16/12/2013 22:06 SAST | Updated 15/02/2014 07:59 SAST

Remembering Madiba: What Made Nelson Mandela?

The former president died four years ago.

There are few people we can put on the same wavelength as Nelson Mandela, namely Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa among the limited. So why did the world come to a standstill when he passed away? Why did every news media company that matters write about him? I don't think it was simply because he became the president of a country on the tip of Africa. We all know the history about his struggle for freedom, but there is more to this man, who was a living global icon.

Mandela was one of the few leaders capable of inspiring confidence both inside and outside South Africa. Few others would have managed to unite the disparate warring parties and steer South Africa from what seemed to be the brink of civil war. Mandela is equally known for taking a strong stand against the giant world powers -- especially in defense of human rights and democracy.

He encouraged the actions of others, and motivated others toward acceptance of people that are different. From integrating his own staff to the desire for the rest of Africa to also get along with people of a different race, Mandela made sure he accomplished his goal as much as possible. So fundamental -- he modeled the way, inspired a shared vision, enabled others to act, challenged the process, and encouraged the heart, which are all five parts of leadership. All these qualities, and his peaceful tactics for dealing with the issue, are some of the many reasons why Mandela was such a revered leader.

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it," Nelson Mandela observed. "The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Mandela's choice to leave power was as profound as the choice to assume power. There is a notion that when a president serves one or two terms in office, he is serving the nation -- beyond that, he is serving self-interest.

When he came out of prison, he chose to use logic above emotions. Emotionally, he became angry when he remembered what they did to him and his people. Logically, he realized he still needed them to build the nation further, and the country was going to be in a blood bath should he act upon his emotions. His resilience to stand for what he believes also distinguished him from the rest.

He was tough when necessary -- just ask the then apartheid government -- but also, very kind and loving -- ask the children, neighbors, waiters, security guards, and the downtrodden he reached out to.

Mandela showed the world it's possible to attain anything, as he did with his life, and also said, "It always seems impossible until its done."

He was a man of tremendous humility who always tried to divert praise to other comrades who also fought for freedom -- known and unknown. This is a rare caliber of a man who saw himself as a finger in the greater body of people who made it happen.

One thing that amazed me about him is how celebrities stepped on each other just to see or touch him -- the same thing we do to them. The majority of those who reached the pinnacle of success in their sectors always came to meet Madiba at his house. I don't know how many dozens of interviews of executives of listed and unlisted companies I've read who said they wish to meet him. He had an unparalleled worldwide audience for a political leader.

A man whose ambition was not driven by the love of money, he once said, "Money won't create success; the freedom to make it will."

In conclusion, as we honor this phenomenon that visited planet Earth, I would like to mention this: identify a mark, be on the mark, and leave a mark for generations to come, as Madiba did.