Three-dimensional African Leadership: Rediscovering Powerful Leadership for the Community
Timothy A. Brubaker
The Solutions to Exploitative Leadership Lie in Africa’s Backyard
Post-colonial Africa is replete with examples of oppressive and exploitative leaders across both the public and private sectors.1 According to the United Nations Development Programme, 18 of the 20 least developed countries in the world are in Africa.2 Ndikumana reports that manipulation of import and export pricing within the private sector of Sub-Saharan Africa during the period of 1970-2010 cost the region approximately $859 billion.3 Transparency International reports that 90 % of respondents to a survey on corruption in Kenya believed that the national police force is the most crooked institution in the country.4 Ayittey’s criticism of modern leadership in Africa is poignant: “Modern leadership, with few exceptions, has turned out to be intolerant, stubborn, and brutally
T.A. Brubaker (H)
Christian Leadership Institute of Rwanda, Mission pour la Nouvelle Creature, Kigali, Rwanda
© The Author(s) 2017 99
K. Patterson, B. Winston (eds.), Leading an African Renaissance, Palgrave Studies in African Leadership,
repressive.”5 The stains left by bad leaders have bequeathed to theorists and practitioners alike the daunting task of reconsidering the nature and character of African leadership.
While it is overly simplistic to state that Western theories have no relevance in Africa, the truth remains that very little research has been done to explore the unique nuances of African leadership dynamics.6 This reality is evidenced by the fact that the majority of management education in Africa still utilizes American and European textbooks.7 However, the fact remains that when Africans go to work, they do not step outside of their cultures to perform according to Western organizational principles. So, where are the solutions to Africa’s leadership crisis? Perhaps, following Ayittey, “the solutions to the African [leadership] crisis lie in Africa itself— in its own backyard, so to speak.”8
Can intrinsically African leadership dynamics provide solutions to the African leadership crisis? The purpose of this chapter is to propose that the perspectives of power, authority, reciprocity and responsibility intrinsic within African cultures provide a stable framework for re-conceptualizing leadership that has the potential for curtailing exploitation. Although this approach does not necessarily eliminate exploitation, adopting an indigenous perspective may provide resources to competently and relevantly assess and critique leadership. Three important dimensions of Sub-Saharan African cultures are presented followed by a discussion of the implications of this three-dimensional approach to leadership.