I have long been fascinated by Nelson Mandela — intrigued by how an individual could endure 27 years in prison and then become South Africa’s charismatic leader during a critical phase in its history.  Though not a biography, this compact book, subtitled Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage, gives us insights into the man’s character and allows us to easily absorb some of his life’s essentials truths.  Here are a few examples:

  • Courage is Not the Absence of Fear
  • Have a Core Principle
  • See the Good in Others
  • Know When to Say “No”

The author, Richard Stengel, editor of Time magazine, spent nearly three years with Mandela, eating with him, traveling with him and watching him interact with other dignitaries — and it shows.  Stengel obviously has deep affection for his subject, and he uses events in Mandela’s life  to illustrate the lessons — how as a child, Mandela was raised by a tribal king as a companion for his own son — how he became a freedom fighter and seldom saw his own family —  and how he found new love and remarried at the age of eighty.

I enjoyed this easy-to-read book and would recommend it not only to adults eager to gain new leadership skills, but also as an appropriate gift for those soon-to-be graduates on your list.