The 'Inspire your Life' Podcast with Arthi Rabikrisson

S3 E7 Tasha Ten Spotlight: Nobantu Mpotulo - Humanizing Leadership Through Ubuntu

June 01, 2023 Arthi Rabikrisson Season 3 Episode 7
The 'Inspire your Life' Podcast with Arthi Rabikrisson
S3 E7 Tasha Ten Spotlight: Nobantu Mpotulo - Humanizing Leadership Through Ubuntu
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On Episode 7 of Season 3, Arthi is joined by Nobantu Mpotulo, a fellow South African and Tasha10 member. Nobantu is an extremely humble, patient and thoughtful person and this is evident in the quality of the coaching she provides in the space of Ubuntu coaching, where she coaches leaders and teams to, simply put, be better humans that lead with heart and backbone.

Nobantu gives us insight into her upbringing  where she explains that she was brought up by her aunt who took her in when she was just a baby, so that her mother could continue working. It is therefore no wonder that the spirit of Ubuntu was truly embedded in Nobantu from a young age. 

Nobantu explains how she has always been a protector and would stand up to bullies in the neighbourhood when she was a child. She still stands up against injustice with the aim to protect  and is a thrill seeker, pushing fear aside and challenges herself.

Nobantu has carried that spirit throughout her whole life and explains  the concept of Ubuntu: I am human because of the humanity of others. We then go deeper into how Nobantu is utilising her ubuntu coaching in leaderships and organisations. She says that from her experiences  there is a lot of fear in most leaders and this fear comes from failure and not achieving the desired business results. SHe believes a great leader is not only focused on the results but truly invested in the goodness of the people that they are leading. 

Later in the episode Nobantu provides insight into triggers from the body and outlines the importance of being mindful and developing your own body's intelligence. 

Some wise words from Nobantu:

  • “curiosity skilled the cat…”
  • “the body is the truth teller”
  • “see through the eyes of your heart”

Listen to the full episode for so much more insights and ideas offered by my wonderful guest.

 About Nobantu Mpotulo:

Nobantu is an ICF MCC level coach and she has trained over 100 coaches globally  with her Ubuntu coach training programme. Nobantu has been able to humanise leadership through developing Ubuntu centred leadership programmes and Ubuntu Coaching. Her Ubuntu Coach Training Programme has trained more than 100 coaches globally and HR staff to be Ubuntu Coaches. Nobantu uses buddhist principles , along with all her other training and expertise in mindful, NLP, gestalt and enneagram, to augment her Ubuntu coaching philosophy. She developed the Ubuntu Coaching Mantra “See More, Hear More, Love More , Illuminate More, Be More and Do Less.” 

Connect with Nobantu in the following ways:

Do rate, write a review and share with others.

Share too, your own insights from your journey based on themes from the episode - what has worked or hasn't for you. We can all learn from each other.

Connect with host Arthi here:

Support the show

Arthi Rabikrisson  0:15 
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the inspire your life podcast with me your host, Arthi Rabikrisson.

I believe we find inspiration all around us, especially from the stories that we all have in us. My aim with the inspire your life podcast is to bring some of those real stories to light. Stories of my guests that resonate with youa nd me.It's by listening to the stories that we can be inspired and motivate ourselves to overcome find a new path and rise even higher than we thought possible.

Joining me on the show today is Nobantu Mpotulo my Tasha 10 family member, yay from South Africa. She is an extremely humble, patient and thoughtful person. And this is so evident in the quality of the coaching she provides in the space of ubuntu coaching everyone, where she coaches leaders and teams to you know, quite simply put be better humans that lead with heart and backbone. Isn't that beautiful Everyone? Nobantu  is an ICF MCC level coach, though I mean, she's got tons of experience, having trained over 100 coaches globally with her ubuntu coach training program. She has been able to humanize leadership through developing Ubuntu centered leadership programs as well as Ubuntu coaching. Her Ubuntu coach training program is something that she incorporates using also Buddhist principles, along with all of her other training and expertise in areas of mindfulness, NLP ,Gestalt, even Enneagram everyone, and this just augments what she's able to bring into the Ubuntu coaching philosophy. So one of the beautiful things Nobantu  and I'm so glad you shared this with me is you've got this beautiful Ubuntu coaching mantra, which is see more, hear more, love more, illuminate more, be more, and do less. That is superb. Sawubona mama Nobantu. It's such an honor to have you on the inspire your life podcast today. I'm so grateful you're here. Welcome

Nobantu Mpotulo  2:57 
Amoena fellow TT sister, how are you?.

