I’ve started to pick up that more people around the world are using the word ‘Ubuntu’ than ever before.
If you’re unfamiliar with the word, Ubuntu is a South African term that roughly means ‘I am me because you are’. It’s all about showing humanity towards others and taking care of the community, so one can flourish because others have the ability to flourish too.
Perhaps more people are taking notice of this humble yet powerful word because we’ve been thrust into the unknown of a global pandemic, forced to reason with the awkwardities of working from home (which, many of those of us who have the privilege of working from home, have now become quite accustomed to). Perhaps we’ve come to realise that we do in fact need one another – that to emerge from COVID, I need you and you need me.
When I first heard Ubuntu being used in an American context, I was watching the Doc Rivers episode of The Playbook. Rivers spoke about the impact that Ubuntu had on him and his basketball team. He shared that his team know that they must make everyone in the team better, so they can be better together. Each of them has to show up and lead from the back. This made me think about the role Ubuntu plays in leadership. Then I listened to an Entrepreneurs’ Organisation talk by Trevor Noah and he mentioned Ubuntu in the context of the pandemic.
Something clicked. And I pressed rewind in my mind.
A few weeks ago, I went for a run and switched my usual running playlist for a podcast. I’ve been delving into the world of Brené Brown, so I picked one of her Dare to Lead episodes, clicked play and got moving. Brené spoke to Michael Bungay Stanier on The Advice Trap and staying curious longer. Michael unpacked what he calls his leadership story – a reflection that quite literally made me lose track of time while on my run.
Michael reflected that his leadership story – how he came to be where he is today and all his accomplishments – cannot be his triumph alone. Each of us has a leadership story and every one of us has a group of people we can extend a thank you to for helping us get to where we are today.
Whether it be a naggy uncle who pushed us to achieve better than we thought we could at 16; a parent who showed up to every single hockey match no matter the weather or who was playing; or a manager who saw something in us that we didn’t.
Michael’s thoughts struck a chord in me. I’ve been aware of key players in my career development and in the way I’ve grown at a personal level but I have now realised that I have a good few more people to whom I need to reach out and share my appreciation.
A leadership story is not simply about sharing the successes and the golden hour moments. Let’s leave that to the filter-loving Instagram obsessors, shall we? Instead, I think a leadership story is about showing up authentically as exactly who you are, being brave enough to say ‘I’m not sure I know the answer to that’ rather than owning a story that isn’t yours, and allowing your story to unfold as a result of the support of others – and acknowledging their part in your story.
A leadership story is about being human. It’s about being because of the humans who walk beside you.
If this blog post resonates with you, and you feel like it’s time to own your story, please get in touch – we’d love to help you take this from being an idea to something you can execute with ease, and have fun doing it.