Leadership in the Southern African business context : towards an appropriate approach.
Enormous challenges face the African continent's quest to fulfil her great potential. The success of the African wealth creation project depends to a great extent on the quality of leadership driving this vital undertaking. Leadership quality depends on its relevance and appropriateness to the context in which it is exercised. In the light of the global dominance of Western leadership theories, this study set about to explore the question whether Western approaches to organi-sational leadership are universally applicable or, if not universally, at least so in the Southern African context or, on the other hand, whether there are other approaches unique to Southern Africa, not found in Western approaches. A literature review of the four 'generations' of leadership theory as well as emerging ideas on the 'character' of leadership and the possible shape of future leadership theories was undertaken. The study adopted a qualitative research methodological approach. Using the non-probability sampling method, samples of predominately black African leaders and their subordinates working in private sector agricultural and manufacturing companies in Southern Africa were selected. Data was gathered from the leader sample via individual interviews and from the subordinate sample by means of focus group discussions. The data gathered was analysed using the thematic analysis method. A comparative analysis was undertaken between leader and subordinate samples, where after the research results were compared with the theory framework provided by the Kouzes and Posner and Kets de Vries leadership models, as well as with Western leadership theories. The uniqueness or otherwise of ubuntu as representative of emerging African leadership thought was also explored. The study found that there is not a significant difference between what leaders in the Southern African context are required to be and to practice in order to be effective, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of their subordinates, and those identified by Western leadership theories.