Arthi Rabikrisson  3:01 
I am doing great. It's so wonderful that we are able to catch up in this way and I'm so looking forward to you sharing such beautiful and inspirational stories with us today.

Nobantu Mpotulo  3:15  
Thank you, thank you. I'm honored. I feel very honored to be part of this conversation.

Arthi Rabikrisson  3:22  
 I'm so glad I really really am. Now, you know, your work is so inspiring. It's so important. And I've just given everyone a very high level introduction about you, Mama, we want to know more about you about your background, anything about your hobbies? What would you like to share with us that is about the real and true Nobantu?

Nobantu Mpotulo  3:42  
I think where I'd like to start actually is my upbringing, which was based on principles of Ubuntu. Hmm, I was brought up by my mother's sister who took me in when I was a month old, so that my mother could continue working. So I grew up with two moms and I found that you know, the spirit of Ubuntu was really embedded in me. When I was growing up, I was the protector of those who were who were bullied. I will just stand up against the bullies. Not that I knew even how to fight but

Arthi Rabikrisson  4:24 
Right. But you just you just did a wonderful

Nobantu Mpotulo  4:28 
When I understood my Enneagram Stein that's aligned to type eight of the Enneagram then it made all the sense, okay. And in terms of hobbies, I am a thrill seeker

Arthi Rabikrisson  4:42 
Like me, I'm that.

Nobantu Mpotulo  4:47 
Myself, for instance, I am afraid of heights and I did something that was just out of this world to help me to overcome that fear. I did bunjee jumping

Arthi Rabikrisson  5:00 
Look at you well done.

Nobantu Mpotulo  5:03 
I've done fire walk.

Arthi Rabikrisson  5:04 
Oh, yes. Okay.

Nobantu Mpotulo  5:06 
Yes, right now when I was in Ghana, I, I did canopy walking, walking on wobbly bridge, so long.

Arthi Rabikrisson  5:15 
Oh my goodness.

Nobantu Mpotulo  5:16 
And then I did kayaking, and I don't know how to swim. That might be a little bit, you know,

Arthi Rabikrisson  5:24 
like quite daring Oh man, I have to applaud you. Those are amazing. Now that's beautiful. I love how it sounds like you just keep pushing those boundaries, even though you know that there's some of those inherent fears and certain things that you don't know. But you're still going out there and you're you're taking it head on with a bit of curiosity and seeing where it lands for you, I think that's beautiful.

Nobantu Mpotulo  5:49 
Exactly, exactly. I like the mentioning of the word curiosity. I always say curiosity skilled the cat, contrary to what we were brought up with that curiosity killed the cat. To those debate to get skilled, and get to know what we don't know.

Arthi Rabikrisson  6:11 
Absolutely, absolutely. I and you know, I can't agree more with you on that. Thank you, thank you for sharing that with us. So in the Nobantu I mean, we, you know, the concept of Ubuntu and the spirit of Ubuntu. I mean, it's, it's very natural for a lot of, you know, a lot of us in the in the African region. And I mean, we've got different words to call it in South Africa, it's known as Ubuntu in other parts of Africa similarly termed, but I guess maybe for the benefit of our, our listeners who are global, help us understand what, what is leadership through this concept of Ubuntu? What is that as a concept

Nobantu Mpotulo  6:52 
With Ubuntu,Arthi  if I can just say it first in my language, yes, this means umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, I am human because of the humanity of others. That means I cannot be fully me if others are not fully themselves, and its about this interconnectedness. It's about me seeing myself in others and if I'm thinking about leadership,  then you find a leader, who is not just concerned about the results about the outcomes. But a leader who looks at the well being of the people they are leading, and also recognizes and acknowledges the goodness in the people he or she is leading, and who comes from their heart and brings about the Goodwill for the individuals for the team, and the goodwill of the whole. So in essence, this is a way of moving from the I to the we, it's about this collective and the recognition that we are able to achieve more as a collective than as individuals

Arthi Rabikrisson  8:23 
That that, that sense of togetherness, as you're saying that collective and it's just it's just making me feel so warm and fuzzy at the moment, because I'm somebody who's also, you know, very keen to ensure that, you know, when you want to go far, you kind of go together actually

Nobantu Mpotulo  8:37
O yes, that that's my African proverb by you. Yeah. And for me Arthi, it's beyond togetherness. Yes. Because togetherness we can together in a way is this for me, it's about interconnectedness. And one of the Buddha's refer to this as interbeingness, and if I think about this, I even think about how we can learn from nature. This is interconnectedness is concerned, when you think about the mushroom, and you think about the mycelium the roots of the mushroom underground, they go on and connect with roots of other trees, and they share the nutrients, water and whatever is necessary with other plants. So this is something that happens at the nature kind of level. And so it's something that as human beings, when we do take it up as we are with others, magic happens.

