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I Perspectives in Societal Movements: Change, Sustainability and Entrepreneurial Fortunes

Converting Cattell’s Syntality to Change Leadership in Africa

Boniface Toulassi


This chapter about leadership in Africa taps into a factor that has until now always been neglected: group energy. Wagner et al. (2010) argued that “change won’t happen unless you help the community answer the question, ‘why change?’” (p. xiii), but while Wagner et al.’s observation is true, Africans have long answered the question “why change?” The Arab Spring is testament to that effect. Thus, the question is not “why change?” but “how to change?” Undoubtedly, if for Wagner et al. the preparation for change is answering a question, for Africans in general, preparing for change is thirsting after how to change. It means that though Africans know that Africa must change fundamentally, not just incrementally, most Africans are disarmed by the rampant illiberal democracies prevailing on the continent. It is in that perspective that this chapter argues that converting African syntality into social dynamite (called collective efficacy) might spearhead leadership of/for change. In this work, syntality the collective efficacy is called the “social dynamite” which will generate leadership

B. Toulassi (H)

Bridge to Nations, Loganville, GA, USA e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© The Author(s) 2017 3

K. Patterson, B. Winston (eds.), Leading an African Renaissance, Palgrave Studies in African Leadership,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40539-1_1

efficacy for communities so that group action energy (Stewart, Manz, & Sims, 1999) can be used to decide on the roles of and responsibilities for leaders and the led.

To describe groups’ personality Cattell (1948) used the term “syntality” arguing that groups can also be defined according to factors, much like the personality can. It is clear then that groups have personality. Syntality is the group’s personality or the effect that the group has as a totality (p. 27). This syntality helps predict patterns of group behaviour and determines the group’s chances for success. According to Cattell, personality is that which will predict behaviour in any given situation. Cattell explained that syntality is composed of energy, or total amount of energy available to a group to perform group activities. These interrelated or combined energies of group members are determined by the total number of members, the attitudes of the members present, the individual abilities and resources of group members, and the reasons why the group was formed. Thus, group syntality can be transformed into social dynamite or collective efficacy when interrelationships within African communities are channelled and properly geared toward leadership of change because Cattell’s theory of group syntality (1948) is related to Lewin’s field theory which emphasizes the importance of interrelationships within groups. African communities regarding their creation, purpose and development have dynamics that can be converted into collective efficacy and change knowledge to usher change leadership.

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