Leadership in the African Context (2023)


Mohedano‐Suanes, A. and Solé Parellada, F. (2011), "Leadership in the African Context", Management Decision, Vol. 49 No. 3, pp. 484-487. https://doi.org/10.1108/00251741111120815



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Leadership in the African Context offers guidance on how to develop and put into practice an effective leadership style taking into account particular circumstances, which in this case take the form of culture and value systems that characterise the African context. However, the way in which the authors lead the reader from the general to the specific makes this book a useful guide for identifying the key questions to bear in mind when putting an effective leadership style into practice in any other context.

The text is fluid and easy to follow while, at the same time, being rigorous and with an eminently practical focus, all of which enables an effective learning process. Managers, teachers and pupils alike can find an enormous amount of material for practice, exercises, real life examples and case studies that illustrate the key concepts addressed in each chapter.

Leadership in the African Context is structured into 12 chapters, each of which contain the following sections for providing practical guidance: learning objectives, which help to focus the reader's attention on the topic to be addressed in the corresponding chapter; content, which includes a list of topics examined in the chapter; spotlight, a section that includes a real example of an African business leader with a view to illustrating the topics addressed in that chapter; leader‐in‐action, where the practices, behaviour and attributes of real African business leaders are described; leadership assessment quizzes where the reader can assess their own leadership skills; leadership skill‐building exercises, in which the skills necessary for effective leadership are outlined; reflections which contains exercises for developing leadership; summary, a section that provides an overview of the main points in each chapter; key terms; guidelines for action and skill development, a section that puts forward additional suggestions for developing leadership skills; discussion questions and activities, which contains exercises that can be carried out individually or in groups; leadership case problem, which illustrates the main questions dealt with in the chapter; suggested reading and references.

(Video) Leadership in the African Context

The majority of studies on leadership appeared during the last century in North America and are principally concerned with showing examples of political leaders and business directors (Peris‐Ortiz, 2009; Thach and Kidwell, 2009; Valle and Castillo, 2009), for the most part men, from that part of the world. Hence, in Chapter 1, the authors question whether effective leadership, as studied in the previous literature, can be understood in the same way in the African context in which each country has its own history and culture, and where women are beginning to play a more prevalent role as leaders with the passage of time. Moreover, African leaders must work in extremely unstable economic and political environments, and overcome difficult challenges such as (p. 11): “operating in a socially and environmentally responsible way; confronting long‐standing poverty and disadvantage; limited education and health infrastructure; great disparity in access to technological innovation and sophisticated communication systems; cultural diversity; and a history of colonisation which often means that people are looking back to blame rather than looking forward to achieve”.

Following a discussion on the meaning and importance of leadership, this first chapter introduces the main theories on this topic (the Great Man Theory, the Big Five Model; charisma; contingency theories, the Transformational/transactional framework; servant leadership and organisational/social capital leadership), all of which are examined in greater detail in later chapters. The authors then go on to analyse other questions to do with leadership such as the roles of the leader, the influence on leadership on the expectations of followers, and the challenges leaders face. The chapter ends with a discussion on the elements that might affect leadership effectiveness.

What then are the origins of management and leadership? Are management and leadership one and the same? Does the leader always have a formalised form of power? Do management and leadership mean the same in the African context as they do in Europe and the rest of the western world? If there are differences, what exactly are they? All of these questions come under scrutiny in Chapter 2, which concludes with an analysis of the major challenges facing African leaders and which are marked by the peculiarities of African culture.

Having carried out an analysis of the impact of the demographic and geographical characteristics on economic development in Africa, Chapter 3 presents a brief historical review that allows the authors to outline the reasons for the failure of many African leaders in their effort to achieve political stability and economic growth in the wake of the colonial age. Authors discuss some of the myths fuelled by both Africans and foreigners, which represent enormous challenges that must be overcome by African leaders such as; corruption, culture, and the absence of freedom and democracy. In order to overcome these and many other challenges, at the end of the chapter the authors propose a series of strategies to be used by political leaders in terms of commerce in certain sectors of the African community.

