Focus on what you are passionate about and where your actions will have a lasting impact, writes Tshepo Sefotlhelo.

Mandela Day serves as a global call to action: for people to “recognise their individual power to make an imprint and help change the world around them for the better”, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela led with conscience and courage, and embodied the values of justice, equality and compassion; universal values that all South Africans need to reclaim as we ask ourselves today: “What am I doing to change the world for the better?”

And he demonstrated the power of collective action.

Celebrating Mandela Day is about taking at least 67 minutes - one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service - and making a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards a global movement for good. Focus on what you are passionate about and where you know your actions will have a lasting impact, and do something positive for your community.

You will be joining thousands of people, communities, and non-profit organisations to honour the lifetime that Mandela spent fighting for social justice, equality and democracy, and also heeding his repeated call to help change the world for the better.

Because of his unique insights and approaches, Mandela left a lasting impact on the world. What set him apart as a leader? What gave him the ability to have a transformational impact upon those around him?

Quite simply, his emotional intelligence enabled him to motivate others to transcend their own needs and interests for a common goal. He believed that each of us, by joining together to create a ripple of positive actions, can make strides towards positive social transformation. 

Transformational leaders are sometimes called quiet leaders. They are the ones who lead by example. Mandela used rapport and relationship-building, inspiration and encouragement, empathy and responsiveness to engage his fellow South Africans and followers everywhere. He was known for his enormous courage, confidence and the willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Leadership expert James Burns defined transformational leaders as those who seek to change existing thoughts, techniques and goals to achieve better results for the benefit of all people. Burns also described transformational leaders as those who focus on the essential needs of their followers.

Transformational leaders are known for their integrity, which brings us to a discussion of ethics. Ethical leadership requires the leaders to take into account their constituents and stakeholders and the context of the situation.

Their purpose, vision, and values are for the benefit of the stakeholders. Madiba’s vision was to spread social justice and freedom for all.

This special day gives each one of us a chance to become part of a continuous global movement for good. Importantly, leaders view their fellow citizens not as followers but as people striving towards the same common purpose. They focus on the greater good of their organisation, and not on ego.

Ethical leaders find and develop the best people because they see this as a moral imperative and a key element in creating more value around them. Ethical leaders take the rights of others seriously.

As we prepare to commemorate the legacy of a great man, let us look at our own values and principles, and how these are reflected in our lives. Let us ask ourselves what we want to accomplish through our own leadership and think about what we want people to say about our leadership when we are gone.

In the words of Madiba, “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”

By giving a little of your time each day to making a change that’s close to your heart, or by giving a little of your time to make a difference to the life of someone else, you can start changing the world around you.

Sefotlhelo is Director of Operations at Vuma Reputation Management