Ubunto

18 Jun

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In 1973, Peter Drucker stated in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, “Management is not culture-free, that is, part of the world of nature. It is a social function. It is, therefore, both socially accountable and culturally embedded.”

Yet, here we are in 2018 with organizational leadership models that continue to deny the social nature of organizations and wallow in inertia. Our leadership practices remain mostly authoritative. People are disengaged, distrusting and perhaps even disenfranchised.

What if our approach to leadership was to evolve into Drucker’s vision of “socially accountable and culturally embedded” management? This week at Catholic Convention one of the speakers got me reflecting on this.

Leadership isn’t a 9-5 job — it’s communal, it’s holistic and it’s accretive. It’s time to abandon the long-held notion that the “leader” knows all and should decide everything. A fancy title doesn’t put you above others — it puts you in their service.

The work of leadership today: asking questions, involving people, connecting them to each other, creating a platform for their insights and ideas to make a real impact — in other words, unleashing leadership behavior everywhere.

In this moment of reflection, as we seek to redefine the work of leadership, let us remember the words of Nelson Mandela:

“[Ubuntu is] the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.”

Ubuntu or “umuntu ngumuntu ngabuntu” is of Zulu origin and means that a person is a person because of other people. It is also reflected in the African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.

“Africans have a thing called Ubuntu: it is about the essence of being human, it is part of the gift that Africa is going to give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go that extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons; that my humanity is caught up and bound up in yours. When I dehumanize you, I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms, and, therefore, you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”
Desmond Tutu (The right to Hope: global problems, global vision, 1995).

This week as a school leader I must remember this, if you’re lonely at the top, it’s time to start recognizing and amplifying the contribution of those around you.

Ubuntu-mod-e1345084644616

 

 

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