The day after I attended the TEDxVienna event, I went out for a long walk with my 8year old daughter. She was curious why I spent a full day away from home, listening to so many people out there on a conference. So I gave her some examples of what speeches I found inspiring.

One of them had reminded me of the term ‘Ubuntu’, which comes from the language of the Zulu and Xhosa. ‘Ubuntu’ is commonly known in South Africa for describing a sense of connectedness between the individual and the society, or the world as a whole (the literal translation we learnt would be ‘I am because we are’).

My daughter kept asking me questions about the deeper meaning of the term, and what the speaker actually wanted to say. I replied, that it was an important term, and an important way of living peacefully together. She kept asking me, why we would need that term, she did not seem to understand.

So I pondered for a while, trying to distill the essence of the speakers’ message. I tried to explain that Ubuntu was a concept of living together, not against each other; that it seems we all forget this in our so-called civilized world, and that all the people at the event, seemed to feel gracefully reminded of what is important in our lives. She still did not understand.

Then I stopped and looked at her.
“What is it, that you don’t understand? I thought I tried to explain ‘Ubuntu’ as something important to you?” I started feeling guilty of being too complex, too hard to understand, or my daughter just being too young for such a high-level topic of connectedness, the ethical concept of some African tribes, and that I should not discuss with her pilosophies on how to save the world.

“No, daddy, I do understand ‘Ubuntu’ already, that is not my point. Being connected is important, like love is an important word, and like life is important, and all of that… But daddy, what I do not understand is – why did the people in that meeting have to talk about this over again? Shouldn’t that all just be natural?” – That same moment I realized, it was me who did not understand…

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About Marcus Pietrzak

Marcus Pietrzak is Management Development Leader CEE and Senior Organization Leadership Consultant at IBM. - He works with all management levels in his organisation, and helps them to find new approaches towards their personal leadership philosophy and change. His personal and professional interests include organisational psychology, adult education, management & organisational development and management innovation. "When connecting the dots of my career, I realized that developing people in each stage of their leadership career has always been at the core of what I've been doing. From studies to research, from workshops to coaching, from assessment to training: identifying and shaping the very best of the leadership capabilities within my clients, has always received my undivided attention and formed my mantra: the success of the people who look for our support and guidance - this will always be the ultimate measure of our success in leadership development." - (mp)