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Nelson Mandela took the high road in many ways, but one instance that particularly stands out for me is his ability to forgive. When he was released from prison after 27 years “for the ‘crime’ of wanting, and fighting, to be free” he forgave the people who abused and tortured him, and he forgave the government structures and people who treated blacks as subhuman.

A person could be expected to be angry and exact revenge at this treatment. Mandela had a unique reaction because he eschewed these approaches. He took the high road and worked to create change without violence and bloodshed; in the same way another high road leader, Mahatma Gandhi, did in his time.

We each have ‘shackles’ and ‘prisons’ in our lives; some self-imposed and some externally imposed. What defines the high road approach is the manner in which you deal with these burdens.

Above everything else Mandela accomplished and stood for, two traits that I want to see in myself and all leaders are 1) the courage to face up to reality and hardship and then turn these conditions into positive action, and 2) the compassion needed to understand people and use that gift to generate positive results.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Nelson Mandela let us see his shining light so that we leaders can do the same. Find the courage that already exists within you to face tough issues and stand up for what you believe in.