The sixteenth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation).
“Keep your friends close – and your rivals even closer”-Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela is a leader who charmed even enemies by his attitude. He invited people whom he did not trust for dinner, called them to consult and associated with them by flattering and giving them gifts. Even people whom the public thought were against Mandela became good friends with him. Mandela would pick up the phone and call them on their birthdays. He would go to family funerals. Mandela saw these as opportunities. Mandela even took a step further and included his jailers among friends and put leaders who had kept him in prison in his first Cabinet. Mandela believed that embracing his rivals was a way of controlling them: they were more dangerous on their own than within his circle of influence. He cherished loyalty, but he was never obsessed by it. He used to say, ‘people act in their own interest.’ It was simply a fact of human nature, not a flaw or defect. The flip side of being an optimist – and he is one – is trusting people too much.
Mandela teaches us that enemies could be more dangerous when they are not pacified. Most enemies around us are people with whom we do not agree with. These people may also have personal grudges and animosities, which we might not know unless we take the effort to associate with them. If we do not associate with our enemies and understand their views, they might become aggressive one day. In the end it is us who have to suffer. Mandela considered associating with enemies as opportunities to know what people think of him. He then changed his ways of approach. Sometimes an enemy might tell you the aspects in life that you need to develop much better than a friend. We should make efforts to know our enemies for two main reasons. One being able to predict what problems they might cause; and the other is that the enemies do help develop our weaknesses. But the mistake Mandela made was that he trusted the enemies too much. This resulted in the feeling of being betrayed when the South African President F.W. de Klerk attacked Mandela in public.
We should associate with the enemies but keep track of their movements. They should feel that they are given the freedom but we should always be observant of their acts and movements. A good leader has to have the capability of associating with the followers as well as with the enemies. But the two approaches should be different. It is through experience that one knows how to associate with the two different groups in such a way that even the enemies do not feel that they are treated as enemies.