Arthi Rabikrisson  9:49 
I agree. I agree. And I love the analogy of you know, from a tree perspective because you so right, I mean, this this that beautiful sort of as you saying that interbeingness that interconnectivity, and yet everyone is still thriving through that Coopertition or cooperation in a way as well, lovely.

So today we're talking about, you know, humanizing leadership through Ubuntu maybe share with us, you don't have, maybe it's your opinion of what you've kind of noticed on the ground with leaders that you've been working on globally? How are we doing in terms of leadership in an African context? And even in a global context? Where are we currently at?

Nobantu Mpotulo  10:31  
You know, I would say, that is a lot of fear from leadership, which is amazing. And this fear translates, in my opinion, in how leaders through the fear of not getting, or achieving the targets the results, the tendency is to lose humanity. And when this fear happens, you'll find that the amygdala in the brain gets hijacked and the leader  will be yelling, fending ending, because they are not recognizing the fear that's driving that. And so as I get this fear, I have power over the people I work with. And so what for me is important, because with Ubuntu to leadership, if you think about the African ways of being, it's about fully being in the body, fully inhabiting the body, it's about not abandoning the body, through dance through singing through, you know, just tapping in all of that, that helps us to get in the body. Right. And, for instance, while we get hijacked like that, with the amygdala, all that cortisol, the adrenaline is all havoc in the body,  And then through this being in the body through somatic, through movement, then we are able to dispel all that is not needed, in terms of the cortisol in terms of adrenaline rush, and then that calms us. And then it relaxes us and says there is no danger, there is no tiger that is there to get you out. So this connection to the body, it deregulates, the central nervous system, it opens the heart. And then as I'm coming now with my fear, all of a sudden, I can take this pause and feel what's happening in my body, actually, I'm feeling my heart is contracted right nowcan i breathe into that. And as I was about to yell at somebody who might not have done what they were supposed to that to do, then as I'm breathing in, as I'm filling my heart with a needed oxygen, I relax, I start getting in touch with my limbic system, which is the emotional brain and truth that, that the connection, if you look at that, it's just that right there, that's where the connection starts this connection with my body. And when I connect well with my body, then that allows me to connect with the other and see their heart too, and start to see with the eyes of the heart

Arthi Rabikrisson  13:34 
I like how you've taken us through this process of, you know, self awareness from a body intelligence, but also from a, from a mental and emotional level intelligence as well. Because you're quite right. I mean, when you do develop that level of understanding of yourself, you can actually then, you know, as you said, almost un trigger or stabilize that fear that you will feeling initially and be able to calm yourself down. But now, you know, a lot of people, a lot of leaders even are not are not at that level of self awareness or still in that process. What are some of these steps that we would need to take to actually become that level, you know, and move towards that level of self awareness of the body intelligence of that mental intelligence, emotional intelligence.

Nobantu Mpotulo  14:27 
And here's the thing that gives hope Arthi is that unlike intelligence quotient, this can be developed with practice.  It's it's, it's, you know what I like and I'm working alot with big banks in South Africa, and they've started to introduce mindfulness. You know, taking those small steps of introducing initiative like those without bringing the spiritual  lingo. What's your fight leaders are scared of these things you bringing to me meditation, you bringing to me mindfulness and it has become such a fad, by the way, so I never mentioned those things. As I, for instance, I'm coaching leaders, I stay with recognizing what is the nonverbal state, they are exhibiting. Okay? So I become aware of those changes in the body, because the body is the truth teller. And then what then I do is to share just in time observation, I'm noticing a frown on your forehead, as you're saying this and no attachment to that, and not to put it like you judging the person or is it something?  I'm curious to know, what's that about. And all of a sudden, the person starts to think, ah, what I was thinking, and then they stop. And as they stop, they breathe. They increase the oxygen supply to the brain. And that recognition that when I do that, then I start to relax. In this regulation, not mentioning we're doing now mindfulness, but just breathe, breathe deeply. I'm noticing that as you are speaking, you're speaking very fast. I'm noticing your heartbeat is kind of fast and erratic. What's happening now? What can assist you to slow down, and also what you want to do rather than imposing practices, because as we are working with these leaders, we are not in a laboratory,you have to find out what works for you when you are in that state

Arthi Rabikrisson  16:53 
I mean, it's live, it's real, you know, they in the workplace most of the time as well.

