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October 2019
« Aug    

Nelson Mandela

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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