Serendipity – a tribute

05/12/2013: in the evening, a short tribute on this website to Nelson Mandela, still struggling for his life. His close family members being interviewed and giving the last updates on his physical condition that make it to the world press in a second.

Significant others and many a trainee and coachee know that this giant meant more to me than a mere romantic, moral leadership icon.

We do not realise even half of what this Mandela-way can mean for any living soul in both hemispheres.

As David Venter put it:

‘We live in a world where we are facing the greatest leadership draft ever.’

Less than 1 hour after my post social media explode and I delete my original post…: Jacob Zuma, South-Africa’s president since 2009, has announced that Mandela has died.

As if I felt that his ending was near, a pre-sentiment.

06/12/2013: in the morning, the day after, I’m invited to a breakfast meeting with Wendy Kopp , global Chief Energising Officer of Teach For All.

Our small group of attendees enjoy a splendid view over Europe’s political capital in the early sun. Wendy is inspirational and makes the people present their day. Calmly and knowledgeably, she talks about vision, mission, best practices and obstacles, euh…future solutions, on different fronts, provides anecdotes. ‘Leadership and people make all the difference’, Wendy repeatedly says and shows with many examples and stories.

One of a school leader who managed to involve all the stakeholders to embrace the mission of his community, something which most organisations fail to fully accomplish. Blood, sweat and tears, but people use that leader’s mission as their compass.

06/12, same breakfast meeting: Wendy mentions her co-operation with consultant Jim Collins, one of my favourite business and leadership authors. In one of his books Collins introduces the term level 5 leadership, a humble and persistent leadership style. Humble, not to be confused with weak.

Mandela corresponds in many ways with a level 5 leader.

For instance, he adopted Collins’ window and mirror principle consistently: when things go wrong, they look in the mirror and are self-critical. When things go well, they look out of the window and wonder who has contributed to success/progress. Social scientists will flag this under the difference between internal and external attribution.

True, Mandela could have done a better job with regards to fighting aids and the problem of crime in South-Africa. Revolutionaries don’t necessarily make the best gouvernors.

The circle is round: Nelson, Wendy, Jim, Nelson.

24 hours that made my blood rush faster, a day to remember. (I also think about a person close to me with whom I used to talk and skype with fire about this gentleman, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela).

The rational-cartesian in me says there is no such thing as predestination.

The passionate, non-violent revolutionary in me knows better.

They reconcile, honouring Mandela.

At least for 24 hours.

‘An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind’

Counterintuitive behaviour breaks the cycle.

Stirring the pattern of blaming and counter-blaming.

‘One of the most fascinating aspects of this study is the insight that someone being non-empathetic to a loved one is a reflection of lacking self-love. The realization that self-hate is neurobiologically at the root of a loved one being cruel makes it easy to feel sorry for them and empathize, instead of perpetuating a cycle of anger and disconnection.’


Growth mindset: we can grow considerably in nearly everything


Another example of the growth mindset, anti-deterministic view on personal growth, that I support:

‘Parents and educators can push back against such talk by emphasizing at every opportunity the malleable nature of intelligence—pointing out, for example, that performance on tasks like the Mental Rotation Test can be improved with training and practice. And test-takers can “prime” their own belief in flexible intelligence by saying to themselves, “I can do well if I try really hard,” or “With practice I will get better at this.” These aren’t cheesy self-affirmations, but truthful statements that will put us in the frame of mind to do our best.’

‘The results: When women were given an external reason for females’ poor performance—time limits or others’ stereotypes—they did better on the test. When they were given an internal reason—their own deficient genes—they did worse. But the study’s really striking finding was that men also did worse when told that genes were the cause of the gender gap.’

Read more in ‘The dangers of loose talks about genetics‘.

Aged 95…

…, struggling between life and death, maybe it was time to let this Giant be free.

Sleep tight, Madiba, sleep tight.

‘Peace begins with a smile’ – Mother Theresa

‘This reminded me about a story of a taxi driver in Johannesburg. Another taxi swerved from a parking space right into his path, got frightened, blew on his horn an threw him a finger and he only reacted by smiling. His passenger asked him about this strange behaviour of not retalliating. He answered: ‘That man has a lot of garbage to get rid of. He picked me and I refused to pick it up.’

Source: Stanus Cloete