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African Syntality: a Dormant Change Energy

Adadevoh (2007) underlined that communality is a value that contributes positively toward the development of Africa for the “value of the individual is directly tied to that of the community of which he/she is part. No person is considered an island. Everyone is expected to feel a sense of belonging and obligation to the community” (p. 51). Thus African communities possess Cattell’s syntality that he called the group energy, which has a maintenance energy that is the energy the group uses to establish rapport, overcome conflict, control disruptive participants or maintain relationships. So the question is no longer what Africans have to do to usher change, rather how to consolidate and channel the group energy to promote responsible and responsive leadership. The answer is the conversion of their syntality into action energy or effective synergy with specific and well defined goals which bring in the need for change knowledge—the why of the change (Fullan, Cuttress, & Kilcher, 2005). The first overriding principle for change is “knowledge about the why of the change” (p. 54). So African communities become profiles of indices and if syntality vectors the leadership situation in Africa, the result could probably be a change leadership. The communal role becomes capital if predicted through the equation syntality vector leadership. One crucial problem to overcome is engaging people’s moral purposes by helping them or cultivating them to think by and for themselves. Here, change does not just become a goal but a process of engaging “educators, community leaders, and the society as a whole in the moral purpose of the reform” (Fullan et al., 2005, p. 55).

To get there, Africans have to think for and by themselves. Paradoxically, Henry Ford once said that if you think you can or think you can’t, you are right. The intriguing effect of this dilemma is that people’s beliefs in their efficacy influence their courses of action and how much effort they put into given endeavours, how long they will persevere in the face of obstacles and failures, their resilience to adversity, whether their thought patterns are self-hindering or self-aiding, how much stress and depression they experience in coping with taxing environmental demands, and the level of accomplishments they realize (Bandura, 1997). Telling people that not thinking right is right, is the best way to develop intellectual laziness or complaisance, a long-lasting philosophy that has fed and fuelled Afropessimism and allowed singular leaders to deprive their people of the freedom to think for themselves. Thinking that you cannot think right actually leads to mental paralysis, which forced some Africans to accept the status quo while debilitating in fatalism (Africa is the way it is because some gods decided it that way) and historicism (Africa is the way it is because of colonization).

Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions, they have little incentive to act (Bandura, 1997). Surprisingly, these misconceptions of life and human being betray Kotter’s (1999b) eight steps for leading change: establishing a sense of urgency, creating a guiding coalition, developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change vision, empowering a broad base of people to take action, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains and producing even more change, and institutionalizing new approaches in the culture. Thinking that not thinking right is right has led to impossibilism or what is known as Afro-pessimism. This thinking slowed or negated any initiative toward the transformation of Cattell’s syntality into human dynamite to change

African leadership from powerless or overpowering leadership into leadership of change. The ultimate call is for Africa to move to cross-vergence perspectives (Theimann, April, & Blass, 2006) from convergence (Adler, 1991; Hofstede, 1980, 1991) and divergence—that is a leadership (which maintains that economic ideology drives cultural values) that is not diverging (Ralston, Gustafson, Cheung, & Terpstra, 1993) but adapting and changing.

Surprisingly Africa has heavy syntality power through its communalism which is still vivid. As Mbiti (1970) noted, the African view of the person can be summed up in this statement: “I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am” (p. 141); whereas Menkiti (1984) added that in the African view it “is the community which defines the person as person, not some isolated static quality of rationality, will, or memory” (p. 172). For Menkiti, the processual nature of being in African thought, is that persons become persons only after a process of incorporation. Without incorporation into this or that community, individuals are considered to be mere danglers to whom the description “person” does not fully apply. According to Menkiti, personhood is something to be achieved, not given simply because one is born of human seed. Thus, to possess personhood does not make sense except in reference to these collective facts. It must also be conceived as going through a long process of social and ritual transformation until it attains the full complement of excellences seen as truly definitive of man. It is to be underlined that during this long process of attainment, the community plays a vital role as catalyst and as prescriber of norms. The burning question is how can Cattell’s syntality of African communities be transformed into a social dynamo, a collective efficacy to generate a collective agency which will lead to the leadership of change?

