Ubuntu Leadership: Leading with Humanity

I attended a LinkedIn live event this week run by the Humanity Vibe Zone forum, (Charisse Fontes, Maria Vargas, and Andrea K. Summers) discussing how we lead with Humanity. They quickly unwrapped the concept that leaders must lead with humanity especially in the current times.

Many of us have been leading with humanity for some time. Others of us, of course, do not understand its benefit. There is always the naysayer that is focused on checking all the boxes and sticking to the “letter of the law”, forgetting, or maybe not even recognizing that they just “stepped on” their co-worker to get something done or even advance more quickly.

One of the concepts discussed was Ubuntu Humanity. The concept of Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù]) is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity”. I love the translation because sometimes people say, “I am because we are” (also “I am because you are”). [Source: Wikipedia]

Also, in his essay entitled, Dignity in the ubuntu tradition, haddeus Metz also defines ‘Ubuntu’ as literally meaning “humanness or personhood among speakers of Zulu, Xhosa and Ndebele in southern Africa.” It inspires me to think there are cultures out there who build this philosophy into their core being and, more important, live and breathe it.

Many years ago, my brother fell very ill which led him to “stroke out”. Six months prior to this horrific episode, I happen to be watching a show that featured Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. She shared that she had a stroke at an early age. The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia that demonstrates the severity of her ordeal.

On December 10, 1996, Taylor had a stroke — a blood vessel had erupted on the left side of her brain. She had been able to witness her own brain begin to shut down. Within a span of four hours, she could not speak, read, walk, write, or remember anything from her past. Taylor compares her stroke to being like an infant again. (Source: Wikipedia)

What I have not yet shared is that Dr. Taylor is a neuroanatomist and has been the spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center. During her stroke, she shared that she was in denial that this was happening to her. However, eventually called her colleagues at the Harvard and they immediately knew what she was happening and got her medical treatment.

So where does humanity come into play? In Dr. Taylor ‘s book, My Stroke of Insight, she explained that the moment she began healing was after her mother had whisked by all the medical personnel standing in her room, laid next to her in bed, and quietly told her daughter that she was there. Humanity.

Dr. Jill also shares that she experienced two types of medical personnel caring for her. The first had a checklist and didn’t acknowledge her presence. They came to do their job thinking that she can’t communicate so I’m not going to say anything to her. The other medical professional would walk in and immediately greet her, knowing she couldn’t respond, and state why they were in her room. Dr. Taylor emphasized how important having a caring medical professional treating you with respect and dignity is to the healing process.

In 2009, Dr. Jill Taylor addressed Duke University’s graduating class. One of her beliefs she expressed in her speech as being key is that “You are responsible for the energy that you bring”.

Whether you may refer to it as Ubuntu Leadership or Humanity Leadership, it is all about the individual and recognizing that each person brings a lot to the table. It is up the Ubuntu Leader to bring out the best in everyone by providing them with the essential tools, safe environment, and effective communication needed. There is no better time to practice (and adopt) this kind of leadership when we all need it the most.

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