An understanding of the different perspectives the leader may wish to influence is necessary for an effective leadership and, according to the authors of Chapter 4, such an understanding must be the result of getting to know the varying dimensions that characterise the culture of the context in which the leader carries out his or her activity. Consequently, this chapter focuses on the study of culture and its relationship with leadership. The chapter ends with a discussion on the need for African leaders to be aware that an understanding of the culture of their followers and supporters can help them to generate the changes that are necessary for fighting poverty. Moreover, they highlight the enormous challenge this implies, as African culture is influenced in the same national context by many and diverse tribal and ethnic values.

“… self‐leadership appears to have impressive potential in today's dynamic African organisational environment. Outcomes of self‐leadership can help to work against feelings of self‐neglect, fear and anxiety and can help African workers to lead a more preferred work and personal life” (p. 93). Thus, self‐leadership is the subject examined in Chapter 5. After outlining the importance of self‐leadership in the African context, this chapter analyzes one of the main bases of self‐leadership: systems of self‐control. It goes on to review the theories of self‐leadership, some of the definitions to be found in the specialised literature, and the relationship between self‐leadership and personality. This chapter ends with a discussion on how to develop self‐leadership through experience, education and mentoring.

Chapter 6 analyses the personal traits related to leaders such as: the motives and cognitive factors associated with leadership and the differences in gender and race. It also discusses the strengths and limitations of the uses of the trait approach used as a means to predict leadership. However, it should be highlighted that the authors do not neglect to point out the leadership traits associated with failure.

Although they are briefly introduced in the first chapter, transformational, transactional and charismatic leadership are analysed in greater depth in Chapter 7. This chapter enables the reader to study a typology of charismatic leaders, as well as their characteristics, behaviour and the effect these have on their followers. Before going on to take a closer look at transformational leadership and its application to the African context, the authors underline the differences between transactional and transformational leadership.

(Video) Optimising organisational leadership in the South African context

Chapter 8 is based upon two topics: ethics and leadership. It firstly provides a definition of ethics and morality, as well as exploring the relationship between the two concepts. The authors then go on to discuss the challenges related to the African context, such as corruption and poor governance, and its implications for leadership. It also explains ethics in the modern business world, referring in particular to the reasons for the sometimes rather unethical behaviour of employees in organisations. Of special interest is the model proposed by the authors for decision‐making when they involve certain ethical considerations, as well as the five strategies they suggest for shaping organisational ethics.

“As is the case worldwide, Africa has many examples of leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence, such as Nelson Mandela” (p. 192). Various references are made to this world‐renowned and highly influential leader by the authors in Chapter 9 in order to illustrate some of the behaviour and traits associated with good leadership. This chapter focuses on the study of the relationship between leadership and emotional intelligence. After a brief introduction including the meaning of emotional intelligence and a discussion on its relationship with rational intelligence, the authors review the characteristics, traits and principles of good leadership, along with the components or dimensions of emotional intelligence. This review of the literature is then used in order to schematise and synthesize the possible relationship between leadership principles/behaviours and the components or dimensions of emotional intelligence in a table. This chapter ends with a reflection on emotional intelligence and African leadership. In this respect, the authors conclude that, even considering the culture and value systems in the African context, many of the principles and behaviours of good leadership equally demand that the leader be emotionally intelligent.

Chapter 10 begins with a discussion on leadership power and its influence in the African context, whilst also providing a definition of power and influence. It goes on to present a rigorous review of the specialised literature that allows the authors to identify the different sources and types of power that leaders can use in order to reach certain objectives in the interests of subordinates, the organisation and their own. The relationship between the models of leadership and power is examined, comparing the use of different sources of power in each of the leadership models. It also examines the different tactics of influence that leaders can use in varying types of hierarchical relationships (superior‐subordinate). This chapter finishes with a description of a model that synthesizes how leaders can efficiently integrate power and influence.

