The death of Nelson Mandela has understandably been accompanied by an enormous wave of emotion. For those who knew him well and those who simply felt his presence, a world without Madiba immediately feels poorer, harsher, scarier even. Everyone I know has wanted to comment on what is clearly a milestone, ‘where were you when?’ event, just for the record, to be part of, to connect it seems with the rest of humanity.

Unsurprisingly the tributes to Mandela have focused upon his extraordinary capacity for compassion, forgiveness and overall magnanimity. More probing analysis has stressed that these qualities, enabling a dignified and lasting reconciliation with the staunchest of foes, were underpinned by a true fighter’s courage, drive and determination. Indeed, Mandela was a competent (if not particularly enthusiastic) boxer and there are still those who felt that, for his actions in combatting apartheid, a life sentence was too lenient – chillingly there were ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ posters before there were ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ T shirts.

So, an honourable, courteous visionary with impeccable values, certainly. But also a steely, unyielding activist who believed he could change the world.

Facilitating his incomparable resolve was his mastery of relationship building. There are plenty of examples of where he put himself in the shoes of others, a key behaviour in successful relationships, in order to understand both his friends and his enemies. Notably when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission subpoenaed PW Botha, Mandela, concerned that the former president feared embarrassment and humiliation, offered to attend the session and sit beside him. In prison, he also learned Afrikaans better to empathise with both his guards and the wider white population.

He instinctively knew that, whatever is at stake, we all want to do business with people we know and trust. He was blessed with boundless charm and deployed it with humility, consistency and wisdom. Moreover, he understood the power of warmth in establishing rapport, the impact of meeting face to face and that if you address the heart of a friend, colleague or opponent, the head will often follow. As he said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner”.

RIP Nelson Mandela. For me, your passing is a poignant reminder of how human beings get the best out of each other. Classic, simple, timeless truths.