Big, broad, cheerful — no, joyful — that smile defined him.
Despite years of harsh imprisonment and pressures that would break the strongest of us, Nelson Mandela always radiated hope — to his country, and to the world — through that smile.
I join the world in mourning the loss of a man who, simply put, exemplified leadership.
First, through his words.
Like many of history’s most influential figures, Mandela was able to harness the power of words. He wasn’t a proponent of soaring rhetoric or verbose speeches. His message was simple, concise.
Like this one: "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."
Simple. Clear. Perfect.
Second, through his actions.
Mandela was a crusader, but also a politician. His message of forgiveness and coalition was essential for helping South Africa begin to move past deep racial divisions.
Oddly enough, for someone so skilled with words, Mandela knew when to remain silent. He knew when to step into the background and let other voices be heard.
Third, Mandela exemplified leadership through his heart.
He set himself up as an example not of a superman, but of just a man. He quietly devoted his life to ensuring equality and decency for all humankind.
Despite 27 years behind bars, he was humble enough to observe that “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
And finally, Mandela exemplified leadership through his hope — a hope that was best expressed through that incredible smile.
William Sloane Coffin, Yale’s provocative chaplain during the turbulent sixties, once cautioned to “never trust an unhappy revolutionary.”
We trusted Mandela because he shared his hope so openly.
Words. Actions. Heart. Hope.
Nelson Mandela was — no, is — a lesson to leaders everywhere.
May he rest in peace.