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“Nelson Mandela, Autobiography” Book Synthesis Essay

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Updated: Jul 20th, 2021


The book titled ‘Mandela: The Authorized bibliography’ was written by Sampson Anthony. The book was published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing group and was copyrighted in 2012, and the exclusive copyright belongs to the writer of the book who is Sampson Anthony.

In his book, the writer talks about Nelson Mandela early childhood life, and the struggle he underwent through until he became the president of the republic of South Africa.

He talks about Mandela’s prison life, education and the fight for independence and freedom in South Africa. He also talks about his release from the prison, and how he led various South Africans to attain independence.


In his book, the writer portrays Nelson Mandela as having various leadership characteristics and attributes.

The writer discusses several leadership skills and techniques that Mandela applied in order to obtain freedom in South Africa. The leadership styles discussed in the book include the following leadership skills:

Courage is not the absence of fear

Mandela states that most leaders have faced down fear, but it is during times of stress that the mettle of leadership is tested; this means maintaining the momentum in tough times, or, as Mandela explains, sometimes you must “put up a front” (Sampson, 2012).

A leader is that person who takes the initiative and is courageous enough to confront hard situations (Sampson, 2012).

Lead from the front

Mandela was always objective about his goals and used all the techniques that could help him achieve the objective it. In all his undertakings, he ensured that he did not leave his base behind. Richard Stengel describes Nelson Mandela as a historical man.

Mandela life in prison shaped his view about the leadership concept, where he viewed leaders as people who should lead by example. Mandela was a fore thinker who projected his thoughts in the future, he focused on the long term objectives and not short term objectives.

Lead from the back

The concept of leading from the back is contradictory from the concept of leading from the front. Mandela states that there come times when a leader has to lead from the back.

Suck an analogy is underpinned by the fact that the same way cattle are led from behind, individuals can also be led from behind too.

Know your enemy

Mandela states that the best way to lead is to know your enemy and identify their strongest and weakest points. Mandela states that understanding your opponent weakest and strongest point will assist an individual to come to a common ground in times of a conflict.

Mandela also points out that communication is also an important aspect in a leader. A leader should communicate effectively and efficiently in order to ensure that leadership is transparent and accountable.

Keep your friends close

Mandela states that another good leadership principle is to put your friends closer, and put your enemies even closer.

Mandela states that, in order for an individual to lead well, there should a distinct boundary for friendship ties. Friendship ties should not in one way or the other influence the decisions a leader makes.

Appearances matter

Mandela states that the appearance of a leader really matters. How a leader present themselves both physically and the verbal approach is important. Leaders should be smart, and should a sense of public opinion that is beyond reproach.

Mandela states that the little things we do greatly define our public image. For example, how we treat other people, how we greet other people are some of the things that define our leadership skills in the public domain.

Nothing is black or white

According to Sampson (2012), Mandela states that, at one point in time, leaders are always presented with two options to choose from. Mandela states that, as a leader, an individual should consider the outcomes of the circumstance and not the tactics to be used in addressing the issue.

To quit is to lead

Mandela states that leaders should always back from poor performing projects. Mandela notes that not all the decisions made by leaders will be successful, and the best way to lead such situations is to take a step backwards (Sampson, 2012).

Mandela notes that, in order to win in some cases, and then leaders must concede to win. The fastest way to win is by taking a step backwards and coming out more energized and goal oriented.

The above leadership qualities and characteristics had nelson Mandela to be one of the greatest leader the world has ever experienced. Mandela was determined and focussed towards achieving a goal, which was that of liberating the South Africans from Apartheid.

He led with wisdom, and always embraced dialogue in time of conflicts. The above leadership skills and techniques also ensured that, Nelson Mandela led by example while, at the same time, ensuring that others follow in the same path as he did.

The above leadership skills to large extent helped the former South African leader to economically steer the country through the peaceful co-existence of people belonging to different races. For example, during his release from prison, Mandela gave a press conference regarding his release.

People expected that he would hate the whites who had imprisoned him, but Mandela did not express any hate sentiments towards the whites.

Instead, he embraced dialogue and concession with his enemies. This is evident in the manner the leader made some negotiations with the white to form the South African government.

Major Crisis

The major crisis that Nelson Mandela encountered is the problem of solving the crisis that was being experienced in Nigeria. The crisis was caused by the annulment of the Nigeria election in June 1993.

After the annulment of the election, the General Sani Abacha of Nigeria arrested various political leaders and commanded for their execution. Abacha later executed nine political opponents from the ogoni community including the prolific writer, Ken saro-wiwa.

Leadership approach

Mandela sought to use the quiet diplomacy method of leadership and solving conflicts.

Mandela sent Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the deputy president Thabo Mbeki to go to Nigeria and lobby for the release of Obasanjo, and several other people who had been detained by the General Sani Abacha (Sampson, 2012).

The methodology failed, and Mandela was left with the option of lobbying for support from the Commonwealth of Nations.

As a leader, the situation could have been handled by lobbying for the international criminal court to arrest and issue a warranty of arrest for the General Sani Abacha for political crimes and human rights abuses.


In conclusion, the above leadership skills, techniques and methods are good and will always make individuals to be good leaders. However, in order to effectively be a good leader, an individual should use the appropriate leadership technique in the appropriate environment.

Reference List

Sampson, A. (2012). Mandela: The authorized Biography. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

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