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June O'Sullivan, LEYF CEO

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Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) The Embodiment of Great Leadership

A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

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Coming out from hearing the joyous Vivaldi Gloria sung by the young  St John’s Choir Cambridge at the Royal Festival Hall last night, I stood and watched people place candles and flowers at the base of the sculpture of Nelson Mandela.  Such glorious choral music seemed a fitting tribute for a man who was revered by many as a great leader and whose dignity and composure captured the world.

On the way home, I scoured the papers to read how others described his leadership. Words such as humble, honest, warmth, passion, inspiration, true to his values, fair, sincere, heroic, optimistic, good humoured, generous of spirit and forgiveness were liberally used by everyone from the local South African housewife to the President of the United States. Our Mayor Boris Johnson with his usual eloquence said,

Londoners brought up in a city where the values of diversity and equality are celebrated not suppressed forged a unique bond with Mandela and the struggle he embodied. He was without doubt the pre-eminent statesman of his time”

There is much to learn from Nelson Mandela, just to walk in his shadow would be an achievement. He sets out some many challenges to those of us privileged enough to be accepted as a leader by others. For those of us working with children and trying to shape a future based on fairness but often frustrated by stupidity, politicking and sheer ignorance, keep his personal image in your heart.

 “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

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About June O'Sullivan

An inspiring speaker, author and regular commentator on Early Years, Social Business and Child Poverty, June has been instrumental in achieving a major strategic and cultural shift for the award winning London Early Years Foundation, resulting in increased profile and profitability over the past eight years. As CEO of the UK's leading childcare charity and social enterprise since 2006, June continues to break new ground in the development of LEYF's scalable social business model. She remains a tireless campaigner, looking for new ways to influence policy and make society a better place for all children and families. June is a champion of community-based, multi-generational projects and a great believer in the potential of greater social and cultural capital as a means of delivering long-term social impact. She continues to advise the Government in order to better implement their vision for Early Years. June is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Director of Early arts, Council Member of the Early Intervention Foundation, Chair of Paddington Farm Trust, Founding Member of the Institute for Early Years and was recently voted into the ‘NMT Power 20’ - top 3. June was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 2013, for her services to London’s children. June continues to work closely with the Government in order to better implement their vision for Early Years, to improve quality and promote a better understanding of the incredible long-term benefits of play-based Early Years education. June is a published author, with an MA in Primary & Early Childhood Studies and MBA from London South Bank University. Read June’s blog: http://www.leyf.org.uk/blog or An inspiring speaker, author and regular commentator on Early Years, Social Business and Child Poverty, June has been instrumental in achieving a major strategic and cultural shift for the award winning London Early Years Foundation, resulting in increased profile and profitability over the past eight years. As CEO of the UK's leading childcare charity and social enterprise since 2006, June continues to break new ground in the development of LEYF's scalable social business model. She remains a tireless campaigner, looking for new ways to influence policy and make society a better place for all children and families. June is a champion of community-based, multi-generational projects and a great believer in the potential of greater social and cultural capital as a means of delivering long-term social impact. She continues to advise the Government in order to better implement their vision for Early Years. June is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Director of Early arts, Council Member of the Early Intervention Foundation, Chair of Paddington Farm Trust, Founding Member of the Institute for Early Years and was recently voted into the ‘NMT Power 20’ - top 3. June was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 2013, for her services to London’s children. June continues to work closely with the Government in order to better implement their vision for Early Years, to improve quality and promote a better understanding of the incredible long-term benefits of play-based Early Years education. June is a published author, with an MA in Primary & Early Childhood Studies and MBA from London South Bank University. Read June’s blog: www.leyf.org.uk/blog or www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/june-osullivan-mbe/ Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/JuneOSullivan Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/JuneOSullivan
  • Laura Henry

    Heartfelt blog, June!

  • http://www.jenniflowers.co.uk/ Jennifer McQuillan

    Nelson Mandela changed the heartbeat of the country I grew up in. He had humility and compassion, coupled with great fortitude, a rare mix for a leader. Especially a political one. He brought together a land fraught with mistrust, hurt and fear. Through forgiveness, through sport (!), through keeping his word, through a genuine love for the people of South Africa… No matter their colour or status. He loved all people. He especially loved children. He made a difference, and we will always love him and be grateful for the healing he brought to our rainbow nation.

    We love you Madiba x

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