The complexity and turbulence that characterises the current environment demands that organisations come up with a quick response to environmental changes (Huang et al., 2009; Kavak and Demirsoy, 2009; Lin, 2009; Saunders et al., 2009; Sigala, 2009; Yang, 2009), which, in turn, require enormous efforts to be made in terms of planning, work in teams, effective leadership and innovative methods for motivating manpower. “The utilisation of cross‐functional teams, multicultural teams or virtual teams, can secure the failure or success of an organisation in the 21st Century‐hence the importance of investigating teams and leadership” (p. 225).

On another note, the effectiveness of teams in attaining objectives demands that the leader be able to identify and understand the motivating factors that guide each of the organisation's members to reach these objectives. These arguments provide the justification for the focus in Chapter 11 on the study of leadership and motivation. This chapter is structured into two parts. In the first, different types of team are studied: team leadership, the role of the team leader, Tuckman's theory of the five stages of team development, and the team leader's approach for effective team performance. The second part analyses issues related to motivation and the authors discuss team leadership and motivation in the African context.

Chapter 12 takes a look at two important topics: entrepreneurship and leadership. The chapter begins with a discussion on entrepreneurial leadership in the African context, in which it highlights flexibility, perseverance, risk‐taking, visioning and passion for their call as characteristics and capabilities that are common to those African leaders, many of whom are women, who have been able to take on and overcome the huge challenges that derive from a difficult and turbulent economic, social and political situation shared by the large majority of African nations. The chapter goes on to review the definitions of the entrepreneur and entrepreneurial leadership, analysing the relationship between the two concepts (Hospers et al., 2009; Lee et al., 2009; Mas‐Verdú et al., 2009; Miles et al., 2009; Pyromalis and Vozikis, 2009; Rodríguez and Santos, 2009). An in‐depth review of the literature allows the authors to later identify those competences that can ensure the success of entrepreneurial leadership, as well as the intra‐personal challenges of entrepreneurial leadership. In addition, the authors do not neglect to point out that the phenomenon of entrepreneurship can also be found within organisations in the form of intrapreneurship, and the chapter ends by reviewing the skills that entrepreneurial managers need to possess. The authors conclude that those skills should include both those that are characteristic of the professional corporate manager, and those of the entrepreneur. By combining both types of skills, it is possible for entrepreneurial leadership to manage to develop an organisational culture aimed at stimulating creativity, risk‐taking and innovation.

In short, the rigour, the use of language that is free of an excessive use of technical terms and an eminently practical approach mean that Ebben van Zyl, Carol Dalglish, Maarten du Plessis, Liezel Lues and Emmie Pietersen, have managed to make Leadership in the African context compulsory reading for managers, teachers, students and even academics interested in getting to know, develop, empower and put into practice an effective leadership in a particular context.


Hospers, G.J., Desrochers, P. and Sautet, F. (2009), “The best Silicon Valley? On the relationship between geographical clustering and public policy”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 28599.

Huang, K.C., Lu, N., Hsu, Y.H., Sheu, M.L., Yang, C.M. and Chen, Y.H. (2009), “Coping with national health insurance: strategic behaviours of Taiwan's hospitals”, Service Industries Journal, Vol. 29 No. 6, pp. 86173.

Kavak, B. and Demirsoy, C. (2009), “Identification of adopter categories for online banking in Turkey”, Service Industries Journal, Vol. 29 No. 8, pp. 103751.

Lee, S.S., Stearns, T.M., Osteryoung, J.S. and Stephenson, H.B. (2009), “A comparison of the critical success factors in women‐owned business between the United States and Korea”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 25970.

Lin, W.B. (2009), “Exploration of lead factors affecting service recovery”, Service Industries Journal, Vol. 29 No. 11, pp. 152946.

