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Personal Growth African Style by Barbara Nussbaum, Sudhanshu Palsule and Velaphi Mkhize
Reviewed by Wendy Ward

“Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu” – Zulu phrase meaning “a person is a person through other people”

” uBuntu calls upon you to have a deep consciousness of self and other as well as self and community.”

If one word could encapsulate the content of Personal Growth African Style (Penguin Books South Africa) it would be ‘humaneness’. This book guides us in unearthing our own sense and spirit of humanity and enlightens us by encouraging us to dig deeper. Revealed here is the already existing wisdom that lies at the heart of the Continent of Africa, and readers are invited to discard the old perceptions of Africa and her people, and to look through a new lens.

Aware of the paradox of writing about an individual’s personal growth while at the same time appealing to the collective, the authors offer the reader the possibility of reconciling this paradox by embracing iSintu; by seeing one’s ‘self-identity’ in the ‘other’. Recognising that they may err on the side of romanticising African culture and being somewhat idealistic, the authors balance that tension by re-evaluating the relevance of being and becoming individuals and leaders with more humaneness.

Utilising the content of the book demands that you interrogate and integrate a new way of thinking and a new way of being. The ‘work’ is both reflective and action-orientated with various exercises ranging from composing songs, writing poetry and interviewing others to imagining, describing and focusing. In my mind, it is a book that should stay on your bedside table together with your personal journal!

In spite of our history and because of our cultural heritage, Africa has a huge amount to offer the world at this time. This might sound heady but, as the authors propound, we have the opportunity – and responsibility – to play a vital role in the development of global ethics and in contributing to a new model of leadership rooted in the humane. Others quoted in the book argue that our very survival as humans depends on the extent to which we look at spirituality and talk about soul, and the extent to which we choose to consciously embody uBuntu.

The book introduces readers to a wealth of intellectual as well as spiritual leaders from Africa and around the globe, successfully bridging a gap between the experiential and the academic. The authors invite us to share communally and engage with the ideas of thought leaders and inspirational figures, making their work quite accessible; their words speak to the heart.

By inviting readers to build their reflections into a personal development action plan, the authors ensure that the theme of uBuntu does not simply touch the heart, nor stay in the head, but that it can be implemented in our daily lives. They invite us to respond to the call of Africa, to remember our origins and re-ignite a social philosophy that has become imperative in today’s world. uBuntu is the gift that we need to take to the rest of the world.

Beautifully crafted, poetic and profound, it gives us reflective tools to understand and truly embrace uBuntu in our lives and in leadership.
* We have five copies of Personal Growth African Style to give away. All you need to do is email Debby with the answer to the following question: What is your favourite book on leadership and why?

* Wendy Ward is a resilience coach and facilitator. Call meta-morphic on 021 685 8208 / 083 412 8070.

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