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December 2013
« Nov   Jan »

In Memoriam: The Strengths of Nelson Mandela

Posted by: Trudy Bailey, Strengths Consultant, Capp


As my young children ask about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, with their schools recounting his eventful story, I begin by talking passionately about a hero, unlike any other person who will likely ever walk this Earth. My story, of course, started with strengthspotting what his Realise2 profile might have looked like.  


I started with his realised strengths of Mission, Moral Compass, Catalyst, Relationship Deepener and Compassion, and an Unconditionality that drove Mandela to be the architect of South Africa’s gradual transformation from racial despotism and moral turpitude, to a liberal democracy, saving his country from a bloody civil war. Becoming its first black president, steering South Africa’s journey of reflection and reconciliation into the post-apartheid era, he was probably not lacking in Counterpoint, Change Agent and Authenticity. Quite an epitaph!


Enduring very near primitive conditions when landing on Robben Island in 1962, his Drive, Resilience and Courage facilitated his survival in the face of the chilling words of one of the Afrikaner warders: “This is the island, and here you shall die.” His Catalyst and Compassion instilled in him a commitment to improve the amenities for all prisoners, enabling them not only to receive books and magazines, but to enrol in correspondence courses and even to take degrees.


But where do you end with heroes? It is almost impossible not to attribute most strengths to Mandela in view of his uncompromising Drive for Equality. He communicated this through his strengths of Spotlight, Narrator, and Explainer, by refusing to consign the crimes of the apartheid era to history, but instead initiating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996. And how could we overlook the extent of his Persistence and Bounceback whilst incarcerated on Robben Island and facing the impact of his troubled personal life when others tested his loyalty.


So what were Mandela’s learned behaviours?  They may have included Incubator, Scribe and Listener. Although we could safely speculate that he would have employed these qualities with considerable ease, they would (in all probability) be subordinate to his innate strengths of Action, Equality and Change Agent in navigating South Africa’s transition towards democracy and freedom.


Perhaps we would see Gratitude as an unrealised strength since, by his own admission, in prison, he very much regretted not expressing his feelings of kinship with his fellow Soweto citizens.


Finally, let us not be afraid to mention that there was possibly one solitary weakness – and one shared by many of us – Adherence!


Mandela, as the ‘world is coming’ to your memorial service today, thank you for coming into our world.  History will be eternally grateful to you, and your legacy will live on for generations. Indeed, as one 9-year old asked: “Is he the man who brought black and white people together?”


This is the legacy for which you will always be remembered.


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3 Responses to In Memoriam: The Strengths of Nelson Mandela

  • Judy Krings says:

    Trudy, your stunning synthesis of Mandela reminds me of a one-of-a kind many mirrored chandelier, each mirror reflecting his myriad of strengths constellations. Thanks ever so much for shining sparkling light on an extraordinary man.

  • Dan Kerkel says:

    Very good assessment Trudy. My wife gave me the book his biographer wrote, ‘Mandela’s Way’ a few weeks before he died. I am almost finished with it and what struck me was how prison transformed him and beame a catalyst for the many Learned Behaviours he acquired during those years. The top ones that emerge from the book are: Listener, Service, Humility, Work Ethic, Persuasion and Courage. There are many more. I also took note that his role model was Abraham Lincoln who is depicted in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s amazing book ‘Team Of Rivals’ as a leader of leaders for all ages. They both shared powerful realised strengths of Humour and Narrator, which underpinned almost everything they did and they both excelled in Reconfiguration as pragmatics who never took their eye of the long range goal. Oddly, their greatest shared weakness was counterpoint which they neutralised through humour, listener and a subtle form of persuassion. What strikes me most is the tireless effort they both seemed to use to accumulate an almost inhuman array of Learned Behaviours driven by Mission without ever losing their Authenticity. Additionally they both always found time for Gratitude without regard to the huge burden they were willing to shoulder. We all can learn so much from the simple humanity of our great leaders.

    • Trudy Bailey says:

      Thank you so much Dan, this is a wonderful analysis of his Realise2 profile. I did feel my blog could have become an essay with such an interesting, inspirational person. It sounds like an excellent read so thanks for the recommendation. I think Mission and Gratitude would be my top 2 most admired strengths in Mandela. Best Wishes, Trudy

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