Zithobile “Zitty” Nxumalo, 40, Leader and Communicator
The entrepreneur, leadership trainer, PhD, communication consultant, community advocate, writer, podcaster, professor, and dance company co-founder has a special way of curating nurturing environments. Bringing people in. Building connections. Inspiring them. Letting them inspire her.
“I love making sure everybody plays. I always noticed the kid that was left out, because I didn’t like being the kid who was left out,” she says. “I just care about people.”
When she was a child, Zitty’s family moved from Swaziland, in southern Africa, to Greensboro so her parents could study at Greensboro College. She stood out as an immigrant and the only Black child in her First Baptist Church preschool class.
“Even in my little four- or five-year-old mind, I was very aware of our differences. Without being told explicitly, I was already thinking, ‘Got to lose the accent, kid,’” she says. “I was already trying to negotiate my belonging in those spaces.”
She graduated from Dudley High School and got a full tuition scholarship to Spelman College. She aimed to become a lawyer. Instead, her studies took a back seat to her passion for her work as a ministry leader for International Churches of Christ.
“Everything I do, I go real hard,” she says. “Bible study was no exception.”
Her split attention caused her grades to suffer and she lost her scholarship, moving off of Spelman’s campus and paying her own way to study psychology at Georgia Perimeter College. But Greensboro – and her family – drew her back home in 2005. She transferred her credits to Guilford College, this time to study business management, while minoring in money and finance, African American history, and human resources management.
“I knew I wanted my own business. By that time I knew I wanted to be at the helm of something,” she says.
She worked in a customer service call center for CitiCards, expanding her communication skills, and then at her sister’s salon. It a salon client who recommended she apply for a job at Bennett College.
Zitty ended up serving as the executive assistant for then college president, Julianne Malveaux, from 2008 through 2011. She managed relationships, engaged with board members, hosted community leaders and celebrities, and traveled internationally. She studied Malveaux, who continued her roles as an economist, author and entrepreneur while leading the all-female historically Black college.
“She was doing all of these things. I saw first-hand, up close all that she was able to accomplish in that role. You just need to know how to manage the energy in your life so you can show up strong,” Zitty says. “That is part of what made we want to study leadership at the doctoral level.”
It was drilled into her, she says, that she needed credentials to get wherever she wanted to go. She went back to college, this time to get a Master’s in communication studies at UNCG. She wound up leaving Bennett to teach communications students at GTCC. Then she went to NC A&T to get her Doctor of Philosophy in leadership studies.
A colleague at Bennett turned Zitty on to a position at the Hayes Taylor YMCA, where she assisted with the $11.1 million capital campaign to build its Gate City Boulevard campus. “My colleague saw me and saw I had a skill set that could thrive in community building,” Zitty says.
While at the Y, she entered Boundless Impact’s FlameBuilders young adult leadership program, a United Methodist Church leadership development program in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership. She soon joined the FlameBuilders’ staff as the community engagement coordinator and program manager. She has since become certified as an executive leadership coach with the Center for Creative Leadership.
In 2014, Zitty started her own communications consulting business, Deftable, at the urging of another former Bennett colleague, who wanted to hire Zitty to write for eBay. She went through Launch Greensboro’s LaunchLab program (formerly Triad Startup Lab) to learn more about business ownership.
“It was all part-time, eating the elephant one bite at a time. Lots of crying. I don’t romanticize the journey,” she says.
Today the business offers coaching, group facilitation, public speaking and event management around leadership and communication. Zitty writes, develops workshops, and delivers speeches. “Now I’m working on my own brand. People started calling me ‘Dr. Z,’ and it’s stuck,” she says.
In July 2020, she launched the Ukuvusa Podcast with Dr. Z at the invitation of her friend, Kisha Love Alston, who started the Onyx Urban Radio network. The program – inspired by the Zulu word for “awaken” — explores human transformation. It features in-depth conversations with Zitty and people from across the community, talking about their personal journeys.
“It’s all about awakening to different aspects of the human experience. I invite people who are willing to be vulnerable,” Zitty says.
She also serves as an adjunct lecturer in NC A&T’s speech program. “I like keeping my finger on the pulse of higher ed because I think college students are super heroes,” she says.
Zitty is also doing plenty of work in the community, including building the Zodwa Dance Co., which uses Afro-fusion dance as an avenue for exploring holistic wellness and growing global women leaders.
Last year, Zitty also joined local artists and activists Brandon Davis, Latisha McCorkle, and Anthony Morgan to start a grassroots nonprofit called We The People International, aimed at uplifting Black youth and young adults. They have worked in partnership with Black Voters Matter, NC Black Alliance, and NCA&TSU’s Office of Leadership & Civic Engagement on educational campaigns to encourage voter registration. They created the People Over Politics imitative, a series of music videos on the political climate impacting Black Americans, featuring local recording artists Vanessa Ferguson and Brandon D.