Nelson Mandela


nelson mandela


“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”


"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”


“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."


negotiating series

Negotiation and mandela


  • History
  • Style/personality
  • Soft power
  • Those who knew him


His historic negotiations

Nelson Mandela's historic negotiations with the South African apartheid government are discussed in the context of the Ten Powers of negotiation and in the context of the attributes of a successful leader and a skilled lawyer. Is there any better role model than Nelson Mandela?

Writing of his historic negotiations with the apartheid regime, his biographer, Anthony Sampson, wrote:

"It was one of the most spectacular negotiations in history, and Western governments watched it with fascination. While fighting continued in Northern Ireland and, Yugoslavia and the Middle East, South Africa was seen as 'the negotiating capital of the world' and academics, journalists and diplomats converged to observe it."

His negotiations with the apartheid regime began while he was still their prisoner on Robben Island. His skills were honed from his earliest days under the influence of a tribal chief. Harvard University president, Neil L. Rudenstine, in conferring an honorary degree on him, described him as "a democrat who has learned from a king."

This is a fascinating program that can be tailored to address specific interests of the audience in the time available.



his negotiating stye and personality

Even his adversaries recognized the power of his courage, toughness and congeniality and his ability to make everyone comfortable. Former adversary, Minister of Justice Kobie Coetsee, was asked about his assessment of Mr. Mandela’s negotiating skills:

“It all came very naturally, very affably, but underneath you sensed the ability to assert himself at the drop of a hat. It was always there. And that makes for good authority. So although there was a lot of humor, we could and he could switch to business just like that. So I would say that Mr. Mandela was a natural.”

His congeniality made his toughness much more effective. As Dr. Niël Barnard, the former head of South Africa's National Intelligence Service, recalled:

“If you look at him traveling around in the world, the way in which he handles [everyone] from the Queen to President Clinton. There is always this kind of personal touch, being a warm human being, caring about children and caring about the underprivileged so to speak.

On the other hand, he can be as tough as nails, make no mistake about it, and he can, like all human beings, sometimes be very unreasonable. Like all human beings, I don't believe that he likes to be challenged on certain matters ... when he firmly believes in something, he believes in that and it's extremely difficult to change his mindset on certain matters. But the core of your question is that Mr. Mandela has a very disarming way of going about with people.”



soft power

In applying the principles of "hard power" and "soft power" first articulated by Joseph Nye, the former head of the Kennedy School at Harvard, James Joseph, former US Ambassador to South Africa wrote:

"South Africans, of course, have seen the impact of soft power firsthand because no elected national leader has better reflected its influence than Nelson Mandela. Mandela is the prototype of the leader whose influences comes not from military or economic might, but from the power of ideals and the ability to capture the minds and hearts of people of all corners and colors of the universe."



Former President F.W. de Klerk

"I got to know him as a very good listener, as a man with a legal mind, with analytical thinking patterns taking into account all facts. Coming forth, generally speaking, with reasonable replies and reactions towards requests, towards suggestions. Solution orientated. When arguing against certain proposals, saying, "But something else could be considered." So he was a good negotiator."

Biographer Richard Stengel

"He now prizes rationality, logic, compromise, and distrusts sentiment. Prison steeled him, and over the decades he came to see emotion not as an ally but as a demon to be shunned. How was the man who emerged from prison different from the one who went in? His reply: ‘I came out mature.’ It is not simply that he harbors little bitterness in his heart; he knows that bitterness will not move him an inch closer to his goal.”

Biographer Anthony Sampson

"He remained true to his principles and beliefs in the face of all pressures and temptations, at a time when politicians in most countries were becoming more opportunist and changeable … He had a moral authority and a concern for the truth with which few could compete, as a rock of continuity in a discontinuous world…”