Thomas, one of our scholars, has written a great piece on his time at Yale Young African Scholars summer programme in Rwanda and what he learnt about leadership. The lesson that different leadership styles need to be adopted in different situations is surely one that many leaders today, both in Africa and the west, could stand to learn!
During my stay at the YYAS summer camp, I came to learn about the ‘Four Directions of Leadership’ and a possible combination for Africa’s needs.
A leader is a person vested with the authority to direct or guide another person or group of people. A leader is a model to his/her followers.
Having a leader as a model means that he/she has certain ethics. These determine our conscious, values and the morality of our actions. Therefore, all leadership has some ethical substance to it hence the term ethical leadership.
Every person is a leader and has a leader. We have role models in our lives who affect the way we dress, think, talk and act; and at the same time, we are being watched by someone else.
Leadership ethics can be in four types: action oriented, visionary, empathetic and analytical. All of these have their ups and downs.
Action-oriented leaders tend to be assertive, active and decisive. They are quick to act and drive the process forward. These are comfortable being in front and like a quick pace and fast track. They, however, are set back by the need to press ahead. They get defensive quickly and may become autocratic. They may be perceived as cold.
The visionary leader always sees the bigger picture. They are very idea-oriented and focus on future thought. They like to experiment and explore many options and possibilities. Yet if overused, this virtue can be impeded by lack of vision or having too much emphasis on vision. A visionary leader may easily lose focus and can develop a reputation of dependability.
The empathetic leader allows others to feel important in the direction of what is happening. They value driven aspects of a professional life and are able to focus on the present moment. Nevertheless, they are halted when relationships and needs of the people are compromised. They normally have trouble saying ‘no’ to requests, internalise difficulty and assume blame. Hence, they are easily taken advantage of.
The analytical leader is seen as practical, dependable and thorough in task situations. They provide planning resources and use data and logic to make decisions. They are introspective and self-analytical. Even so, these are stalled by information during the analysis process. They become stubborn and entrenched in position, remain withdrawn and distanced and resist emotional pleas and change. Their indecisiveness and too much unnecessary data can cause ‘analysis paralysis’.
Now, for a leader to be ethical, then all forms of leadership must be employed. It is clear that the shortcomings of analysis can be corrected by action and those of action by empathy in some cases. These values are interdependent.
I believe that if we can employ self-leadership in the decisions we make, then we qualify to guide others in the decisions we make; or otherwise mislead them.
Therefore, a leader is an individual with a clear vision, one who is able to share that vision and provide the ideal factual data of that vision. He/she needs to have the knowledge of the realisation of that vision and is aware of the various steps, action and pathways needed to be taken towards that vision. A leader needs to find a balance between conflicting choices or interests, and create a balance between cultural traditions and statutes. Furthermore, an ethical leader must not be scared of crisis and must not shy away easily. They must be courageous, have a strong temperament and be willing to strive when things get tough. But most importantly, a leader must accept rebuke.
Finally, this is one way my ideal African leader can unite and develop Africa and raise it from the ashes: by having vision, empathy, being action-oriented and analytical all at once. And that is what Africa needs right now.