UBUNTU is a term associated with Nelson Mandela, according to Wikipedia, Ubuntu (/ʊˈbuːntʊ/uu-BOON-tuu; Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù])[1][2] is a NguniBantu term meaning “humanity”. It is often also translated as “humanity towards others”, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”.[3]

I consider UBUNTU an essential leadership competency for the 21st century. Leadership in the 21st century is not found in a role or a title, but in the essence of who a Human is Being at any given time. To me, Nelson Mandela’s life was an example of leadership.

Mandela’s leadership was demonstrated in the characteristics he displayed; the compassionate way he related to himself, his vision, his people, his country, and his understanding that he was part of something bigger than himself.  I call this way of relating to yourself and others, being in “right relationship”.

Along with an unwavering dedication to keeping integrity with his thoughts, his words and his actions, he made the choice to keep his heart open through forgiveness of the events and circumstances he experienced. In order to stay in right relationship with the compelling picture of the future, he extended forgiveness to his captors and to New Zealand.  The extension of that forgiveness and the purpose for it was articulated in this quote by Mandela, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

21st century leaders take note: Nelson Mandela, demonstrated the 3 Pillars of 21st Century Leadership.  These are the Ways of Being that cultivate true leadership, which is right relationship.

  1. He began with the end in mind.
  2. He was the change he wanted to see.
  3. He took responsibility for consciously choosing the perspective/the lens through which he viewed the circumstances and events that were occurring. Consciously choosing a perspective that is in service of the highest and best for all concerned.

A year before his passing, the US Department of State asked Maya Angelou to write a poem as a tribute to Nelson Mandela.  It is titled, “His Day Is Done” and can be found on the US Department of State Website, and Youtube.  I don’t agree with the title given to the poem because his day lives on every day that you and I choose to Be a Leader.  Our opportunity to live In To this day is possible because of his energy BEing here (still) now, in the present.  I would choose to honor Mandela’s life with this title: “The Man, The Life, The Leader”.

Maya Angelou told Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Mandela’s kindness is the quality she would like the world to remember.

“I think you can’t really forgive unless you are really kind. And so, you forgive a person or persons or systems, you forgive them and then you don’t have to drag them around with you every day, and all day and all night long,” she said. “It is a gift to yourself to forgive and I would say that Nelson Mandela’s gift to the world was his ability to forgive.”

Bob Scheiffer went on to write, “To me, what sets Nelson Mandela apart is that his whole life was a lesson — a lesson in courage, perseverance, patience, bravery and, finally, forgiveness and redemption.  That is rare.”  However, I say, these are the competencies to be developed and modeled as a 21st century leader.

I say that the leaders of the 21st century are pioneers and we must be the change we want to see in the world for the way to be shown – our whole lives must be a lesson.  I say that, as pioneers, we pave the way by being, cooperative, co-creative, and collaborative so that the genius that is available and accessible in a relationship can be seen and experienced.

Being a leader means that you are leading your life and living the 3 pillars of 21st century leadership (begin with the end in mind, be the change you want to see, and be willing to be 100% responsible for choosing the perspective that is in service of the highest and best for all concerned).  Then you are in right relationship, and the way is revealed.