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It seems I bumped into this concept multiple times in one week. I had the privilege of hearing Sam Chege Mwangi speak in a recent zoom presentation. I also found myself at a business lunch two days later where Ubuntu came up in the chat with two respected colleagues.

Sam Chege Mwangi of Kenya speaks of the ubuntu principles that guide major portions of African collective philosophy. Ubuntu says, “I am because we are” and teaches that “a person is a person through other people”. A person isn’t a person outside or apart from their external relationships. They are inextricably bound to others. If you think about leadership being the action between others that co-creates, then ubuntu is the action between others that builds reputation and identity.

Because I spent years in marketing talking about our brand being our identity based on

reputation, I absolutely went crazy when I learned about this. What a fascinating translation from marketing to leadership. The action of our leadership that impacts others, builds reputation and identity for me as the leader and the same for the people who experience my leadership.

Imagine that leadership is like the wind through the tree on a spring day. The tree is the

company culture. As a leader I am the sun or the rain that feeds the tree and helps it to grow. The wind is around, between and through the tree. How the elements and tree interact together builds reputation and identity for the tree.

Humanity isn’t a quality we house individually, but a quality we owe each other so that we can all have it. It is a true mirroring of personhood.

Ubuntu’s very foundation is collective. The individual is dependent on the collective. Identity and humanity are co-created in community and action. Ubuntu is the bedrock of all leadership practices and activities. The humanity of the leader in practice is not just co-creating leadership activities, but co-creating leadership identity.

I now see my responsibility as much more than mentor. In accepting others fully, reflecting, interacting and mirroring others in our interactions we are not just impacting. We are identifying and being identified. We are seeing and being seen.

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