Nelson Mandela inspired our imagination not only because of his great achievements but also because of what permeated everything he did—a mighty core of presence and integrity. His very bearing emanated solidity, serenity, and a humble, unshakable majesty.
I shall never forget how palpable and physical was the effect of his presence, witnessed at first hand during the development of The Elders initiative. Already in his late eighties, he entered the room in one of his brightly-colored shirts and without any fanfare, yet everyone instantaneously felt the grandeur of his being. He sat down with a slightly mysterious smile and began to speak simply, with no oratorical flourishes and in a slightly rasping voice. My whole body trembled, and this trembling continued for the entire forty minutes that he spoke—an experience I had never had before and haven’t since.
This sensation was not merely physical but also mental, emotional, and spiritual—the whole of my being vibrated with the electricity of this level of integrity.
That moment crystallized my understanding that authentic leadership – the kind so deeply needed now—begins in the radical mastery of one ’s inner being. Brilliance, charisma, eloquence, vision—these are wonderfulgifts that a leader can possess—but these gifts gain ultimate effect and coherence only when fueled and sustained by inner power. Inner power is the diamond formed by years of honing self-awareness, practicing selflessness,and observing and controlling the ego. It results from developing the essential skill of empathy—even for those who oppose you—and the humble commitment to keep learning the skills of deep listening and mediation.