Richard Stengel is the editor of Time magazine. He collaborated with Nelson Mandela on his bestselling 1993 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom and later served as co-producer of the 1996 Oscar-nominated documentary Mandela. Now Stengel has written a wonderful book filled with behind-the-scenes stories of the three years he spent with this world-famous hero, the first democratically elected president of the racially united South Africa and the honored "grandfather" of his nation. As a friend, the author gives us a glimpse of this complex leader who is "a man of many contradictions." Among them, Mandela is eager to please but not afraid to say no, generous with money but penurious when it comes to tipping, shows no interest in personal possessions but is capable of sending a bodyguard to get a favorite pen for him, and is warm with strangers but cool with those who are intimate with him.
When Mandela talks about the most important teacher in his life, he mentions his 27 years spent in prison where he learned self-control, discipline, and focus. These three qualities are, in his mind, essential to leadership. When Stengel pushes him and asks how prison changed him, Mandela answers, "I came out mature." In a surprising follow-up to this frank confession, the author concludes that Barack Obama seems to have achieved a Mandela-like temperament and is "his true successor on the world stage."
Among the 15 core aspects of Mandela's character discussed in this book are the following, which seem like good advice to us:
• See the good in others.
• Courage is not the absence of fear.
• Love makes the difference.
• Keep your rivals close.
• It's a long game.
• Have a core principle.
One of our favorite chapters is the one centered around Mandela's saying "Find your own garden." While in prison, he was permitted to have a small, narrow garden. He made it a place where he could nurture his soul and savor its beauty. It was a place apart where could relax and revive memories of his childhood. We all need the equivalent of a garden in our lives as a source of renewal.
Mandela's Way by Richard Stengel contains many edifying insights into the character qualities of one of the world's most revered leaders.