• Dynamic...
  • Inspiring...
  • Entertaining...
  • Principle-Based...
  • Immediately, Effective...
  • Bob Burg

“Just in my second year in business, I'm on track to do over a MILLION DOLLARS in commissions!”

~ Cal Faber, Agent, RE/MAX - Victoria, BC

Nelson Mandela – The Ultimate Influencer

December 8th, 2013 by Bob Burg

Nelson MandelaThe world lost a great human being last week when former South African President, Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95.

Most of us know the basics of his inspiring story and enough has been written on the man called “Tata” (Father) that we need not cover that here.

What I would like to discuss in this post is how it turns out that he is the embodiment of the Five Key Principles of Ultimate Influence in Adversaries into Allies.


  1. Control Your Own Emotions: Here is a man who — fighting for equality for black South Africans — was unfairly imprisoned for 27 years. Released due more to public demand than the conscience of his captors, he had every right not only to be angry but to communicate that anger at every opportunity. As the eventual new President of his country, he also had an opportunity to become a great divider of people. But he went the opposite route. What emotional self-control it must have taken to put his anger aside and instead channel it into unification!
  2. Understand the Clash of Belief Systems: White leaders, as well as the general white citizenry of South Africa, certainly operated out of a totally different set of beliefs (the lens through which they see their world) than did Mr. Mandela and South Africa’s black citizens. While he most likely could not understand their racism, he understood it existed and hence was in a position to be able to work within that context in order to overcome it.
  3. Acknowledge Their Ego: Yes, he had to be weary of the egos of those whose belief system he was about to change. And, he had to handle that carefully. He did…expertly. Had he insulted them, berated them, and put them down and he would never have obtained the buy-in that he did.
  4. Set The Proper Frame: In this case, more than setting the frame (the foundational premise from which everything evolves), he actually had to re-set the frame of Apartheid that was already an ingrained part of the white peoples’ belief systems.
  5. Communicate with Tact and Empathy: What a wonderful spokesman he became through his ability to approach issues in a way that lowered defenses, helped his “adversaries” to feel understood and respected, and elicit the buy-in which turned adversaries into allies and allies into advocates.

Thank you for your teachings and for your example, Mr. Mandela. We miss you!

30 Responses to “Nelson Mandela – The Ultimate Influencer”
  1. Sue Henry said at 12:08 pm on

    Bob, what a beautiful commentary of a man who truly made a difference. The analogy and explanation of how he because such an influencer helps us each to understand how we, in our own little world, can become an influencer of good and peace. Thank you!

  2. Amy Wells said at 12:33 pm on

    Wow, what a beautiful life he lived. Bob, thank you for putting this into words for us.

  3. Bob Burg said at 5:05 pm on

    Sue: Thank you. What kind and terrific feedback. Much appreciated!

  4. Bob Burg said at 5:07 pm on

    Amy: A very difficult life. He dedicated his life to a very worthwhile cause, and even after suffering a horrendous and terribly unfair punishment was able to put so much aside in order to make a huge difference for so many. Thank you for your comments!

  5. Mardon Navalta said at 8:40 am on

    Excellent post Bob how Madiba turned adversaries to allies. I might add that he first created a foundation to influence by first earning tremendous credibility with his genuine forgiveness.

  6. Bob Burg said at 8:44 am on

    Mardon: Indeed, genuine forgiveness was so key to his influence, wasn’t it? Thank you for your kind feedback on the post.

  7. Matt Greener said at 9:55 am on

    It is good to have the ability to influence people in your own group, but it is so much more powerful to earn the respect and support of those who would otherwise not be seen to agree with you. This is what Mandela did, shifting an entire nations focus to common, shared goals rather than the back and forth blame game that is rampant among humans almost everywhere. An amazing example of the unity required to rise to greatness. Thank you Bob for sharing!

  8. Bob Burg said at 10:42 am on

    Matt: Thank you for your feedback and for sharing your thoughts with us. You said it perfectly!!

  9. Doug Morgan said at 12:05 pm on

    Just finished your latest book, “Adversaries Into Allies” and found it dispensed not just business but also life wisdom. Highly recommend everyone read this book about how to treat others so you will be treated in-kind.

  10. Bob Burg said at 2:53 pm on

    Doug: Thank you. Greatly appreciate your kind feedback about the book!

  11. Nicely done Bob. With all of the challenges he was faced with, I would think that if Mr. Mandela was able to do this then we all can. BTW, our daughter is home from UCLA for the holidays and I gave a copy of your book to her this morning while having breakfast down at Dana Point Harbor. I guess you could say it’s my holiday homework assignment 🙂

  12. Bob Burg said at 2:56 pm on

    Mitch: Thank you for your thoughtful feedback on the post. Indeed, he was certainly an example well-worth emulating! What self-control it must have taken for him to make that decision and stand by it after all that time in prison! And, thank you for your kind words about the book. I’m very honored to know you gave it to your daughter. Please send my regards.

