The Ubuntu Effect

“I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours.” – Ubuntu, an African Proverb

Hope I find you well today, and while I have you here I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, you are enough. Yes, you are. Really. The bad news is, you are not complete. Sadly, you’re not. You are probably wondering where I am going with all this but let me break it down for you.

You are enough. You are designed with dignity, deeply embedded purpose and intrinsic value. You know this if you’ve ever held a child, in particular, your own, and we also know this if you’ve ever farewelled a loved one. Life has inherent meaning and people have value, and treating one another with that sense of equality and inclusivity is essential to how we live and lead our lives.

And, in what might be a paradoxical twist of fate, you are not complete. There’s something in us that needs love, acceptance, value and inclusion of, and by others. We’re deeply tribal in our being and we know it. Jim Rohn said, “Each of us needs all of us.” which I believe to be a true statement.

There are many organisations that have focused on dynamic and healthy human interaction. These organisations are simply saying that loneliness is increasing, and it’s not exclusively focused on single people or those who live alone. Equally, the proliferation of screen usage seems to be encouraging a disconnection from the very thing we need to stay well; grow in a healthy way and become more rounded and whole, and that is face to face relationships.

Pete Shmigel says “Relationships, frankly, are inconvenient,” he said. “Society values convenience so much that we actually seek to make things so convenient that they actively seek to avoid human relationships. We need to have the stickiness, the gooeyness, the conflict that comes with engaging in actual human relationships.”

One temptation leaders face, is to think they are ahead of or above the people and organisation they are leading so much so that they don’t need them. To believe you need nothing from others is a dangerous place to be in as a leader. Isolation is very, very costly for you as an individual, the people around you and also the unit you lead as a whole.

In the book “The Village Effect” Susan Pinker likens this disconnectedness to ‘a pack a day cigarette habit’ with all the resultant problems that come with it, and the antidote is real and ongoing, with face to face relationships. Pinker tells us that, “Chronic loneliness alters the expression of our genes in every cell of our bodies”. And not in a good way; as well as this, two neuropeptides – oxytocin and vasopressin – are secreted in the bloodstream when we form and maintain meaningful relationships, and these chemicals help to counter stress and repair wounds.

We live in a health-obsessed age in which we are assailed by reports that tell us what we should and shouldn’t eat and drink and do if we want to live long and well. But one of the principal determining factors for both are our social networks. Not those mostly illusory ones that exist on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but those that involve physical meetings.”

The need to belong to a tribe; to experience equal parts of giving and receiving, to rejoice and weep, to celebrate and be celebrated, to have iron sharpen iron, IS part of the leadership experience. It transcends circumstances and personality and invites each one of us on a leadership journey towards humility, vulnerability, authenticity, courage and wholeness that we only know on the other side of leaning in. You are enough. But not complete. Leaders use their ‘enough’ to help ‘complete’ – and that is something we can ALL do.

We would love to hear to hear your thoughts, feel free to get in touch in the comments section.