Nobantu Mpotulo  16:57 
Exactly. Exactly.

Arthi Rabikrisson  17:00 
And you love that you're saying that, obviously, from a coaching perspective, that is a direct way to actually enable them through your sort of, as you saying, Oh, almost like curiosity about just wanting to know, because you're noticing things evident from that body perspective, that they start to actually, you know, become more mindful and think about, okay, what was I thinking there? And obviously, this habit will hopefully be created, even when someone like you is not in front of them, you know, that they endured

Nobantu Mpotulo  17:31 

Arthi Rabikrisson  17:37 
Okay, now, I mean, it's great that we're talking about at that individual level. So we we can, we can undo some of these, let's let's call unproductive habits in a way. And reinstate more productive, self aware type of habits, that's great at the individual level. But you know, as with many organizations, I mean, there's these ecosystems within organisations, there's cultures and subcultures that dominate. And a lot of them, I must say, quite bluntly, they don't foster the spirit in the principles of Ubuntu. And you even mentioned that earlier, as well, you know, that leaders have, you know, maybe stakeholders and all these other demands that don't necessarily allow them to actually pull that human connection. So it's making me think about, then how does someone who's doing this individual work become more resilient and resistant to the impact that the culture of an organization may have? And how do they over time, try to change that? What are your thoughts on it?

Nobantu Mpotulo  18:39 
I would say as I I really am a proponent of self awareness, that self awareness, what are my triggers? And as I'm feeling this kind of disconnection with the organizational culture, what is the deep kind of psyche in me is this touching. For instance, if you're thinking about it, we come from a history of segregation and history of domination in South Africa. And cultures in most organizations are not geared towards that nurturing and understanding diversity. So for me, it's like how do I continue or do my work? How to I do inner work to help me not to be stuck?  How do I practice here and now practices? Okay, that happened as the history it informs what happened to me and then I do a lot of other dialogical work, where people have got to look at what is it that is their own story? What are they holding on to in this old story? That is not helping them in their transformative journey. And then to work with the people, groups individuals to create a transformative story, what is the story of transformation that I am trying to create and I find here appreciative Inquiry helps a lot, appreciative dialogue circles work alot. For instance, if I even look at my past as, as painful as it is, what sort of resilience? What sort of positive qualities? What sort of things that have actually made me stronger, and help me to be here. So rather than looking at this past that is dark and grim, can I be able to look at something that was working with that I could take and use. And as we develop that positive approach, without being inauthentic, we able to even impaired on our neural pathways in the brain, when now we start to change this brain that cramps up because I'm suffering and I will suffer until and but this brain now that starts to develop hope, and the neural pathways they connect, and my creativity comes into the fall, and I'm able to get in touch fully with my potential.

Arthi Rabikrisson  21:34 
Yes. beautiful beautiful, and I love how you talked about the appreciative sort of conversations, that dialogue circles, that transformative nature of storytelling, because that really does the dow. So some really, really good ways to actually, you know, push against the grain within the organization. But in such a, such an open and holistic and well being way, you know, not not in a not in a offensive or even defensive way, which is so open. I love that and love the wings positioned it, too.

Nobantu Mpotulo  22:11  
And it just when you did maybe Arthi , this also depends on the organization, is therepsychological safety? So if you think about the Google our research on psychological safety, that's number one that makes people to be authentically who they are, to be transparent, to be open to be vulnerable. Yes, yes. If this environment is not promoting that, then I will just go into my shell and then we always have things below the surface. Yes. And we just deal with the tip of the iceberg.

Arthi Rabikrisson  22:51 
That right, and there's actually like, it's almost two to three times beyondthat when you actually dig deeper than the surface. Yeah, that's true. Thanks for pointing that out for us as well.

You were speaking a little bit about, you know, your own journey, you know, in terms of the the lessons and the suffering and the trauma and finding the goodness within that. And it just wanted to check in with you. Nobantu in terms of your own personal journey  and given you know, the culture, the heritage, the background, everything that you've experienced, what are some of the key lessons that you actually pick out as part of your learning, for Buntu coaching?

Nobantu Mpotulo  23:33  
I think for me, this goes back, the socialization that happens at home at home, as young as five years, we were brought up with love with a caring female, the storytelling, and yet capacitated to be resilient. And also, the important thing for me, it's about knowing who you are, that identity that you get from the family I remember when I went to study my masters in the UK, that was in 1989. First thing I come here and have to go and register within 10 days alien registration.

Arthi Rabikrisson  24:19  
Oh, wow. That's what it was called Alien Registration?

