Keys to Collaboration: #1 Leaving the past in the past

Collaboration is a hot topic in business at the moment, but what does true collaboration for growth actually look like, and how do we develop collaborative relationships?
In a mini-series of blogposts, we’re exploring the different keys to collaboration, and what each of them means for your success. 

Of all the leaders of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela is one who most inspires us at Moving Performance. Demonstrably a strong leader, it’s his story of taking a peaceable attitude towards those who oppressed, beat, and imprisoned him, that sets him apart. For us, he modelled the power of forgiveness as a key to growth, good leadership, and fundamentally, collaborative working.

Forgiveness is a misunderstood concept, and especially in the context of business. To understand it properly, perhaps it’s helpful to look at the opposite of forgiveness, resentment. Mandela famously said: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

If anyone had a reason to feel resentment it was him. Imprisoned for 27 years, part of which was spent enduring the horrors of Robben Island, no one would have been surprised had he used his pain and anger at his treatment to galvanise him on his release. But instead of using the monstrosity of what had happened to him to wreak revenge in the name of justice, he chose to forgive.

It was the best decision he could make and the only one that could serve his vision of a united and egalitarian South Africa. Mandela needed to be able to collaborate with the people who had enforced the apartheid regime, as well as the victims of it, in order to forge a new future. By letting go of the crimes of the past, he wasn’t forgetting them, but he also wasn’t allowing them to dictate what happened next. Mandela’s strength in letting go of the past modelled to a nation what it might be like to walk together in truth and reconciliation, and his forgiveness mindset made possible the growth of a vibrant modern country.

Leaders have the ability to set the tone, culture, and future for their people, whether that’s a nation state or an SME. The question is, will you let your past dictate your present business relationships, or can you let it go to forge the new future ahead for you, your people, and your business?