“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela
Great, inspirational, difference-making leaders come along very rarely. This week we lost one. Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5th at the age of 95.
On hearing the news I asked myself: “Would at least some of the traits that led him to be such a significant force and political figure show up in his face?” The answer, as you’ll see, is a resounding “yes.”
Let’s start with some background. Who was this man?
Mandela was the first black man to hold office in South Africa, a country dominated by a minority white population and known for apartheid, its tough, oppressive racial segregation policy.
Initially Nelson Mandela was a peaceful, non-violent activist who took on the fight against apartheid beginning in his early 20’s. A lawyer and revolutionary, he publicly opposed the policies and peacefully organized the black population against them. As he slowly gained power and popularity he was arrested numerous times for seditious activities.
But Mandela, increasingly frustrated with the slow rate of change, became more militant and in 1961 co-founded a militant anti-government group. The following year he was arrested and found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government. His sentence: life in prison.
Despite his absence from public activity, civil unrest continued to grow. Then in 1990, giving in to international pressure for his release, he was granted his freedom. By this time he was a national and international figure though still viewed by many critics as a terrorist.
Using his stature he immediately began working with South African president F. W. de Klerk to bring about reforms. In 1994 apartheid was abolished and Mandela became the nation’s first black president, a position he held until 1999 when he retired.
His successful efforts to dismantle apartheid and balance power between both white and black populations led to his winning the Nobel Prize.
As president he worked to build a strong central government, bring peace to South Africa, establish equal rights for women and minorities, eradicate AIDS and expand freedom of expression.
Who was this man whom the U.S. and other governments called a “terrorist” until 2008? Could anyone have foreseen such a path for Mandela…either on his young face or even his adult face?
While we cannot predict anyone’s future from their facial features, we can often see many reasons Nelson Mandela acted as he did and identify many of his strongest drives, those that defined him as a man and successful leader. In Mandela’s face we see a number of very strong drives that he channeled into action.
Here, in Part One, we look at a few of the personality traits that showed up on his young face. In Part Two we will study his mature face and uncover many more.
From his youthful face
Right now, look at the photograph above or open this link to see a picture of Nelson Mandela as a young man.
As always, we ask you to take a moment, breathe deeply and look at this face. Open up your intuition. Even if you know nothing about the In Your Face Method of reading faces, what do you sense about Nelson Mandela?
Also, what facial features jump out at you as you look at his picture?
Let’s begin with his down-turned mouth. That’s pessimism. For whatever reason, he was very unhappy and had quite a negative view of life when this picture was taken.
Now look at the skin over his eyes. That’s the need for high control. He had a very strong need to control his environment and hated others having control over him. That was a critical personality trait, one we seldom see at such an extreme level. It also certainly explains why he could so fervently resist the government’s attempts to control the black South African population.
His forehead suggests two more things…he was a man of great intellect as well as superior logic. Also, we don’t see here a trait that we will see in later pictures when he was older, that he was developing the ability to lead, to manage.
The high collar on his shirt hides a long-ish neck, a sign that he could listen intently to others and care what they had to say. His neck will grow thicker as he grows older and at times will show the level of determination, even stubbornness, that we would expect from a man who pursues such a monumental life-long cause.
Note the shape of his eyebrows. See how they sit somewhat high above the center of his eyes and then grow ever-closer to the eye as they approach the side of the face?
Anyone knowing the significance of this trait (increasing involvement over time in what he valued) would never underestimate Nelson Mandela’s commitment to causes he believed in. His life was a testament to this feature.
We conclude Part One of our analysis by analyzing one aspect of his lips…
See how the upper lip seems longer (side to side) than the lower? This is caused in part by the upper lip being slightly thicker than the lower. That tells us Mandela had a greater need to give attention to (to focus on) other people and their needs than to receive attention and focus on himself.
Many leaders are driven by ego and rise to power because they want fame and attention. Mandela’s lips (and other features) tell us he was a man who was committed to his mission for its own sake—for others’ sake—not to gain praise and attention for himself.
We’re just getting started! That is just the tip of the iceberg that is Nelson Mandela’s face.
How did his face change as he matured? What do those creases around his mouth mean? What made him such a fighter and visionary?
We’ll take a long look at these and other facets in Part Two of Nelson Mandela’s face reading in our next blog post.
(For more on Nelson Mandela’s life, see…