Category Archives: leadership

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Building bridges through language and culture — Mandela continued

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

 In the last post, we saw the importance of Nelson Mandela’s ability to interact with Afrikaners in their own language, something he learned to do during his long imprisonment. Speaking to them in their language was a way of gaining their respect, an act of winning them over and entering into their world, which led to deeper levels of communication and understanding. As such, he was able to transform the relationships with his guards from one of brutality and distrust to one of friendship.  Mandela often stated that he began to learn Afrikaans for strategic reasons: he wanted to understand his oppressors in order to prevail over them. At some point, though, … Continue reading

How Nelson Mandela used language to build a nation

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

A moving scene from the movie Invictus portrays a tense conversation between President Nelson Mandela and Jason Tshabalala, his intense security chief. At issue is Mandela’s decision to employ some of the highly qualified white bodyguards trained under his predecessor during the brutal apartheid regime.  On the morning when the white men report to take up their duties with the new regime, the black guards—who had not been informed prior to this noteworthy event—react with shock and disdain. Visibly agitated, the security chief storms into the president’s office to demand an explanation. Mandela calmly makes clear his desire to be protected by a multiracial team, one that should include highly qualified members … Continue reading

Following my curiosity

John's reflections, leadership, Leadership training Leave a comment

Steve Jobs’ story about his Reed College calligraphy class and “connecting the dots” got me thinking about whether I had ever experienced anything similar. In other words, was there a time in my life when I explored something I was simply curious about, not knowing where it would lead, and only discovered years later how valuable the learning was? As Jobs states, it is impossible to connect the dots looking forward; we can only connect them looking backward.  When I was a masters degree student at Middlebury College, one of the most colorful characters I encountered was Bernard Uzan, a young professor of theatre. Bernard was a well-known actor in France … Continue reading

Steve Jobs was truly about connecting things

John's reflections, leadership, Leadership in the news Leave a comment

The past two posts, and perhaps the next few, take their inspiration from the (relatively) new movie “Jobs”, which I managed to see on one of my long airplane journeys. I say “inspiration” because this film made me curious again about some of its characters and stories; that curiosity led me to re-read Isaacson’s fascinating biography, and to do a bit of research on the Internet. It turns out that some of the people portrayed on the screen, the ones whose interviews I was able to find on YouTube, are not in complete agreement with Hollywood’s somewhat fictionalized version of the events, but that is not the issue I wish … Continue reading

Speaking about “intercultural management”

John's events, leadership 1 Comment

This past Saturday, I spent the day in Aix-les-Bains, a beautiful resort town near Lyon. The event was the annual conference for the officers of the region’s Rotary Club. I was invited as an outside speaker to talk about management across the world’s cultures. About 500 people attended, and the lively audience was a pleasure to interact with. This was my initial contact with Rotary, and I was indeed impressed with the members, and with the day’s three other speakers. In addition, I enjoyed learning about Rotary, an organization about which I knew very little prior to this event. As a matter of fact, my knowledge of this organization was limited … Continue reading

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