So much has been written about the qualities and attributes that made Nelson Mandela such an inspirational leader. His abilities to build relationships, handle conflict and share control were of the highest order – and his focus on the future not allocating blame for the past has been widely admired. But, among all of the plaudits for Nelson, there is clearly disappointment with his successors.
Sensibly, Mandela was clear that he was only going to serve a few years as president, so the handover of power was critical. This transition happened smoothly, but it is being questioned whether his leadership approach has been emulated by his successors and his vision fully realised in the years since.
So it is for many successful leaders – the missing ingredient is succession – and this might be even more important for collaborative leaders. The skills and attributes are subtle and take time to develop (Influencing, Mediating, Engaging Others along with Agility, Patience and Empathy). Collaborative leadership is one of the most mature and sophisticated levels of leadership and it can’t be mastered on a training course. Perhaps those 27 years in prison helped Mandela develop his skills but that option is (thankfully) not available to many leaders. So those that make it to the top job and carry it out with great success need to ensure that they give the necessary time to mentor and develop the skills of the next generation. I wonder how many really do this? The sustained legacy of many collaborative leaders depends on it.