10 Lessons From a Humble Leader













The Queen’s University School of Business recently re-shared a presentation with Borden Chair, Julian Barling. The video is 58:36 long however, the presenter shares great insights learned from observing the life of Nelson Mandela. Many of the lessons will be familiar to some  but they serve up a powerful lesson in the value of observations.  For those of you who would prefer the “condensed” version of the presentation, I offer you a quicker reference list with a few added interpretations of my own along with links to the videos below.

Lessons Learned from Nelson Mandela

1. Model Your Vision

Know why you are leading and take opportunities to share your message with others. Nothing is worse than a leader with a vision and no oomph or inkling to walk the talk—how inspiring is that?

2. Know and Respect Your Position

People will oppose what you stand for – try to understand these differences and explore the culture in which other’s ideas exist. “Demeaning your opposition” can damage any potential for amicable solutions or grow your relationships. There is great value in learning to see things from someone else’s perspective.

Perspective of Your Leadership



Things are not always as they appear.




3. Influencing the Opposition is More Important Than Rallying Supporters

You already have the support of your followers. Keep focused on your goal and find ways to help those who question  you to also learn to question their own beliefs. (Oh, and then be mindful to challenge your own beliefs—a personal inexpensive double checking system of sorts).

4. Reciprocity

Waiting for someone else to go first or lead the way for you defines your leadership and is a signal of your strength. The art of exchange is according to Barling,”a fundamental principle of persuasion.”  In the Innovation Adoption Cycle, roughly 2.5% of Leaders are classified as innovators and are willing to take the lead on new ideas or initiatives. Where might you fall if given the chance?









5. The Power of Many

Margaret Mead has been saying this forever, but in a nut shell…we can’t achieve great things by sitting alone in our cubicles or organizations. We need others to help us along the way…so go get ’em tiger! (Image by art.zerflin.com)

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Created on Day Two of the Design Across America Zerflin tour. Quote submitted by Heather Murray-Cogliano. Font by Saji Johnny Kundukulam. It is not entirely certain whether or not Margaret Mead actually said this quote, though it is largely attributed to her. As it has never been written down in any of her interviews of writings, whether ot not she said it in passing is diffivult to say. More information on it can be found here: http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071122082636AA50JA9 You can find out more about the tour here: http://zerflin.com/2012/05/31/2-festivals-20-cities-20-days-design-challange/ You can submit your own quotes in the comment area below.


6. It’s Never Too Late

One of the most powerful examples Barling’s shares in his presentation was Mandela’s  lack of attention to the unfolding Aids crisis in Africa. Sadly, this changed significantly when Mandela’s  own son  died of HIV in 2005.  It is never too late to re-visit an issue then make your most heartfelt sincerest apologies and  get to work.

Mandela and aids Leadership Lessons






 7. Are Leaders Born or Made?

Barling’s presentation reminds us to never ignore  the social environment, influences and early role models of certain individuals. All of these things plus more can have a significant impact on someone’s leadership development. (Which of course has everything to do with #9)

Check out the life’s work of Urie Bronfenbrenner Ecological Model of Development

Microsoft Word - 4.1_Ecological_Approach 5_14_12.doc



8. Humility Builds Respect

Learning to be modest and humble will set you apart from other leaders. It is commonly identified in Leadership studies as being a key virtue for effective leadership and development. So why is it so under valued and even overlooked?

9. Your Successor

Leaders may not like to think about a time when they will not be leading but it does happen…sometime it is planned and other times it is not. Developing a future successor is one of the most important things you can do in your leadership role.

10. Leadership is about Moments and the Small Things You Do Within Them.

Need I say more?

ripple Leadership


To check out the presentation video and hear more of Barling’s presentation please visit the following links-

Queen’s School Of Business Webinar presentation

Barling’s presentation is also available on Youtube  Video 

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