Invictus is a movie which depicts the events that shaped South African history. Four years after being released from a 27-year prison sentence, Nelson Mandela was elected the first black President of South Africa. His presidency faces enormous challenges including rampant poverty and crime. He is determined to unite the South African society that was torn apart. The ill will in which both groups hold towards each other is seen even in his own security detail where relations between the established white officers who guarded Mandela’s predecessors, and the black ANC additions to the security detail, are marked by mutual distrust. Invictus shows the true power of leadership and the motivation Mandela held.
The 1995, Rugby World Cup became an opportunity for Mandela to create social peace in the country. The Blacks in South Africa hated the Springboks, an underachieving, all white rugby team. Only the whites supported the Springboks, until they began losing too much, whereas the blacks supported their opponents. Mandela was successful in moving towards his goal of harmony between races in the country by inspiring the captain of the Springboks, Francois Pienaar, to win the World Cup. Invictus gave us two main characters who were successful leaders with different leadership styles, Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar.
Nelson Mandela was a transformational leader. His goal was to transform the nation ripped apart by racial discrimination and hatred, globally changing the face of South Africa. Mandela possessed the leadership qualities of sociability, integrity, intelligence, and charisma. He concocted efficient strategies to help persuade his followers; efficient communication skills to voice his vision for the future of the nation was just the beginning. When he became president, he noticed that the employees were deciding to quit. Before doing so, he held a meeting with them to express his vision and encourage those who felt the same way to stay and be a part of the cause. When his security guards felt dismay about having white coworkers, Mandela informed the bout his goal and persuaded them to work together as a cohesive team.
Mandela did not just talk about his vision, he backed it up with action. It is a great example of “walking the talk.” If he stayed consistent in his words and actions, it would be easy to show his integrity and for his followers to believe it. I.e. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Transformational leaders tend to face difficult challenges on the path towards their goal, whether external or internal. Self-confidence, and commitment to morals and their vision help the leader face those challenges. Such qualities helped Mandela’s success. He strongly believed in forgiveness and forgiving of the whites for their past behavior towards him and the Blacks. Of course, he had a few nay-sayers, but he held his head high and stayed true to his values. By doing this, he led by example which persuaded his people to do the same. He was very inclusive exhibiting both people and task-oriented leadership. His appreciation for his followers impressed Francois. Mandela used his charisma and made an effort to remember every player’s name to give each a personal greeting. He also thanked Francois for his job as captain of the team and acknowledged the challenges he has faced. Mandela clearly had a need to create a positive work environment to make his followers happy. At the end of their meeting, Francois motivated his team with Mandela’s vision about the importance of a Springboks win for South Africa.
Different than Mandela, Francois seemed more of a task and achievement-oriented leader rather than people-oriented. He believed that leading others by example would improve the team’s performance. For example, when the team was exhausted after training, Francois continued to exercise, thus inspiring his team to persevere. In another scene, when his team showed little interest in learning the national anthem, after explaining what it meant he persuaded them to sing it. After the team’s visit to Robben Island, where Mandela was jailed, it strengthened Francois’s belief in the poem Invictus. In the end, Francois proved his success as an efficient leader when the Springboks won the rugby world cup.
Through sports, it is easy to replace hate with love. Sports creates a space that helps achieve unity between a team to a nation and a nation to itself. Mandela’s understanding of sports’ power shows that political leadership can do more than address problems of economies, jobs, and national defense it can also help social issues. The scenes in the movie of South Africa coming together over their rugby team creates inspiration.
We don’t need to know much about the sport of rugby, we just need to know what the team represents. Thus, making us look less to the result of the game, but more so what that result will do to the country.
A quote from the poem Invictus closes the film. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul,” Mandela thinks to himself. What it shows is that even though people may imprison you unjustified, they cannot capture your soul. Keep your head high.
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