Speak candidly, listen bravely
While no one conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of your career, any single conversation can.
In the late 1980s, as Nelson Mandela neared the end of 27 years in the infamous Robben Island prison, then-President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk met with him privately several times. Their conversations were respectful, candid and courageous. They didn’t meet only to negotiate the contentious issues embedded in the apartheid system, but to discuss how to pave a way for South Africa. Both men held power — one through the office of President; the other through the respect he had won from the 84 per cent of South Africa’s population whose dark skin matched his own, and the millions around the world who condemned the apartheid regime as immoral and unjust.
After Mandela was released in 1990, their conversations continued (albeit, I assume, in more comfortable surrounds). While their opinions differed, they were united in their commitment to a better, more just and equitable future for their country. Their mutual concern for the welfare of the people of their country and the generations to follow transcended their differences, enabling them to come together in dialogue to navigate a path forward in a deeply divided country. By speaking candidly, listening bravely and staying focused on a mutual aspiration, their conversations set the stage for the profound, dramatic and unprecedented change that was to come. As I write ...