Posted: June 15th, 2021
The literature on leadership has been developed and reformed over the years however none of these theories is completely irrelevant, rather many are seen as an improvement on previous schools of thought. Majority of the schools emphasize on the contest in which leadership is applied thus they put emphasis on culture, working environment, new laws and regulations and organizational complexities.
NGO leaders face extraordinary challenges which are very distinct from those faced by leaders in government and the private sector. They often function in isolated and unsupported circumstances, and are faced with a set of complex and interrelated challenges relating to NGOs’ social change mission, increased pressure for accountability and transparency, the need for unquestioned integrity and to maximize limited resources, and the ability to network and position their organizations in an uncertain external and political environment.
Furthermore, NGO leaders in Africa are also confronted with a new set of challenges, including the role and impact of technology on their organizations, the need for more collaborative approaches to project funding and implementation, and the positioning of the sector in response to the rapid changes in the continent. With the competition of scarce resources not enough attention is given to the process of renewing leadership in the sector and building sustainable organisational capacity (Hailey 2006).
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a citizen-based association that operates independently of government, usually to deliver resources or serve some social or political purpose. The World Bank classifies NGOs as either operational NGOs, which are primarily concerned with development projects, or advocacy NGOs, which are primarily concerned with promoting a cause. NGOs do not only need people with passion but they need leaders that will help to achieve the organizations mission.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the challenges of leadership in Africa, why those challenges and its effect on organizational performance as well as how to overcome it. Specifically this paper will look at the issue of leadership capacity among Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Africa and how it affects their performance and what can be done to overcome the issue.
This paper will attempt to answer the following questions: Is there any relationship between leadership development and organisational performance in NGOs in Accra? Is there a relationship between leadership development and employee development? Is there any relationship among leadership development dimensions and employees’ performance? This paper will assess the current gaps in leadership development and will attempt to come up with strategies for building high-performing NGO leaders.
The current literature on leadership development among NGOs in Africa is limited, this paper thus seeks to add to the existing literature. Many of the examples on the issues surrounding leadership is cited from research in India.
The Concept of Leadership
The global humanitarian crisis such as the threat of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria have resulted in a wave of unprecedented challenges in the development sector. In a situation like this, one key factor that can help make the difference among organizations in this sector is leadership.
There is a wide range of definitions of the concept of leadership and the role of a leader. The simplest definition from the dictionary defines “a leader as one that provides guidance by going in front, or causes others to go with them”. An article by “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team also defines “Leadership as a process by which an executive can direct, guide and influence the behavior and work of others towards accomplishment of specific goals in a given situation. Leadership is the ability of a manager to induce the subordinates to work with confidence and zeal.
The McKinsey quarterly in an article ( Kruyt, Kumra, and Srinivasan 2019) looked at the key leadership schools of thought such as the traits-based, behavioral, situational, functional and psychological perspectives and concluded that “each of these theories add richness to defining leadership. The articles emphasized the limitation of this definition due to the fact that this definition looks at leadership through a single lens” they therefore suggested an integrated definition and approach to leadership. went on to explain that there is no single model that looks at the field of leadership in its entirety.
They therefore came up with this definition “Leadership is a set of behaviors that, in a given context, align an organization, foster execution and ensure organizational renewal that are enabled by relevant skills and mindsets.” Yet another scholar in a review of leadership theory (Harley 2006) identified four common themes that run through much of leadership theory: which are leadership is a process; leadership involves influence; leadership occurs in a group context and lastly leadership involves the attainment of goals.
Based on this analysis they defined leadership as “a process whereby an individual influences a group or individuals to achieve a common goal”. So what are the most important things to take from these the various definitions, that no one definition encapsulates all the facets of leadership, leadership is a means to an end , the end being the goal of the organisation and that the issue of context is very important when discussing leadership.
