Ubuntu, the philosophy of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Nelson Mandela, a man who cannot simply be described by words. December 5th was the day that he left this earthly world at the honorable age of 95. The world lost a great personality that day. A man who taught us how powerful a mind can be and what we can overcome if we are capable to think and especially to act from something that is bigger than you.


Leaders from almost 100 countries throughout the world were present to pay their last respect and some had the honor of  speaking last words to commemorate President (yes, we still call him that) Nelson Mandela.

Mere words of praise were spoken about the greatness of the man who passed away. A man who did not see himself as special and who did not place himself above others. *He did not want to be a saint. He was a son, a husband and a man of flesh and blood (*from the Obama speech).

While I was working from behind my laptop, I listened to the live broadcast of the memorial through a New Zealand website and heard several speeches. The first part of the speech of President Barack Obama did not appeal to me that much. Until he started talking about Ubuntu, the philosophy that mister Mandela, just as many African people, was raised with.

Ubuntu, the African Philosophy of connection, forgiveness, reconciliation and respect. As soon as Obama said the word Ubuntu, I heard the fire in his voice and he caught my attention for real.

In November 2012, on a business meeting for women, I met writer and corporate anthropologist Leontine van Hooft. She presented her book “The power of African Thinking. About Ubuntu, connecting leadership and a new world”. I sat in the front row, on the edge of my chair and felt: THIS is what I am missing in my work as coach and trainer. Finally substantiation for what I already was doing by nature. I immediately bought her book and got to know this remarkable woman. After I started to search the Internet – hurray for Google – and discovered there is a second Ubuntu lady in the Netherlands called Annette Man-Mul. Annette has developed the Ubuntu Leadership training, so I e-mailed her right away to get to know her. I followed her training the past year. It felt like a homecoming. I learned more about Ubuntu and found out that I was already living Ubuntu for a great part in my life.

Meanwhile I have implemented it in my business and it’s the starting point for all the services I provide. Getting to know and implement Ubuntu has enriched my life. Through my coaching and training I now enrich others even more and that is fulfilling and grateful. I am privileged that I can count the two Ubuntu grand dames from the Netherlands to my circle of friends. I have the ambition to be the third Ubuntu grand dame of this country and get as many people as possible to connect to themselves and from there to others. I am grateful for the way I am connected to myself right now and am a happier human being because of that.

This brings me back to the Obama speech. President Obama said that Nelson Mandela influenced him a lot, personally as well as politically. He also said that he feels a big responsibility to continue the battle that Mandela fought. That he did not think he would become such a big role model as Mandela was, but that he wants to be a better person because of him. And he wants to apply the lessons of Mandela to his own life.

Not only Barack Obama spoke of this, almost all world leaders who stood on stage spoke of the same intent. The cynic in me woke up: ‘yeah yeah, nice words today and making war tomorrow. I first have to see it before I believe it.’ But my Ubuntu side, de side of reconciliation, forgiveness, connection and respect was cheering and felt hope. And that hope is still here. Because what IF the world leaders, become New Leaders make there words truth and really go for it? What if they do take the Ubuntu philosophy in for real and carry it out in their country, amongst themselves, in the whole world. How much more beautiful will the world be?

Barack Obama, president of the USA and Raul Castro, president of Cuba and brother of Fidel Castro shook hands yesterday so I have learned.


There is hope! Thank you mister Nelson Mandela.


Ruth Sinkeler is a Leadership & Jobcrafting expert based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She works nationally as well as Internationally.

As a Co-Active coach and trainer & expert, I facilitate people who strive for more leadership and change in their career, life and relationships. I have been trained in Neuro Linguistic Programming, Rational Emotive Therapy, Emotional Freedom Techniques, Provocative Coaching, Co-Active coaching, Co-Active Leadership training, ORSC (Organisation and Relationships System Coaching), Mediation and UBUNTU Leadership. From this foundation I offer my clients various methods to achieve the change they need. There is a great leader in everyone!



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