Nobantu Mpotulo  24:23 
Alien and even though there was that, you know, it made me to stand up tall and said, I am not an alien. I come from Africa where actually the human being started. That's where humanity started maybe the others who uncurl referring to us as aliens. It really was, i was shocked actually,

Arthi Rabikrisson  24:50 
yes, I can. I can imagine.

Nobantu Mpotulo  24:54 
So for me, it is it is important for us. Yeah. Identity that builds resilience.  and there is a loving way to answer lose your humanity, what ever is happening, treating others with dignity, treating others with respect and listening to people's stories, because the narrative way of being in the African tradition is what has helped us to be who we are, and to show up the way we are resilient and be able to transcend across whatever difficulty.

Arthi Rabikrisson  25:32 
We are. I mean, we embrace that and move forward with most. Okay. So I mean, as I said, You you're doing phenomenal work, in terms of ubuntu coaching in terms of that humanity around leadership and pushing that forward. What, what else are you working on currently? And for the rest of 2023? And what are some of your hopes and goals for the rest of the year Nobantu?

Nobantu Mpotulo  25:58 
What's exciting for me, I've been working with one bank, one big bank in South Africa, and they have started to train their HR staff in Ubuntu coaching. They are looking into training leaders, has coaches with the Ubuntu approach and what's important,last year, I piloted the program with them, for women leaders in balancing the feminine and the masculine energies. Okay, that is being rolled out. So next month, I'm starting another cohort. I'll be happy to cohorts this year on that. So it's so exciting as it cooperates, really, embracing Ubuntu, really recognizing the feminine energy and also encouraging, the women need us to get in touch with the masculine energy as well.

Arthi Rabikrisson  26:54 
Oh, well, I mean, it sounds extraordinary and much needed to be honest. And wishing you success with those.

Nobantu Mpotulo  27:02
Yes, yes, I'm excited. I'm all smiles as I'm talking about it

Arthi Rabikrisson  27:06 
How beautiful. I love that. I really, really love that. Okay, I mean, we were coming to the end of this really, really beautiful and eye opening conversation about, you know, humanizing leadership, what what would be your final piece of advice, Nbuntu for, you know, those of us who were in the process, we are evolving. We're finding ourselves, trying to deepen our self awareness. And also, at the same time, build our sense of community and purpose. What could you say?

Nobantu Mpotulo  27:35  
You know, I laughed yesterday, when I was doing a live coaching demo on Ubuntu coaching. One of the participants asked me, how do people open up to this Ubuntu leadership and open to coaching? I said, as long as you are, you have a heart. Yes. That is, like said that you can connect to the heart and comes from the heart. And for me, what's important is how can we consciously all the time practice the Ubuntu mantra see more, hear more, love more, illuminate more, be more and do less. And just to apply my favorite quote, which I do all the time, by Viktor Frankl that says, between stimulus and response, there is a space in that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our tools and our freedom.

Arthi Rabikrisson  28:38 
Beautiful, beautiful and powerful words of wisdom, words of advice, espeically the one about the heart and I love  that. And it is a beautiful, beautiful quote, to actually end of our conversation today. Nobantu it's been an absolute pleasure talking with you, I could talk with you for hours actually, you have such a beautiful way to explain and encapsulate this entire process and journey that we should all be following. I thank you so much for your time and it's been wonderful talking with you.

Nobantu Mpotulo  29:08 
Thank you. Thank you dearest Arthi , thanks alot

Arthi Rabikrisson  29:12 
Take care we'll chat again soon.

Nobantu Mpotulo  29:14 
Ngcosi as we say in Malawi .

Arthi Rabikrisson  29:19 

Nobantu Mpotulo  29:20 
Bye bye

Arthi Rabikrisson  29:29  
Thank you so much for joining me on this episode today. If you like what you heard, rate, the episode and podcast and feel free to write a review. Plus, of course, share with others too. I love talking around topics like these. So if you like my perspective or insight in a subject close to your heart, or something that you're grappling with, reach out to me in your comments or send me an email via my website or connected me via LinkedIn, Instagram or  Facebook, on my social media are on the podcast information. If it's important to you, then it's important too. So happy listening to the inspire your life podcast and catch you soon on the next episode.

Welcome Nobantu Mpotulo
More about Nobantu Mpotulo?
Curiosity Skilled The Cat
The meaning of Ubuntu and its importance
Moving From I To We
Humanizing Leadership Through Ubuntu
Using your Body Intelligence
Developing Your Body Intelligence
Transforming Cultures In Organisations
Psychological Safety
Nobantu's Key Lessons
What Is Next For Nobantu?
Nobantu Final Advice