I recently re-watched the movie Invictus, a story about Nelson Mandela. The word invictus means “unconquerable” or “undefeated.” The movie recalled a poem by William Henley, also called “Invictus,” that Henley wrote from his hospital bed while suffering from tuberculosis and recovering from having his foot amputated. The poem is about courage in the face of hardship and holding onto one’s own dignity despite the indignities life places before us.
One specific line of the poem was repeated by Nelson Mandela while in prison, over and over again: “I am the Master of my Fate, I Am the Captain of my Soul.” These are indeed powerful and empowering words! Mandela demonstrated mastery in his self-leadership by reciting and integrating this poem into his very being while in prison. That self-leadership translated quite well into leading many people; engaging, empowering, and retaining a following while holding true to his beliefs and values. This scenario is similar to leading in the workplace; engaging and empowering employees to stay committed to the organization’s beliefs and values.
Leadership is a moment-to-moment practice of keeping your head in the game, whatever game that may be. Mandela kept his focus by reciting the poem “Invictus”…often times on his knees and re-affirming his power with the line, “I am the Master of my Fate, I Am the Captain of my Soul.” This was how he kept himself from being imprisoned while in prison. Metaphorically speaking, we often create prisons in our own mind by allowing fears, thought patterns, beliefs, and perspectives that keep us doing what we don’t want to do and not doing what we want! Whether the prison is a tangible place or an intangible mind game, the bars are the same — they keep us locked up!
The Mind of Invictus is not one that ignores or pretends that the shadows and dark side does not exist. You have to recognize your captors in order to conquer them! In fact, the unconquerable mind recognizes and respects the power of our many “captors” but does not allow them to take control. I may recognize when my “not good enough” captor shows up, but I won’t be imprisoned by her!
The Mind of Invictus also recognizes that circumstance and chance are where we show up. When facing risk, high stakes, or catastrophes; are we still in the game? When circumstance aligns, ahh…it’s a good day! However, at the end of a really bad day, do we end with an affirming, “I am the Master of my Fate, I Am the Captain of my Soul?” This is where our power lies.
The foundational Leadership Practice taught in Preuss CoachLeader Academy is “Model Emotional Intelligence.” A leader who has The Mind of Invictus understands their ability to know themselves deeply, all sides of self, and that managing all those different sides of self in service of the greater good is truly unconquerable and undefeatable. A Mind of Invictus leader epitomizes what Nelson Mandela demonstrated in his ability to lead the masses.