Like millions around the world, I am deeply saddened to hear the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing. Of all the many leaders I have met in the course of my life, none has made a deeper impression on me. His courage, compassion, wisdom and humility were without parallel on the world stage, and his example made him an enduring source of inspiration to people from every walk of life.

Mr Mandela was both unstinting in the pursuit of his ideals, enduring over a quarter century of imprisonment, and yet practical enough to embrace change for the good of his people. I recall when in 1992 he came to Davos convinced that nationalization was the right approach for South Africa’s future. But the encounters he had there changed his mind. It was a hallmark of his leadership that being open to change made him appear not weaker but even stronger. Mr Mandela left Davos having set his country on a path towards prosperity and peace.

Instead of bitterness, Mr Mandela believed in trust, reconciliation and good humour. I was honoured to count him as a true friend of the World Economic Forum. Sadness at his loss is only tempered by the privilege of having known him. My thoughts are with his loved ones.

Professor Klaus Schwab is Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

 Read Nelson Mandela’s address to Davos, 19921999

Image: © Bruno Barbey/Magnum Photos