  13. Freda tsiloglou said at 6:49 pm on

    He never gave up on his dream
    He touched the lives of so many and through his wisdom gave strength and hope to millions, for generations to come…
    Thank you for sharing Bob …
    Your comments are enlightening.

  14. Bob Burg said at 8:17 pm on

    Freda: Indeed! Thank you for your kind feedback and comments!

  15. Nelly said at 2:44 am on

    Mandela was a communist and responsible for many deaths, bombings and acts of brutality.

    Not sure what to make of all the people celebrating him being a hero and a saint.

    He was no ‘Mother Teresa’ or Gandhi.

  16. Bob Burg said at 6:57 am on

    Nelly: I always want this blog to be a place where people can come and express respectful disagreement so let me provide you with my thoughts regarding this. I’m not sure if you follow my blog or other writings or just happened to come across this one post. If you are familiar with me then you know I don’t simply buy into what the media (and general opinion) tells us but rather tend to think things through. Really, I did very much expect that with this post I would come up against some disagreement. So, here are my views based on the opinion you shared with us:

    First, as a free-market capitalist, indeed, it is always disturbing to me that rebel groups and those fighting for their freedom tend to take the Communistic view. Communism has nothing to do with freedom, and has done nothing but destroy people; *especially* the poor and disenfranchised. If one really wants to help people and provide everyone with an equal opportunity, they should embrace free-market Capitalism. (Note: don’t confuse South Africa’s society at that time as being representative of free-market Capitalism. Wherever people are not treated equally under the law, then by its very definition, free-market Capitalism does *not* exist.)

    An extremely key point to keep in mind and understand is that Mandela and his fellow blacks of South Africa were not members of a society that treated them as equals, but rather were kept down and often brutalized. They were very, very badly mistreated and the only ones who came to their aid were the commies. Of course, that was for the communist’s own political reasons but when an oppressed and brutalized people are fighting for their own survival they will often accept help from whoever gives it. In other words, as much as you and I despise the very idea of communism (and I absolutely despise it), perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge when other people are living within a horrible situation that you and I will never have to live in.

    Now regarding his being a terrorist, Nelly, one person’s terrorist is indeed another person’s freedom-fighter. While I certainly don’t agree with some of the things he did, I feel the need to put it in context. He was fighting against Apartheid!! It would similar to slaves in the the U.S. fighting against those who “owned” them. You certainly cannot blame them for doing everything within the very limited power they had to set themselves free and demand equal rights under the law.

    My actual post though was focused on what he did once he had that power and influence and rather than use it as a way to exact revenge, he used it for good; for healing, for uniting rather than dividing. To me, it’s amazing that he did that; it’s amazing how he did that and speaks *extremely highly* of him and his character.

    Nelly, I also believe that Newt Gingrich, a man whose communication style I often disagree with said it beautifully in this brief video, where he answered a similar opinion as that which you expressed. You might also want to read what he wrote in his accompanying piece. I think he put it into perspective in a way that we – in the context in which we have lived – might not otherwise consider.


    I hope that helps provide some perspective.

  17. Tom Sims said at 8:54 am on

    What a wonderful, simple, yet profoundly comprehensive summary of Mandela’s success as a leader!

  18. Bob Burg said at 9:03 am on

    Pastor Tom: Thank you. Very appreciated!

  19. Doug Morgan said at 12:18 pm on

    Love your response to Nelly. You are a master in finding the common ground, Bob, and you have done is superbly here yet again. There is great wisdom in bringing people together as Mandela did. That fact was an amazing accomplishment.

  20. Bob Burg said at 1:36 pm on

    Doug: Thank you. Very kind of you to say. I appreciate that a lot!

  21. Amazing Man Indeed, Great thoughts, great post, Thanks for sharing such an amazing post.

  22. Bob Burg said at 2:12 pm on

    Carly: Thank you. Hugely appreciated!

  23. Pam Ford said at 9:37 am on

    Bob your wisdom and compassion shine through all of your words….wonderful post!

  24. Bob Burg said at 9:39 am on

    Pam: Wow, thank you. Very kind of you!

  25. Dear Bob,

    This post and the way you use tact is one of the many reasons you are and will always be my hero! I love you! -Michelle

  26. Bob Burg said at 6:26 am on

    Michelle: That means a LOT to me, my friend. Love you…more! 🙂

  27. Looks like a great book. Just discovered you through Skip Prichard.

  28. Bob Burg said at 7:05 pm on

    Dan: Thank you for your kind feedback. Skip’s a great guy. It was truly an honor to have my book featured in his blog.

  29. Subramanian said at 9:45 pm on

    Bob – This is a great article – Loved reading it. Specially the Five Key Principles of Ultimate Influence.

  30. Bob Burg said at 7:25 am on

    Subramanian: Thank you so much. Honored to know that you enjoyed it!

Leave a Reply