Tag Archives: nelson mandela

The importance of personal branding – lessons from an icon

Everyone irrespective of their age, race, sex, business sector or position should know and understand the concept of branding and its importance and implications in all undertakings of our and any society.

Timothy Maurice Webster, inspirational speaker and international award winning leader, states (in Leadership magazine) that personal branding allows people to develop a platform for their value system that works for them in order to communicate who they are and what they stand for.

Webster continues that an iconic example of a salesperson that successfully created and promoted their personal brand is that of former South African president Nelson Mandela. Webster explains that during his presidency Mandela was a fierce negotiator and that his values were mirrored in his well-tailored and crisp image.

Richard Stengel, TIME magazine’s managing editor, wrote an article on Nelson Mandela in the July 2008 edition of the magazine in celebration of Madiba’s birthday. The article listed Mandela’s eight lessons of leadership as interpreted by Stengel. These so-called “Madiba’s rules” were the guidelines by which Mandela lived and ran his presidency. He employed these guidelines to create (and later cultivate) his personal brand.

In the article Stengel states that the eight rules were “cobbled together from conversations [with Mandela] and from observing him up close and from afar”. Stengel then continues to say that they [the rules] are mostly practical and stem directly from Mandela’s personal experiences.

Rule #1 – Courage is not the absence of fear; it is inspiring others to move beyond it.

Rule #2 – Lead from the front – but don’t leave your base behind

Rule #3 – Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front

Rule #4 – Know your enemy – and learn from his favourite sport

Rule #5 – Keep your friends close – and your rivals even closer

Rule #6 – Appearances matter – and remember to smile

Rule #7 – Nothing is black or white

Rule #8 – Quitting is leading too

As Webster stated in his article, Mandela new how to create and nurture his brand he new that “a good suit represents armour and is a form of business and political protection from prejudice”. Mandela knew that in order to be taken seriously as a black man in apartheid South Africa, he needed to look the part and he therefore chose to wear suits every day of his political career.

Therefore in summary, the key to personal branding lies in the embodiment of the brand. This is something that Mandela knew very well and it is exactly this mindset which lead to the success of his unfaltering personal brand. In conclusion, to borrow a few words from Webster “his [Mandela] brand was, and is, a story that inspires transformation, and he began by transforming himself internally and externally.


Stengel, R. 2008, July 21. Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership. TIME magazine. (Pages 22 – 28) available online at time.com/mandela

Webster, T.M. 2010, March. Inspire, engage and provide an example. Leadership Magazine. Edition 302. (Pages 26 – 28) available online at leadershiponline.co.za