Ubuntu Leadership

There is a new team in the Ubuntu ‘verse called the ‘Ubuntu Leadership Team‘. Their stated aim is to grow and nurture leaders in the Ubuntu Community.

The Ubuntu Leadership Team aims to be a community resource that helps gather, build, and form a leadership training forum within the Ubuntu Community. Open source Leadership requires different leadership styles, while the skills needed to become a successful and efficient leader are universal. Leading any all volunteer group has its own unique challenges, and using open collaboration with leaders throughout the community the Ubuntu Leadership Team strives to offer resources to help grow and nurture leaders thus creating an even better inclusive Ubuntu Community experience through its leadership.

I am honored to have been invited to join this team and feel the goal is a worthy one. The opening statement on the wiki page made me reflect about my past leadership experience. My experience as a leader derives from time spent in retail management and the US Army. My reflection resulted in my feeling that my style of leadership in the Army was most closely aligned with my style as an Ubuntu Community Leader. There are certainly different challenges, but there are a great many similarities.


  • Distance – In the Army you worked shoulder to shoulder with your troops. Certainly some instructions were communicated via radio or written communication, but there was a much greater opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder than is present in the global Ubuntu Community
  • Volunteer – While the US Army is volunteer a soldier can not simply walk away after they enlist or are commissioned. They have a period of time that they have agreed to work with the Army and they have to make the best of it because that will not change. Ubuntu Community volunteers are free to leave a team or the community at any time
  • Common Background – While soldiers in the Army come from different socio-economic backgrounds they share a common national identity and sense of patriotism. Ubuntu community members are from a diverse range of national identities and have a wide range of reasons for being involved in Open Source


  • Lead by Example – In the US Army I was in the Infantry and the Infantry motto is “Follow Me!” Leading by example is important both in the Ubuntu Community and the US Army. In order to lead by example you have to understand the ‘mission’ and be willing to do anything you would want to ask a community member to do
  • Motivation – In the US Army you want your troops to be highly motivated and the same is true in the Ubuntu Community
  • Communication – In the US Army even the lowest private was briefed on the mission and understood their squad’s role in that mission. The same is true in the Ubuntu Community; leadership has to be given clear goals and measurable outcomes. Leaders must then communicate back to their teams about those goals and outcomes. If people are left in the dark or with poorly defined goals they will not feel empowered or motivated
  • Well Trained – In the US Army training was crucial to mission success and the same is true in the Ubuntu Community. If a community member wants to help with bug triage leadership must ensure that person gets the proper training. In the case of the Ubuntu Community that training is often self-directed and self-paces using wiki pages or other documentation. This make documentation critical to our communities success.
  • Willing to Admit Mistakes – This really fits under lead by example, but due to its importance deserves its own mention. As a leader or a community member when you make a mistake you have to willing to own your mistake. You must admit the mistake and apologize for it or work to fix the problem. As leaders we have to recognize that we are human and we will make errors in judgment. We have to be humble and not exhibit hubris when community members make mistakes
  • Impartial and Even Tempered – Leaders who hold grudges or allow their personal feelings (right or wrong) to impact their decision undercut motivation and trustworthiness. Leaders also have to be calm when they are asked to deal with emotionally charged conflicts in the community

Mark Shuttleworth, I suspect, chose the word Ubuntu to represent our operating system and community because of the nuanced meaning of the word. Ubuntu Community Leaders need to learn how to lead from both the front and the back. I have two quotes that I feel sum this up very well.

From the Ubuntu Leadership Institute:

Ubuntu leadership is expressed as compassion, reciprocity, dignity, humanity and mutuality in the interest of building and maintaining communities of justice and caring.

From Nelson Mandela:

The African model of leadership is better expressed as ubuntu, the idea that people are empowered by other people, that we become our best selves through unselfish interaction with others.

If I put this in to my own words…

Leaders empower the community, but without the community the leaders would not exist.

The Ubuntu Leadership Team has an important mission as the community grows larger. I have been inspired and motivated by leaders in the Ubuntu Community. I hope that I can pass that same spark on to others in the community as well. If you are interested in becoming a leader in the Ubuntu Community check out the new Ubuntu Leadership Team wiki and get started today.

This entry was posted in Linux, Ubuntu. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ubuntu Leadership

  1. Pingback: Ubuntu Leadership « Free Trader Beowulf | Linux Supersaniya

  2. tenach says:

    Thanks for the post! Before this, I didn’t realize that the Leadership Team had actually been created.

  3. phik says:

    Mandela — one ‘L’ — otherwise a great post

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s