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The Greatest Ever Project Sponsor – Mandela

Nelson Mandela - the World's Greatest Ever Project Sponsor

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 – ‘The Greatest Ever Project Sponsor’

PMO Planet’s Top 20 Mandela quotes for PMO’s and Project Professionals

For those who know me on a personal level, South Africa has a very special place in my heart, a place where part of my family still call home. It is an impressive country, both geographically with its diverse wildlife and mountain ranges (Cape Point, Blythe Canyon etc), but it is also made even more beautiful by it’s people.

The passing of Tata Madiba Nelson Mandela is an event which brings a great era to an end, but, if you have strong foundations, you are able to build large and impressive buildings; I am sure South Africa will continue to flourish.

Nelson Mandela was an incredible person, they type of person, who will never be replicated and forever remembered. His approach to hold no bitterness for years of imprisonment should be recognised as a lesson for us all to bare no grudges and forever look forward to the future.

Following Nelson Mandela over the years, I have taken so much inspiration from his quotes and speeches, and I have found that some of Mandela’s views and insight can be related back to the project management world…. After all, for me, he is the greatest ever project sponsor that has lived. He managed to change a country; he influenced an adverse and strong stakeholder opposition, and never left focus on his vision, until ultimately realising the benefits for all he believed in. More importantly, he brought all different groups of people along with him on that incredible journey of change.

On a smaller scale, I feel we can relate some of Mandela’s views and insight to the world of PMO’s and Project Management. PMO’s are delivering change on change leaders, with Project Management professionals delivering change to the masses.

Below is my tribute to the ‘Greatest Ever Project Sponsor’ with my personal top 20 Mandela quotes. Most are self explanatory on how they relate to delivering and embedding change, and also for Project Management Leadership, but I’m sure when you read through them, they will also have their own meaning for you:

1. “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”.

2. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership”.

3. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.

4. “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner”.

5. “It always seems impossible until its done”.

6. “We must use time wisely and forever realise that time is always ripe to do right”.

7. “A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial and uninformed”.

8. “When water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat”.

Nelson Mandela

9. “It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea”.

10. “Before I went to jail, I was active in politics as a member of South Africa’s leading organization – and I was generally busy from 7am until Midnight. I never had time to sit and think”.

11. “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end”.

12. “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles”.

13. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do”.

14. “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front”.

15. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”.

16. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”.

17. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death”.

18. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do”.

19. “When people are determined they can overcome anything”.

Finally, one last personal favorite of mine for all you PMO and Project professionals out there……

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”.

Now you’ve had chance to have read through these inspirational quotes, take one or two and apply them back in your project world….. after all PMO and Project Leadership is a journey.


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