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Leadership Development: How to Stay Calm Under Pressure

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What does it mean to have a strong leader when things get tough? What are the characteristics that make a difference when you are hoping to make a difference?

Once again we need to look at the man who we are all honoring this week, Nelson Mandela.

He made the impossible possible. He stayed calm and clear under the most impossible odds. He retained his dignity and demanded of others that they stay strong and respectful no matter what.

After 27 years in prison his grace under pressure was obvious to the world. He knew that he could have caused a horrendous blood bath in South Africa at the very first rally after being released from prison.


He created a vision of a just country making up for the abuses of the past by becoming a better place to live rather than turning to killing and torture.

He showed us by his actions that how we respond to external pressure is determined by how we have been trained as children (read his book "Long Walk to Freedom.") He stressed that how we are able to respond to others in times of stress will determine the quality of future relationships.

When I did team building with a pharmaceutical company in South Africa one of the executives, an Afrikaner, shared with me her experience when apartheid ended and Mandela was released from prison. She went to an early rally, telling me how afraid she was. However, she and her husband went to the rally anyway, as if a magic force pulled them there.

She said the joy and good will that surrounded the entire group was like a healthy infection, the smiles and hugs were ever present. The hope and joy was palpable.

Now, years later even with the difficulties she sees in Johannesburg, and in the rest of the world, she can pull up her memories of being in the presence of Mandela and her dreams of helping make the world a better place once again show themselves and she reaches out to do what little she can do to make her world a better place.

If each of us could just take one moment each day and think about the courage of Mandela and show some of that by reaching out to each other…. miracles can happen.



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