What does Ubuntu really mean? It is about promoting the greater good through compassion, humanity, and oneness within a team. The Ubuntu meaning has its roots in southern Africa as meaning “a philosophy of life that promotes the greater good rather than individual success.”
“A Coach’s Rules for Life” was recently released. Its first edition features Doc Rivers, a great NBA coach, describing the leadership rules he leads and coaches by.
One of his rules was “Ubuntu.” I recognized it immediately. I heard the term when he was leading a great renaissance with the Boston Celtics. I wrote you a note then. I found it in my files. Here is the note:
I admire the Boston Celtics.
They are a mix of young and old talent. As the team ages a bit, they are more often successful in how they think about and approach the game of basketball, as compared to having greater physical gifts than the teams they oppose. On any given night, one of their stars will take the load and be the leading scorer. Every night, they are disciplined to play good team defense and to rebound aggressively. If you love basketball, and team greatness, you will enjoy watching them play.
As you might expect, I also admire their coach, Doc Rivers. His team reflects his approach to the game: tough-minded, disciplined, team first.
If you watch the Celtics closely, you notice at the end of timeouts they grab hands and repeat a word aloud before they commence playing again. The word is “Ubuntu.”
Rivers heard the word when studying the Reverend Desmond Tutu in South Africa. Ubuntu has its roots in the Bantu languages of southern Africa as meaning “a philosophy of life that promotes the greater good rather than individual success.” That is how Rivers thought his team should approach the game. He taught them the word and its meaning. They adopted it in 2009 and rode it to the world championship.
I am consistently impressed with the spirit of selflessness that is exhibited day in and day out in our company. I see all sorts of cooperation which is not common among other enterprises.
So, whether you knew it or not, that’s “Ubuntu.” Let’s keep after it.