BREAKFAST AT MR. MANDELA’S HOME
Have you ever wonder what make people grow in greatness and influence. I have and here is a case study of the indisputable greatness black man that ever live, Nelson Mandela.
Background: Mr. Mandela invites Peter for a breakfast meeting. At Mr. Mandela’s home, Peter gets more than simply the breakfast he has gone for. He has a deep lesson on how to treat others. He learns that people matter as people before they have any titles.
When BP, the company I was working for, transferred me from Lusaka to Cape Town, I took time to talk with my new colleagues to learn what they were working on. One of the meetings I had was with a man called Peter. He was in charge of promoting the company’s social investment in South Africa. As we introduced ourselves, we somehow came to talk about Mr Mandela. Peter exclaimed, ‘I have to tell you about an experience I had with Madiba.’ His beaming face assured me that I was about to hear one of the greatest moments of his life.
This was his story. At Mandela’s request, BP started constructing a primary school in one of the high-density areas of the Eastern Cape. As the project got going, Peter received an invitation to meet Mr Mandela and brief him on the progress. ‘This was a breakfast meeting with Mr Mandela. I can assure you, the days before the appointment were long as I was anxious at the prospect of meeting and sharing a meal with Madiba. Finally, the big day came.’
On the day, Peter dressed his best and asked one of the company drivers, Dumi, to take him to Mr. Mandela’s home. To Peter’s amazement, his host was waiting for him in the car park. ‘I felt both extremely elated and humbled that Mr. Mandela was waiting outside for me. He warmly greeted the driver and me. He then gestured that we enter the house. However, in the traditional way of corporate behaviour and protocol, the driver retreated quietly and remained in the car. Mr Mandela invited me to the breakfast table.
Just before we started eating, my host seemed to miss something. He asked, “Peter, I thought there were two of you?” I responded, “No, sir. I came alone.” “What about the other gentleman?” he insisted, and I replied, “No, sir. That one is just a driver. He will wait in the car.” At that point Mr. Mandela stood up and went out to where the driver was. He introduced himself to the driver and asked him to join us for breakfast. Mr. Mandela then walked to the kitchen and said, “Dumi is joining us for breakfast. Can we have another plate, please?”’
There was a long pause before Peter went on. ‘Then I realised what a blunder I had made. I could not look Mr. Mandela in the face. After we had had breakfast and I had briefed him on the progress of the school, Dumi and I bade him farewell. Dumi started the engine and we drove out of Mr. Mandela’s premises. As soon as the gates closed behind us, Dumi parked the car by the roadside, got out of the car and walked round to my door, knelt down, and said, “Peter, thank you very much for asking Mr. Mandela to come and invite me for breakfast. This is something I never expected could ever happen in my life. I simply do not know how to thank you enough for what you have done. I am sure…” I interrupted Dumi with a wave of my hand. “Oh, please don’t mention it! It was the least I could do. I am glad you enjoyed the occasion.”
When you see the personalities that lie behind these seemingly humble titles, the people in those jobs do not just feel appreciated, they discover and walk into whole new horizons of their lives.
Even as I said these words, I felt really stupid for lying and taking the credit I did not deserve. Even today, I regret this with a deep sense of shame. A few days later I called Dumi and told him the true story and offered my apology.’ I am not saying there should be no people who work as drivers, guards and servants. But when leaders learn to see the personalities that lie behind these seemingly humble titles, the people in those jobs do not just feel appreciated, they discover and walk into whole new horizons of their lives. They become great performers at what they do. They find personal fulfillment.
Culled from: Leading like Madiba, leadership lesson from Nelson Mandela by Martin Kalungu-Banda
- Everyone regardless of his or her background, status or affluence is important and should be treated as such.
- Humility is the foundation of greatness.
- Be care how you treat people, for what you do to others have a funny way of has funny way of coming to you.
If you can see any other lesson or aha moment, kindly share it in the comment box below.