David Welsh’s book, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, was very insightful and highlighted some aspects regarding the ending of apartheid in South Africa that I already had some interest in as a result of some movies and documentaries I have watched on the subject. The relatively peaceful transition was shocking to most everyone who was convinced it would end with far more bloodshed. In what I have learned from this ugly time in South Africa’s history, I am convinced this unexpected result can be attributed to the incredible leadership of Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk, and I appreciated the fact that Welsh seemed to agree with me. The story of their leadership and their handling of this tense conflict is inspiring to me and caused me to feel grateful for the opportunity to learn valuable leadership principles from them and others in the process of the LGP journey. I can only imagine how different the result might have been in South Africa if the leadership quality was far less. Quality leadership displayed in the heat of the moment, to me is the true test of leadership.
As I have analyzed the leadership of Nelson Mandela, I have made a few humble conclusions:
- His compassion for and value of human beings helped him immensely to maintain a loving attitude towards both sides in the process. This love for people is what made him and other leaders great.
- His strong commitment to maintaining a peaceful process went a long way. He didn’t go in with guns blazing, but he did not waver in his stance for what he believed in.
- His patience during the long process of incarceration and negotiations was exceptional. Most poor leaders fold under pressure or get impatient when things don’t go according to plan.
- His faith and trust in his fellow man were truly inspirational, and in my opinion, caused his people to believe in themselves and a brighter future. The people we lead take cues from us how to behave towards themselves and each other.
These are just a few of the leadership qualities I took away from his story, and I believe he was extremely instrumental in bringing a successful end to apartheid in South Africa.
Welsh brought life to the many people involved in the complicated process of ending apartheid in South Africa. This gave a much more human face to the story and all of the personalities involved. It would be easy to recount the story and just look at the facts at what happened, but understanding the uniqueness of each person involved gives a whole new color to the story. This ended up being an interesting feature to the book and brought to light how each person involved in the process shaped how things unfolded. Bringing the human factor to the forefront of any story is always a priority for me, which is why I love being in the business of people and having the privilege of hearing their unique stories.
The other aspect of the apartheid this book brought to light for me was the huge number of senseless deaths that came as a result of this conflict. People being killed purely because of the color of their skin hits close to home for me. Although I did not grow up in a place where people were segregated according to their race, the city in west Los Angeles that I called home had plenty of racial tension. Ironically, I felt like the minority in high school but became very comfortable having a diverse group of friends representing many different races. It seemed normal to me, mostly because it was all I knew and I wouldn’t have had very many friends if they all had to be white. One such friend was named Damien, who happened to be African-American. He lived two blocks from me and we hung out often after school and became pretty close friends. One day while sitting in class during my junior year in high school, I got the horrible news that he had been shot dead the night before in the drive thru of the Jack in the Box on the corner next to our houses. I remember being devastated, shocked and confused, and couldn’t comprehend how the nicest kid I knew could be killed in cold blood by a couple of white thugs. It ended up being another racially motivated killing that made no sense. It was then that I was reminded how our country had not really come that far from the severe racial discrimination of our past. Where one race believes they are better and shows no real value for another race. As a young high school kid, I remember being so angry at the injustice and wanted so desperately to do something to change the culture I lived in.
My mind couldn’t help going to that horrible memory when I was reading about the atrocities in South Africa that happened because of a person’s race. This is why it was so inspiring to me to hear of the leaders who rose up in South Africa to change the tide for generations to come. Even if the democracy that lives on there today needs many improvements, the leadership that brought an end to apartheid should be heralded for their work in bringing more equality to the people of South Africa. My heart was captured by their passion, and grateful the conflict ended more peacefully than anyone expected. Although I was not able to make the changes in the place where I grew up, I am inspired to make a difference in my sphere of influence today by following Jesus’ example of loving and accepting the “least of these” around me and fighting for the underdog.