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What does the life of Nelson Mandela teach business leaders in Michiana?

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As we celebrate the life of South Africa’s first Black President, Nelson Mandela, we reflect upon his impact, not just on his nation, politics around the world, but true leadership as well. We know of the incredible story of the 27 years of incarceration intended to break the man and destroy the movement for ending apartheid. We know how voices around joined in protest against this injustice and how the US Congress finally over road President Regan’s veto to join those voices. We know the stories of how Olympic athletes risked the ire of their nations to raise their fists in protest of this injustice.

But what does this tell us about leadership? And can we take lessons from this and apply them to leadership in business? The answer must be an emphatic yes. We think first of the remarkable decision to collaborate and work constructively with those with whom we disagree in order to achieve a greater good. We see this with our local chambers of commerce coming together to develop both large and small business opportunities for entrepreneurs in our community. We see organizations like the South Bend NAACP practicing the principles of what has been call Intentional Inclusion. Intentional Inclusion is the principle developed by the South Bend NAACP to actively promote bringing diverse groups together with specific measurable goals of increasing opportunity for everyone.

But, the life of Nelson Mandela teaches us more leadership lessons. It reminds us that true leadership requires personal courage. We are reminded that as business leaders, we can choose to face inequities in our community and develop innovative solutions that benefit business, but also correct those inequities. We can ensure that opportunities are designed to intentionally include new start ups to provide growth and chances to build capacity. We can look for the many programs that work to train and prepare a diverse segment of our community and intentionally include those individuals in opportunities. But most importantly, we can be vocal when we learn of inequities and do so in public forums like City Council meetings, Empowerment Saturdays, and other regular events. And we can actively participate in business development initiatives like Ignite Michiana, South Bend Green Drinks, 3-Degrees and others, because when good business people know of inequities, they see opportunities for constructive social change that is good for business.

Related stories:

Former Reagan aide James Baker: President regretted apartheid veto

Olympic athletes support Zenani Mandela Campaign

The difference between leadership and management

Obama praises 'giant of history' at Mandela memorial

Long walk to freedom:

Olympic athlete supporters of Mandela



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