Mas‐Verdú, F., Baviera‐Puig, A. and Martinez‐Gomez, V. (2009), “Entrepreneurship policy and targets: the case of a low absorptive capacity region”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 24358.

Miles, M.P., Munilla, L.S. and Darroch, J. (2009), “Sustainable corporate entrepreneurship”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 6576.

Peris‐Ortiz, M. (2009), “An analytical model for human resource management as an enabler of organizational renewal: a framework for corporate entrepreneurship”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 46179.

(Video) Women and leadership in the African context

Pyromalis, V.D. and Vozikis, G.S. (2009), “Mapping the successful succession process in family firms: evidence from Greece”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 43960.

Rodríguez, M.J. and Santos, F.J. (2009), “Women nascent entrepreneurs and social capital in the process of firm creation”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 4564.

Saunders, M.N.K., Altinay, L. and Riordan, K. (2009), “The management of post‐merger cultural integration: implications from the hotel industry”, Service Industries Journal, Vol. 29 No. 10, pp. 135975.

Sigala, M. (2009), “E‐service quality and web 2.0: expanding quality models to include customer participation and inter‐customer support”, Service Industries Journal, Vol. 29 No. 10, pp. 134158.

Thach, L. and Kidwell, R.E. (2009), “HR practices in US and Australian family wineries: cultural contrasts and performance impact”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 21940.

Valle, I.D. and Castillo, M.A.S. (2009), “Human capital and sustainable competitive advantage: an analysis of the relationship between training and performance”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 13963.

Yang, J.T. (2009), “Individual attitudes to learning and sharing individual and organisational knowledge in the hospitality industry”, Service Industries Journal, Vol. 29 No. 12, pp. 172343.

(Video) Women in Leadership: the African Context


What is African leadership style? ›

The literature suggests that Africans prefer leadership styles that are based on humanistic principles, and desire more participative leadership that values individuality, authenticity, and serving the community (Bolden & Kirk, 2009).

Why is African leadership important? ›

Without effective leadership, Africa will never be able to overcome its challenges, achieve its full potential, and protect itself from environmental and human exploitation.

What is Afrocentric leadership? ›

The article essentially explores two leadership styles, namely Afrocentric and Eurocentric. The Western or Eurocentric style of leadership places emphasis on the individualist ideology, whereas the African or afrocentric style is collectivist in nature, underpinned by humanism - ubuntu.

Which leadership style is used in South Africa? ›

Transactional leadership will be the most common leadership style used in South African small to medium enterprises.

How does the leader and the led reflect the experience in a typical African country? ›

No doubt, Niyi Osundare's “The Leader and the Led” has done justice in its delineation of the type of leadership in Africa. The poem figuratively describes African leaders as “ferocious”, “lethal” in appetite, duplicitous, greedy, “riotous” and “trampling”. The poem however offers insights on what ideal leadership is.


1. Empowering leaders in the African context - Pape Samb - WISE 2013 Focus
(WISE Channel)
2. Mogoeng Mogoeng on Ethical Leadership in the South African Context
(GIBS Business School)
3. The African context - how do we develop teacher leadership?
(T4 Education)
4. Chapter 9: Leadership in an African Cultural Context
(Jacob Welch)
5. Africa's Leadership in the New Global Context
(World Economic Forum)
6. Leadership in Africa | Ruth Nyaga | TEDxYouth@BrookhouseSchool
(TEDx Talks)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lakeisha Bayer VM

Last Updated: 02/18/2023

Views: 6225

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (69 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lakeisha Bayer VM

Birthday: 1997-10-17

Address: Suite 835 34136 Adrian Mountains, Floydton, UT 81036

Phone: +3571527672278

Job: Manufacturing Agent

Hobby: Skimboarding, Photography, Roller skating, Knife making, Paintball, Embroidery, Gunsmithing

Introduction: My name is Lakeisha Bayer VM, I am a brainy, kind, enchanting, healthy, lovely, clean, witty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.