Leadership: Fighting for Truth

     On June 12, 1964, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in the Republic of South Africa. Refusing to succumb to the falsehood of apartheid, an established social norm that made it acceptable to separate and segregate people based on their race, Mandela went into confinement clinging to the only true hope he had left: truth. Twenty-six years later, he emerged from prison, set free by none other than what he valued most in his life: truth.

     Shortly after his release from prison, South African President F. W. de Klerk and Mandela reached an agreement that would help mend the long-standing rift in their country. And finally, on February 2, 1990, the dark veil of apartheid was lifted from South Africa, forever.

     Despite much rejoicing, many questions lingered. Most related to how the deep wounds of so many years of exploitation and hatred could be healed; people questioned how justice could be restored, how reconciliation could be achieved.

     To some, only one answer seemed logical. Harkening back to an earlier time in world history where atrocities and heartache met the tribunals of justice in the halls of Nuremberg, Germany, following World War II, the courtroom seemed the most appropriate place to settle the score. But Nelson Mandela, joined by his friend Desmond Tutu, knew they needed to lead their country on a different path. And why not? After all, their entire lives were marked by fighting for truth, sacrificing for truth, and ultimately they were both liberated by truth. In their hearts they knew revenge was not only hollow, but it would do nothing to kick start the process of positive change for the nation and its people.

     So, instead of fixating on retaliation, they sought reconciliation. Where retribution would only further divide and move people further apart, they believed restoration would unite and bring people closer together. So, in an incredible act of unwavering commitment to leading the change they wanted to see in their surroundings, these leaders chose to deviate from expectations and create the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. All those who would come forward and confess the truth about their apartheid crimes would be set free. They would be granted instant pardon; amnesty was their gift for the taking.

     In the history of modern times, perhaps no act of moral courage stands out so clearly or as profoundly as in this one moment. But it was only made possible because of the conviction of two men of resolute character. Leaders whose commitment to operate in the spirit of the willing burden bearer by making a stand for their deeply held ideals and values ensured truth had her most powerful hour.

     And the world has never been the same since.

     How might things be different in our society today if more leaders chose to fight for truth, regardless of the potential cost to self? How would our own lives change if we became ever more careful not to allow other people’s truths to become our own?

     Think about it. If you’re willing to fight for something—to take a stand, to risk going first, to lead the way in defending what you believe in—then it’s fair to say you must value it. And if you value it, then you must be ready to draw your line of personal responsibility around it. Please never forget that the real battle for positive progress is waged with actions. Just like a war of words between nations isn’t really a war until soldiers are deployed and placed in harm’s way, fighting for what’s right in your life really doesn’t happen until you start doing something to shape the outcomes you desire.
How does this play out in practical terms? If you want to fight for health, for example, start by exercising or recommitting to your diet. If you want to fight for integrity, then find an opportunity and hold your ground. Speak your mind, live your truth, be your best you—consistently committing to fighting for what’s right, be it for yourself or for others, requires conviction; just as accepting responsibility for leading the change you want to see demands courage. Neither happens by chance. Both happen by choice.

     And only you can make that choice.

Fighting for Truth - MediocreMe.com
John E. Michel is a widely recognized expert in culture, strategy & individual and organizational change. An accomplished unconventional leader and proven status quo buster, he has successfully led several multi-billion dollar transformation efforts and his award-winning work has been featured in a wide variety of articles and journals, including the Harvard Business Review. John enjoys helping people learn to walk differently in the world so they can become the best version of themselves possible and is married to the most patient person on the planet. Together, they are blessed with two amazing sons. You are encouraged to learn more about John at his website, www.MedicoreMe.com