By Ernie McCrayPhoto of Nelson Mandela courtesy of Progressive Change Campaign Committee
First thing that came to my mind when I heard that my hero of heroes, Nelson Mandela, had passed away was “Man, what a Rock Star he was!” Now I know it seems profane to diminish a great man’s name like he was a Beatle or Rolling Stone or some facsimile thereof but let me explain.
When I got the news I had just spent a very pleasant morning and early afternoon with fellow University of Arizona alumni listening to one of us, a bright inspirational warm and beautiful woman, a motivational speaker, share from her successes as a business person, what leadership should be all about. Kristi Staab is her name. And she has a lot to say. To summarize, she advocates leading like a Rock Star, “inside out,” with passion and with solid ethics and personal values. That sure epitomizes Mandela.
So, that’s where my mind was as I drove away from Kristi’s refreshing rap. I was just basking in the nice tone she had set at the brunch listening to the last minutes of “Fresh Air” on 89.5 when I heard that this remarkable specimen of a man was no longer alive. Speaking of fresh air, what a deep breath of it he was.
I loved Mandiba dearly. He was the epitome of a leader. I wanted to write something about him and when I got home and sat at my desk I looked at a handout from the brunch. It highlighted the roles a Rock Star Leader should play, saying that they:
* are self-directed – sitting in a prison for 27 years and never taking your eyes off the prize must fit this bill to a T, it seems to me;
* take responsibility – oh, the man, took on teaching a world to love one another, earnestly and fervently and incessantly;
* are initiators – he and others got the African National Congress rolling like a subway train, trying to get a reign on a horrible social disease called apartheid, for all the world to see;
* connect with their audience and create lasting relationships – he’s moved people to their core everywhere and the effects of these connections will last throughout time, to some degree;
* are highly sought after – all over the world when it came to Nelson, indeed;
* hangout with rock stars – that would be Bishop Tutu, among many;
* invest it forward – his lessons of “reconciliation” are, perhaps, the most precious legacies anyone has ever left the world. What could be more meaningful than learning how to forgive, if not forget, how to reach out when it seems more natural to strike out or to withdraw?
“Model excellence” is Kristi’s last piece of advice for Rock Star Leaders and no head of state in the history of humankind has done that more openly and unapologetically than Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. If other world leaders patterned themselves after this truly noble human being we would have a much more loving and accommodating world. I will miss him sorely but he will always stand tall in my mind and heart and soul. He’s the Rock Star del mundo.