When an anthropologist in Africa asked some tribal children to race till the nearby tree promising the winner a basket full of fruits, he was surprised to see what happened next. All the children held hands and raced till the tree so that they could share the winning price. This spirit of sharing is called UBUNTU or the belief in a universal bond, which literally translates into – ‘I am because we are’.
A person with Ubuntu is open and affirming of others, does not feel threatened of others’ strengths and this self-assurance comes from knowing that he or she belongs to a greater whole. We depend on connection, community, and caring — simply because, we cannot be without each other. This philosophy requires a conscious shift in how we think about ourselves and others.
As individuals, we are equipped with unique talents that we can use for our self-progression. However, if we use these qualities to benefit the community, we reap both personal and societal benefits. That is why, I believe, there is a need for any good leader to sacrifice personal success for the overall goodness of the community. The virtue of a good leader is someone who keeps persisting. Such a leader identifies the strength in people and encourages the team to play with their individual strength to reach the collective goal.
A leader is essentially a dealer of Hope. The leader does not only create expectations but also has to live up to those promises. The leader helps the team materialize their dreams into reality and is a catalyst of change in the organization. The leader gives a promise of a better tomorrow, and makes sure those promises are fulfilled. After all, a false promise is worse than a no-promise in the first place.
In the business of hopes, we deal with people of all kinds on a daily basis. I myself come from a place I like to call the USB, or the ‘United States of Bihar’. In the Jajpur plant, I work with 10 different shades of people on a daily basis, and my approach towards each one of them will be different based on the mutual understanding we share. It’s important to lend a patient ear to the people around us in order to create an environment of fearlessness. An absence of dialog is cancerous. It is the vacuum of a strong leadership that creates confusion or lack of two-way communication. As long as employees feel comfortable to speak up and address the issue, it is fine. The real problem occurs when complaints stop.
There was an employee who had a consistent track record of indiscipline. I decided to entrust him with the most difficult job, and that in itself filled him with a sense of higher duty. I realized that his attitude towards work improved significantly when he was made in-charge as he understood the weight and consequences of his work better. He felt aligned with the work he was doing, and I’m happy to share that he is now one of the most sought-after person amongst his colleagues.
One good deed can start a ripple effect and thus embody the true spirit of Ubuntu. The most difficult job of a leader is to create more leaders, and in doing so, ensure that the legacy of hope lives on. The prosperity of the collective is the best way to ensure the prosperity of the individual.