Chief Jongintaba Story

Recent Time features a great article Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership. One of the lessons seems to be perfectly fitted to online community leaders, and it is based on a story about Chief Jongintaba, Mandela’s adoptive father.

Chief Jongintaba was a tribal king very much concerned about the opinions of the fellow tribesmen. Every time an important decision was to be taken, he formed a circle of advisers who would each tell their perspective on the discussed matter. Laborers as well as landowners would travel many miles to participate in a tribal meeting and raise their concerns. Only after all men had spoken, did Chief Jongintaba begin to speak. He would not impose any decision, but instead nurture consensus from the contrasting views.

The lesson that Nelson Mandela learned from this story was that leaders should lead from the back, and let others believe they are in front. By forming consensus, a leader ensures there is a high level of trust in the community, which makes it easy for it to move in the right direction. A leader should not enter the debate too early, Mandela says.

“You can do nothing if you don’t get the support of other people.”
African proverb

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