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The Power of Us: Ubuntu as the Basis for a Successful Enterprise

An anthropologist was conducting research in a small African village and decided to conduct an experiment. He gathered a group of children, placed a basket of apples 50 meters away, and explained to the children that the one who reached the basket first would get all the apples. The children lined up, and as the anthropologist gave the start signal, not a single child began to run. Instead, they held hands and walked together to the basket, where they all arrived at the same time.

Astonished, the anthropologist asked why no one wanted to run alone. The answer was Ubuntu. Astonished, the anthropologist asked why no one wanted to run alone. The answer was Ubuntu. “Why would we make others unhappy by claiming the whole basket for ourselves,” the children explained. Ubuntu is an African philosophy that roughly translates to ‘human kindness’ and adherents of Ubuntu believe in the expression: 'I am because we are'.

Enterprises Would Be Better Off with a Vision for Their Culture

Long before I knew of the Ubuntu philosophy, I understood that the receptionist in my company could add as much value to the business as the senior art director or account executive. If we do not all appreciate each other for who we are and what we contribute, we will never become a close-knit team, which was already my belief. So, you could say that I believed that 'the company exists because we exist.'

Nowadays, when I enter a company, there is always a sign somewhere with their mission and vision. Usually, it's more a statement of why everyone should work hard so the shareholders can collect their dividends, but that's not what this article is about.

What entrepreneurs and leaders would do well is to develop a clear vision of their company's culture. What do you believe, for example, about collaboration, performance, individualism, or laxity, and how would you like employees to behave?

Culture as a Response to External Threats

Nomads living in the desert are frugal with water. Logically, because where they travel with their camels from point A to point B, there is not much water. This frugality with water has become a part of their culture because a culture is a response to external threats.

Every day, a company faces the risk of being overtaken by a competitor, losing their biggest client, or making a production error that could lead to such a high compensation claim that it could bring them down.

The common response is often that sufficient profit must be made to build up reserves, continue to innovate, attract new customers, or implement even more processes and procedures to prevent errors. Unfortunately, this is usually not the best answer when a disaster strikes the company.

A clear vision of internal culture and consistently conveying that vision is usually a much more solid way to prevent and overcome disasters.

This is because employees like to be part of a group of people who not only have an external vision that they can carry in their hearts but also want to embrace a culture where they feel comfortable. And when employees feel comfortable and can connect with their hearts, there is more creativity, innovation, solution-oriented thinking, and resilience within the team.

Increasing Employee Intrinsic Motivation Through a Healthy Corporate Culture

The research institute Gallup has recently shown that motivation among employees is alarmingly low. Only a mere 13% appear motivated at work, meaning that 87% are somewhat, not at all, or completely unmotivated to contribute to the whole.

In most cases, this is not due to the employees themselves but rather to poor leadership and a lack of vision regarding culture. Telling everyone to work harder and make no mistakes is something anyone can do, but of course, a healthy culture is not about that.

A culture is about shared human norms and values, not about numbers, performance, and error margins. And without culture, a toxic work environment can quickly loom, with all its consequences.

Therefore, what entrepreneurs and managers would do well is to invest in their company culture instead of hiring expensive consultants who bring in new processes. Investing in employee happiness instead of a bonus for the sales manager who brings in a new client.

Success is a team effort, and if there is a strong team that realizes that the company exists because the team exists, unprecedented performances can be achieved.

Silent Authorities and Their Internal Culture

Entrepreneurs who lead as Silent Authorities naturally understand the importance of both an external vision and a vision for their internal culture. These types of leaders are much less focused on individual performances, revenue figures, and external threats because they realize that vision and purpose are the most powerful tools for achieving success.

Moreover, Silent Authorities believe that success results from a powerful and inspiring external vision and a vision for the company culture. This is what they passionately convey every day and why employees want to connect with the leader and the company. Reward and status play a much less significant role within these types of enterprises because it is something people can stand behind and want to contribute to in the best way they can.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ubuntu in Businesses

What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is an African philosophy centered around community and mutual care. It is often translated as "I am because we are," which emphasizes that our own well-being is deeply connected to that of others in our community.

How can Ubuntu contribute to the success of a business?

Ubuntu fosters a culture of collaboration and respect, which can lead to a more motivated and engaged team. Companies that apply Ubuntu principles often see improvements in team cohesion, employee satisfaction, and ultimately business performance.

How can a vision for internal culture contribute to the success of a business?

A strong internal culture promotes consistency in actions and decisions, leading to better performance. Employees who feel connected to a company's culture are often more productive, more engaged, and more loyal, which directly contributes to the success of the business.

What are the components of an effective vision for internal culture?

An effective vision for internal culture includes clear values and standards that align with the broader goals of the organization. This vision must be inspiring, inclusive, and practical, so that employees can identify with it and act on it.

How do you effectively communicate a vision for internal culture within a business?

Effective communication of a vision for internal culture requires regular interaction and clear messages through various channels. Training sessions, team meetings, and internal communication platforms are essential to reinforce the message. Leaders living the vision is crucial for anchoring it within the organization.

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