As I read all the information about the life on Nelson Mandela one thing that struck me was his ability to forgive and move forward. After spending years in prison he emerged and embraced his oppressors when he was elected to office. He went out of his way to bring the two sides of South Africa together to create a new unified future for that country. His legacy will live forever.
The lesson for us as leaders is that we can rise above adversity by being willing to let go of the hurt and bitterness. There will be people who oppose our ideas and actions. This leads to arguments and heated battles. Often these workplace battles leave people hurt and bitter. As leaders we must repair these rifts and heal the pain. When we set aside our own pain we can move forward to create new opportunities. By working with our opponents to find a new ways to work together we create a better and stronger future for our organizations.
The challenge is finding ways to build a bridge that will allow you to collaborate in the future. Here are some ways to take those first steps forward:
- Let go of bitterness: Hanging onto your anger, hatred or bitterness will keep you stuck in that ugly place of hostility. Let it go to open the doors for a better tomorrow.
- Look for common ground: There are things that you and people who oppose you have in common. Find those items to start building a future that benefits both.
- Acknowledge their perspective: You don’t have to agree with or even like other’s perspectives on issues; however they have a right to their feelings and opinions. Be willing to acknowledge their thoughts without accepting them as yours. A great phrase is “I can see you feel strongly about….” That shows your willingness to listen to them.
- Extend the olive branch: Be first to reach out to others to mend rifts and resolve disagreements. Your willingness to find a way to move forward can help them open up to you.
- Be sincere: Make sure that in all you do you are sincere in your efforts to build a better future. Doing it just to look good will be obvious. When you sincerely want to improve the situation it will ring true and people will be more willing to work with you.
The key to all of this is to be true to yourself and your ideals while honoring and accepting the ideals of others. When you embrace your opponents you can create a new environment where everyone feels included and will work towards the same goals. By consistently and sincerely reaching out to others you become someone everyone admires, even when they don’t agree with everything you say or do. You show you are working towards the good of all, not just a few. Nelson Mandela changed the world by doing just that quietly, consistently and sincerely. He held firm to his beliefs and welcomed those who opposed and oppressed him resulting in a stronger and better society.
What could you accomplish if you rise above adversity and embrace your opponents?
As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. ~ Nelson Mandela