Efficacy is the power of people to produce results and people guide their lives “by their beliefs of personal efficacy. Perceived self-efficacy refers to beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p. 3). To grow syntality into collective efficacy, or to turn syntality into a transforming leadership factory and laboratory for social and communal interdependence, will require giving a goal-oriented informational power to community members. To become something starts from the knowing that one can and one has the capacity to become it. So information and education are the initial steps to take. Also, collective efficacy indicates the cumulative summation of self-efficacy, which is people’s beliefs about their own efficacy pertaining to specific tasks and circumstances. Self-efficacy reflects competency, beliefs about one’s ability to accomplish a particular set of tasks in a defined situation. Thus, to build their collective efficacy toward change leadership, communities must be taught that well-tailored syntal- ity is the power people have to produce an effect. This is where African change leadership initiatives meet the need for change knowledge which is the “understanding and insight about the process of change and the key drivers that make successful change in practice. The presence of change knowledge does not guarantee success, but its absence ensures failure” (Fullan et al., 2005, p. 54).

Thus, when African communities positivize and channel their syntality well it becomes a motivated behaviour which is purposive, based on collective and personal reflections, foresight and planning. Using collective efficacy, African social syntality can overpower overpowering leadership in Africa. This work suggests that for the result to be measurable and effective, the process must focus on a de-collectivization of the collective mind, the de-traditionalizing of leadership practices, through the change in the group’s power or the power of the group to be a change instrument, espousing African wholeness. Collective efficacy, which this work calls social or group dynamite, has been defined as a group’s shared beliefs in its conjoint capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce specific levels of accomplishments (Bandura, 1997; Prussia & Kinicki, 1996). Collective efficacy, however, does not mean leadership efficacy. The latter is a special case of collective efficacy related to the domain of leadership. Thus, positive collective influence processes promote a group’s beliefs that it can engage and perform. Although collective efficacy is commonly thought of as being built through group interaction, Bandura (2000) notes that collective efficacy beliefs themselves operate within the individual through similar processes as self-efficacy. Specifically, collective efficacy is gained through successful group interaction, yet stored in the minds of the individuals in that group. Leadership efficacy influences an individual’s leadership performance.

On that note, if leadership efficacy represents a leader’s confidence in his or her ability to lead others to perform well and to help his or her group succeed, and effective leadership requires a strong positive image and a sense that one can meet individual and group challenges, this work hypothesizes that transferring the leadership efficacy into syntality will usher leadership change in Africa. Senge (1999) purported that leadership of change is the capacity of a human community to shape its future, and specifically to sustain the significant process of change required to do so. To that end, if and since Africa is known to be a communal and collectivistic continent, the latter has Senge’s capacity which is Cattell’s syntality. Now, the corrective step is how to transform African group energy into communal power, a communal dynamite to blow irresponsible and unethical leadership away. Of course, because he who knows Africa reckons, at least, the power and the effectiveness of communities and the interpersonal relationships that Cattell calls maintenance energy. To be factual, one of the reasons why Africa has been stable in spite of all the problems of slavery, colonialism, poor post-independence leadership and corruption has been the non-formal leadership and social support within the context of ethnic communities (Adadevoh, 2007). This means that community support and non-formal leadership are the unique characteristic and strength of Africa. How can African communities harness Adadevoh’s community support and non-formal leadership to Cattell’s maintenance energy to create a culture that enables and sustains leadership of change or change leadership? Truly, every group is different, and groups create behaviours, languages, codes and rituals that categorize them. Though each group is different, the behaviours, languages, codes and rituals hold them cohesive. Such synergy cohesiveness may differ from group to group.

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