What young leaders can learn from Oliver Tambo

Oliver Tambo; a herder boy who became a giant; a man with a vision for a better tomorrow; an exemplar of leadership and service to others. Tambo left a rich legacy that will forever occupy a superior echelon within our minds and our hearts. In honour of the great man, the theme under which the State of the Nation Address (SONA) will be celebrated is: The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Unity in Action Together Moving South Africa Forward.

By elevating the memory of Tambo, what he stood for, the qualities he unpretentiously embodied which made him great, we also continuously endeavour to become that which we admired in him. Today more than ever, the country needs a different calibre of leader, a leader that will touch the deepest essence of all South Africans to inspire them to do better, to be better. A leader that will take decisions with the highest probability of the best outcome for everyone involved. Someone once said, excellent leadership is like the light, it touches every aspect of life, while poor leadership is like the dark, always in the shadows darkening areas of life.

As young people running the gauntlet of life, it is up to us to be brave, like Tambo, and take up the challenge to be ethical influencers and leaders while inspiring and motivating others around us. For many young leaders in South Africa, Tambo represents the finest example of how a leader should contribute to transcending performance and service to others. When questioned about what could be learned from Tambo, Activators had this to say:

Prince Charles: “Oliver Tambo had patience. He was determined to build a nation, sadly we don’t have that anymore. Next week is the SONA, yet we don’t have a nation’s frame of mind. We need to be a nation first, then we can have the state of the nation.”

Nhlanhla Ndlovu: “My view is that Oliver was very tactful. From the 60’s when he was a commander of MK, he had a way of dealing with situations that were rather inflammatory in a way that would leave both sides calm while establishing a way forward. He was fearless. He was a think tank himself and was the kind of leader that was respectful to both subordinates and those he reported to. Yet, I also think his diplomacy and tact was a weakness at times as it affected his ability to act decisively and always waited for the “right” or favourable moment to act. This can be a weakness and a strength.

Tennyson Magura: “In my view, OR Tambo was honest (sometimes brutally so), he was a teacher, as he mentored Thabo Mbeki and was instrumental in Mbeki becoming Deputy President of the ANC and RSA. He was an Africanist who advocated for the mainstreaming of the African identity within our politics.”

Xabisa Roqo: “Selfless revolution and morals.”

Asanda Molose: “Tambo taught us that the people from the Pondoland lead with agility, that education should be paramount in any nation to better navigate societal structures.”

Aloma Malgas: “His perseverance, calmness, strength and willingness to see his people free is what I have taken from Tambo. It’s a lesson to us young leaders to have strength when things don’t go accordingly and to serve humbly.”

Sikhonza Madasa: “Tambo was a unifier, a plottist, a tactician and good at forming relationships.”

Tambo strived to achieve the faultless ideals of democracy and freedom, but what faultless ideals will the youth of today champion? What is the mission of our generation? At the funeral of Oliver Tambo on 02 May 1993, Nelson Mandela said:

“Oliver lived not because he did all the things that all of us as ordinary men and women do. Oliver lived because he had surrendered his very being to the people. He lived because his very being embodied love, an idea, a hope, an aspiration, a vision.”  

“While he lived, our minds would never quite formulate the thought that this man is other than what the naked eye could see. We could sense it, but never crystallise the thought that with us was one of the few people who inhabited our own human environment, who could be described as the jewel in our crown. I say that Oliver Tambo has not died, because the ideals for which he sacrificed his life can never die.”

Lest we forget…

Photo credit: Hapakenya.com

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