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A new perspective: the African leadership approach

Leaders are mentors who demonstrate personal pledge to the values and goals of their organizations. Furthermore, leaders have the ability to create a compelling vision and achieve the enthusiasm and personal commitment of employees.

Moreover, leadership also plays a key role through the processes of sense making, by attributing meaning to strategy-relevant events, threats and opportunities. To be an effective top leadership team, its managers and employees must share common beliefs and aspirations about the organization and its future direction.
African leadership has six fundamental values:

  1. respect for the dignity of others
  2. group solidarity (an injury to one is an injury to all)
  3. team work is greater than the efforts of the individual
  4. service to others in the spirit of peace and harmony
  5. interdependence and connectedness
  6. persuasion

The concept of Ubuntu in African leadership is pivotal because it emphasizes the collective brotherhood of humankind.  The independence of humanity characterizes this concept.  It emphasizes human dignity and respect and allows for consensus, democracy, people mobilization, solidarity and genuine care. One criticism of African leadership is that there is still insufficient empirical research to support it.  However, the fact remains that this leadership approach has significant relevance for African countries, including South Africa.

Contemporary issues in leadership
In a worldwide business environment often rocked by scandals involving business leaders who have acted in dishonest ways and betrayed their organization, trust is becoming a vital component of effective leadership.  Leaders have a key role in strategy formulation and implementation. In order to achieve this, leaders must be actively and visibly be engaged in the process, displaying transformational leadership i.e. (is the leaders effect on followers in that the followers feel trust, loyalty, and admiration for their leaders and are motivated to do more than is expected of them). Nelson Mandela is an example of a transformational leader who fought for an ideal in which he believed, rather than transactional leadership (is viewed as the leaders exchange of rewards for employee compliance).  To be an effective top leadership team, its managers and employees must share common beliefs and aspirations about the organization and its future direction.

Managers cannot be effective leaders if their employees do not see them as trustworthy. The five dimensions of trust include the following,

  1. Integrity – a manager’s honesty and trustfulness.
  2. Competence – a manager’s technical and interpersonal knowledge and skill.
  3. Consistency – a manager’s reliability, predictability and good judgement in handling situations.
  4. Loyalty – a manager’s willingness to protect another person.
  5. Openness – one can rely on a manger to tell the whole truth.

The momentum of and commitment to the prevailing strategy usually prevents companies from spotting changes such as a shift in either the market or the technology and leads to financial downturn, often a crisis, that in turn reveals the need for change. Few companies make the transition from their old strategy to a new strategy willingly.  Typically, they begin to search for a new way only when they are pushed by management.

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