Leadership at the Heart of the African Sustainable Development Agenda: What Kind of Leadership in Amidst Economic Challenges
22 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 8, 2017
A review of the leadership literature provides one with a plethora of definitions and theories, all of which are defined or propounded to suit the perception of the authors who suggested them, or as descriptions of the leadership landscape that existed during certain eras or periods of human life. This dynamism or unsettling nature of discourses on the concept of leadership may be attributed to the dynamic nature of the concept itself. The construct of leadership, as a determining factor to the realization of collective goals fueled by man’s insatiable needs dictated by changes in time and also its interaction with a wide range of entities (individuals, assets and community) with different demands and behaviors must always seek to catch up to ensure its relevance, hence, its dynamic nature. Therefore, an attempt to hazard a definition that comprehensively captures or encapsulates what leadership is about would be an exercise in futility. However, an examination of the various theories (with a greater focus on Africa and contemporary ones) that have emerged on leadership provides some foundation to its understanding and appreciation. Older theories on leadership looked at the concept on a wide spectrum. Some of these theories personalized the concept looking at it as a role only attainable by individuals born with certain innate qualities or personal characteristics – Great Man and Trait theories. Some also looked at it considering the behaviors or the actions exhibited by individuals in such leadership roles – Behavioral theory. Finally, also others looked at it as a process that is context-specific in nature – Situational and Contingency theories. However, these theories suffered several flaws as they solely focused on the role of the individual (leader) in achieving set organizational goals, neglecting the importance of the contributions of followers and the need for enhanced relationship between leaders and followers for effectiveness in goal attainment, hence, leading to the emergence of newer theories that were more ideal and effective.
Cooper and Nirenberg (2012: 1) looked at leadership effectiveness from two perspectives: one looked at the perception of leadership effectiveness from a small social group perspective, while the other looked at it from a larger social group perspective (political arena) with complex structures. According to Cooper and Nirenberg, effective leadership within the small social group perspective would mean the successful exercise of personal influence by one or more people that result in accomplishing shared objectives in a way that is personally satisfying to those involved.
Keywords: emerging leadership, sustainable development, challenges, economic bail out, transformation
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