We are all familiar with the extraordinary story of Nelson Mandela.

An inspirational visionary leader that changed a nation.

There is however, another story.

One that is perhaps less well known but nonetheless teaches us valuable lessons about organisational culture.

I’ve been very fortunate to visit Robben Island on three occasions and what struck me on each occasion was the fact that the tour guides, all of whom are excellent, were either held in captivity on the island for many years or worked there as prison guards.

These individuals, having spent many years together, today know one another as work colleagues.  However they  were previously known to each other in a very different capacity.

Indeed, a vessel named the ‘Susan Kruger’ that for many years transported them to and from work each day along with tourists across Table bay, was the very same ship that transported the detainees and prison guards for decades from the island.

These individuals who were once sworn enemies, today teach us some valuable lessons that are directly applicable to organisational culture.

To begin with, they now value their diversity. They recognise that their differences rather than being something to be feared, are instead a powerful resource. Each of their stories is unique, however it is when they are woven together that they make the entire team and experience stronger and more impactful.

So too do they have a clear vision in terms of the message that they want to deliver every day to each visitor to the island.  They also have a clear vision in terms of the type of South Africa that they want in the future for their children and grandchildren.  They are working together collaboratively at both a micro and macro level.

There is genuine compassion and respect towards one another for past regressions and mistakes. Ego and self serving agendas have destroyed many an organisation but here, there is a clear demonstration of togetherness, for the collective good.

Such attributes are applicable to any organisation in any sector or industry that is ambitious about enhancing their culture and performance.  Every corner of the globe is filled with such lessons and the challenge for each of us is to recognise them wherever they cross our path.

Joe McDonald, create10 Founder provides one to one professional coaching in person, by phone or online; impactful workshops that enhance leadership performance, team work and innovation as well as flexible and affordable online courses. Check out www.create10.ie for further information or email info@create10.ie