmare of epic proportion. It’s three commercial banks collapsed in quick succession, the Icelandic Krøna plummeted in value, and the country teetered on the edge of national bankruptcy.”  What saved the country was tourism. I am here today because the most affordable flight to London for me from Portland was Icelandair which allows you to have up to 6-day layover with no extra fees! Brilliant! My husband and I have traveled all over the south coast and did a 7-step ritual at the “Sky Lagoon” in Reykjavik. The land and its beauty have refreshed us and united us. At the Sky Lagoon, heated naturally by the islands geothermal water. We participated in an ancient ritual from Iceland called “the Seven Step” ritual. A soak in the lagoon, 10 seconds in a ice bath, a dry heat sauna, rinse in a cool mist, body salt scrub, steam room then another shower then back to lagoon. I entered the lagoon last night, jet-lagged, stressed and tight muscled and left a completely different person. It’s as if a100 lbs were shaken off! In this ritual I see such connection to the land here. Iceland also faces another crisis now….tourists. The very thing that saved Iceland has now put it at risk. It is atrociously expensive, and when this book was written there were “120,00 inhabitants in Reykjavik and 3100 airbnbs” This means many young adults either live with their parents or leave Iceland. While we are here I saw at least more then 10 large building being erected. Where could Nelson Mandela’s consensual strategy help?
Let’s do an imaginary experiment of pretending we are part of the Icelandic Parliament and apply the strategy.
- “Work to overcome divisions and build trust”.  Now I don’t know where Iceland is at this time, but I can guarantee there is distrust in the government to come up with a good solution other then build more in one of the most beautiful natural landscapes on earth. In fact, I read in a newspaper that there was a survey about how locals viewed tourists and there was a large percentage who felt there were too many tour buses driving around. How would Iceland make peace with the industry that feeds it and perhaps build trust again and with whom? I would suppose with each other, but also with the tourists. What responsibility do we have? (Not trampling off the paths in their landmarks would be a good start.
- “Create a sense of belonging and mutual commitment” Mutual commitment is a must in Iceland’s case. This Little book of Tourists in Iceland was a super helpful read before going as it gave me a sense of the history and recommendations of Iceland, as it should, but it also gave an honest review of how locals viewed tourists and what behaviors tourists have that makes them angry. It empowered me to be very aware of my surroundings, of my own behavior as well as not taking for granted what a complete blessing this island is to have shared a bit of it with me.
- “Establish, model and nurture a collaborative learning environment” Our tour guide today was nice, as he should be if he is going to be successful in a job like this, but come to find out as we stood at a sign at a Geysir (actually the Geysir all Geysirs get their name from) and looking very obviously touristy (although everyone else was too). He gave a small amount of information and as we moved on I heard the next tour guide say “Great I have to follow him, he’s an actual geologist”. So, he is more than a tour guide, he is an expert in the field. I really enjoyed hearing all the details of this amazing landscape. As we stood at the large Geysir that has not gone off in over 20 years, it was explained to us that the water levels were too high above the pipe that goes down to the boiling level which means the heat has to be much hotter to get the water to explode out. They actually have a smaller geyser where they lowered the water levels to ensure explosion, but the government has decided to let nature be nature and not mess with the big geysir. In my mind I instantly thought, if we were in America, it wouldn’t even be a hesitation. What a beautiful collaboration the Icelandic people have with their nature.
- Deliberately incorporate some activities that require collaborative thinking or work”  I have a feeling Iceland is going to be okay, because they have such a deep love of their land. Nature could be a unifying force for us all.
Thank you Iceland, it’s been surreal
 Walker, Simon P Leading with Nothing to Lose, Training in the Exercise of Power. (Carlisle, UK, Piquant Editions Ltd, 2007) 107.
 Sigmundsdottir, Alda. The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland, Tips, Tricks and what the Icelanders really think of you. (Reykjavik, IS Little Book Publishing, 2017) 16.
 Sigmundsdottir, Alda, pg. 20.
 Walker, Simon P. Pg 115
 Ibid, 115
 Ibid 115
 Ibid, 116