Book Review: Mandela's Way: 15 Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage

Mandela’s Way was written by Richard Stengel, who spent 3 years with Mandela and helped him write his autobiography. This book was one that Richard wrote about his experience with Mandela. In reflection with his time spend with Mandela, Richard came up with 15 life lessons that he learned.

It was so great reading about Nelson Madela’s life. Before I had read this book, I knew very little about the man. After reading the book, I have much respect for him. In his time spent in jail, Nelson Mandela learned to lead himself, which allowed him to lead South Africa after he was released. This book will give you great insight into a world leader.

You will learn what he learned in prison, what his daily routines were, how he led people, how he dealt with enemies, how he made decisions, and more.

If you enjoy studying history and the lives of great leaders, this book is a must read. I am going to pick up Mandela’s autobiography next, I can’t wait to read that!

My Big Takeaways: Don’t be in a hurry to be who you want to become. The fact that Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and then became a world renown leader is incredible. Prison taught him patience and self-control, two lessons we all need to learn. If we will learn to lead ourselves, our opportunities to lead others will come naturally.

I also learned the importance of confrontation, 1st impressions, and the ability to make decisions and stand by them.

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Some Highlights:

  • A hero is a man who believes in something, who is courageous, who may risk his own life for the good of the community.” Mandela knows he has been a hero, but even a hero stands on the shoulders of others.
  • He knows that leadership often means having to choose between two bad options and that good men have to make decisions that have bad consequences
  • “I don’t think it is healthy for people to think of you as a messiah. In that case, they will only be disappointed. They should know that their leaders are made of flesh and blood, that they are human. I want them to think that of me. If they think you are a savior, their expectations are far too high. Let them think of you as a hero, yes, but not a legend.”
  • Mandela believed leaders are judged in their totality, by the arc of their lives. He judged men on their entire lives and careers, not on how they reacted in one specific situation.
  • we should not let an illusion of urgency force us to make decisions before we are ready.
  • But he knows that the price of not saying no now makes it even harder to say it later. Better to disappoint someone early.
  • Mandela believed that he could win over anyone
  • He is always the host, never the guest. 
  • At any political or social event, he was always the first to stand up and clap, always the first to shake the hands of the performers, always the first to congratulate the winner. He greets people; he is not greeted by them. There is no event at which he will not speak, no matter how small or informal.
  • Although he is a man of substance, he would say that it makes no sense not to judge by appearances. Appearances matter, and we have only one chance to make a first impression.
  • Mandela understood that there is nothing that ingratiates you with someone else as much as asking for his help—that when you defer to others, you increase their allegiance to you.
  • For Mandela, leading from the front also means being accountable. He embraces the idea that if he makes a decision on his own, he will bear the consequences for it. If he’s wrong, he says, you know who to blame.
  • Even in personal relationships, he believed that you should take the lead. If there is something bothering you, if you feel you have been treated unfairly, you must say so. That is leading too.
  • Most of the mistakes he has made in his life came from acting too hastily rather than too slowly. Don’t hurry, he would say; think, analyze, then act.
  • Mandela’s highest praise for someone he considers courageous is, “He did very well.” By that he does not mean that the fellow was a dramatic hero or that he risked his life in a great endeavor, but that, day in and day out, he remained steady under trying circumstances.
  • I can pretend that I’m brave. In fact, that is what he did. And that is how he would describe courage: pretending to be brave. Fearlessness is stupidity. Courage is not letting the fear defeat you.
  • Courage is not the absence of fear, he taught me. It’s learning to overcome it.
  • He was never afraid to say he had been afraid.
  • Prison taught him self-control, discipline, and focus—the things he considers essential to leadership—and it taught him how to be a full human being.
  • He will learn as much as he can about you before meeting you.
  • WE LONG FOR HEROES but have too few.



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