Earlier this year, our book club at netlogx tackled Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, coinciding with what would’ve been his 100th birthday. We know books do a world of good to the individual reader but reading as a team adds yet another layer of value: sharing diverse perspectives and ideas, so we each grow individually and also grow stronger as a team.

Nelson Mandela

We wrapped up by watching the Nelson Mandela movie — a way to include team members who weren’t able to participate in the book reading. We’ve asked our mighty interns — Abbey Szentes, Emilia Morris and Tom Taylor — their impressions and learnings of from the movie. Here’s what they had to say:


What leadership lessons did you learn from the movie?

AS: I learned it’s okay to admit when a leadership style isn’t working. In the movie, Mandela realized violence wasn’t the most effective way to achieve equal rights in South Africa. He even acknowledged that’s not what his people wanted to hear. Another lesson I learned was to rule by example. When Mandela’s leadership style included violence, he didn’t sit back and let others do his dirty work for him; he was in the middle of it. When he decided violence wasn’t the way, he stuck to that, again leading by example.

EM: The main takeaway for me was that good leadership is firm, but not unkind. Mandela often made unpopular decisions. Yet, he was never arrogant, just firm in his actions.

TT: Mandela’s belief that we can achieve more together than alone is an important lesson, and effective in motivating a group.

How will you incorporate lessons learned in your work?

AS: I will incorporate these lessons at school by being a leader in my group projects. When I expect group members to put their best effort toward the project, I will put my best efforts too. I also won’t be afraid to admit I’m wrong when a different way would benefit the group more.

EM: I have a tendency to take the lead and not let others offer input when I’m doing school work. I know at times this comes off as rude when I’m working with people who don’t know me well. I will be more understanding of others’ ideas, and compromise even when I disagree.

 TT: Reaching out to others to show I want to help them accomplish their goals seems to me the best way to practice what Mandela taught.

How do those lessons align with the netlogx operating principles?

AS: The principle of accountability stood out to me, because I will be leaned on to do my best on projects and assignments by my classmates. Also, I can apply the netlogx operating principle of inspiration to motivate my classmates to do their best by showing that I did mine.

EM: Being kind in conversations and leadership definitely shows a level of respect. Being firm relates to honesty, because it shows your feelings on the subject, and telling people what you’re going to do shows you are being straightforward with those you are leading.

TT: Teamwork, kindness and integrity feel the most central to the lessons Mandela offered. In these three aspects, you demonstrate that it’s important to work as a unit to reach goals and support each other.

We hope some aspect of Abbey, Emilia and Tom’s observations helped validate, stir or spark something in you to lead yourself and others more effectively. What leadership lessons (including self-leadership) have you learned lately? On the flip side, what’s a leadership misconception or pitfall you’ve observed?