Leadership Manifesto: Robert Sobukwe View


“Here is a tree rooted in African soil, nourished with waters from the rivers of Afrika. Come and sit under its shade and become, with us, the leaves of the same branch and the branches of the same tree.” — Robert Sobukwe

There are leaders who are commercialized and are famous, and there are leaders who are less known.

When setting out to be a leader, fame should be the last thing on your mind. Fighting for a cause, seizing an opportunity and starting and leading an organisation is what leadership should strive for.

Leadership is not a popularity contest. Politics where the most likeable and charimstic person is chosen to lead by the majority is popular contest.

Prof Sobukwe defined true leadership thus:  “true leadership demands complete subjugation of self, honesty and integrity, uprightness of character, courage and fearlessness, and above all a consuming love for one’s people”.

Prof Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe is arguably one of the less documented freedom fighters in South Africa. He was declared the most dangerous leader that most popular leaders we know.

Prof Sobukwe was kept in solitary confinement but permitted certain privileges including books, newspapers, civilian clothes, bread etc. He lived in a separate area on the Island where he had no contact with other prisoners. The only contacts were his secret hand signals whilst outside for exercise.


Robert Sobukwe stayed there for 14 years isolated from the other political prisoners. He was not even allowed to talk to anyone, not even the guards.

There are a lot of famous people that are not effective and there are a lot of effective people that are not famous. Don’t seek to be famous, seek to be effective.

In the pursuit of happiness, many forget to savor the pursuit and are disappointed with the outcome when they finally get to wherever they are going. The journey is the reward.

An academic, lawyer, founder of the Pan-Africanist Congress, Prof Sobukwe was seen as even more dangerous to the apartheid state than most political leaders.

I don’t have a blueprint to say what will make you successful or happy or fulfilled. Success is defined in individual terms but is often used to describe the rich and famous.

It might be time to define your own success. It is alway advisable not to chase someone else’s dream because, chances are, you won’t be happy when you finally reach it.

Do work that matters, even when no one is applauding.



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