The Concept of Organizational Performance:
Organizational Performance refers to the degree of achievement of the mission at a work place that builds up an employee job (Cascio, 2006). Most researcher’s used the term to express the range of measurements of transactional efficiency and input & output efficiency (Stannack, 1996).
Organizational performance can also be used to view how an enterprise is doing in terms of level of profit, market share and product quality in relation to other enterprises in the same industry. (Timothy & Okwu, 2011) it is a reflection of productivity of members of an enterprise measured in terms of revenue, profit, growth, development and expansion of the organization Leadership Defined in NGOs (Apostu, 2013) outlines four different types of NGO leader which are Paternalistic, Activist, Managerialist and Catalytic.
According to the research Paternalistic leaders typically demonstrate a patriarchal or matriarchal style of leadership. Their approach is often built on established personal or kinship relation- ships. These leaders often inspire staff loyalty and can even have strong, close, possibly even a familial relationship with staff and volunteers. However, people outside of the organization may see such a leaders as autocratic, in this type of leaders authority is very hierarchical or top-down organizational structures, and overly-dependent on traditional relationship which may not be sustainable in the long run.
Activist leaders are actively engaged in advocacy and lobbying work. They are in advocacy and lobbying work. They are highly motivated, often charismatic, and typically focused on a single issue. They have the ability to channel the anger or concerns of local communities and solidarity groups to achieve political imperatives. In practice they energize and inspire “followers” with clearly articulated messages – sometimes at the expense of dealing with more mundane managerial or organizational issues.
Managerial leaders are rated for their managerial and administrative abilities. They typically demonstrate an instrumental ability to manage organizations, and can effectively establish reliable systems and appropriate structures, as well as manage a diverse workforce with established roles and responsibilities. While they may not be comfortable with change or coping with diverse partners and external stakeholders, they demonstrate a “professional” approach to development, have a track record in raising funds, meeting deadlines and undertaking commissions as a “contractor”.
Catalytic leaders typically act as strategic catalysts within the NGO context, and have the ability to promote and implement change. They demonstrate a wider world- view, and the capacity to take a longer-term strategic view while balancing tough decisions about strategic priorities with organizational values and identity. Their success as change agents depends on their ability to delegate work to talented colleagues, so freeing time to engage actively with external stakeholders and partners, build coalitions and strategic alliances, and be involved in a variety of networks. (Hailey, 2006)
The notion of leadership at all levels of an organisation is expressed in the example of the Rodale International in Senegal according to the researcher he saw that all members of the organisation showed leadership at the level they operate at different times and different situations.
It does not matter whether it is a village meeting, or at a workshop or conference. He mentions that the Country Director of the organisation followed a Senegalese-French management style a “more authoritarian/more democratic” continuum that depended on the nature of the situation and his mood also in the organisation other staff members provided what is referred to as “socio-emotional leadership” for the group (Roberts, 2000)
The Leadership issues in Africa
The issues of leadership in Africa is a complex one with majority of researchers focussing their discussion on leadership in the political context which is of most concern to the population of these countries as it affects their daily life. Adding on to the issues of leadership in Africa (Folarin, 2014). there is a decline in the quality of leadership across the continent as well as what he calls ” non- existent exemplary leadership”, he contiunes that there is a lack of “leadership in Africa.”
” In Africa, all we have seen is rulership or at best “managership”. Such rulership or misleadership often carries along with it the excess baggage of more innocuous problems for the continent-from Abidjan to Djibouti, Lagos to Johannesburg, Freetown to Kinshasa, Darfur to Kampala, and Cape to Cairo.”
Folarin 2014 echoing Femi 2002, looks at the 21st century Africa and says there is lack of visionary leadership. Leadership without a vision is actually not leadership but ruler ship. Vision means focus, and according to a motivational leader, the person without a vision is the most pitiable creature on earth. According to him, “where there is no focus, confusion takes over. Until you have a focus, until you know where you are going, there is no way.
Adejuwon, Kehinde David Afegbua, Salami Issa 2012) quoting from Seteolu (2004:74) they summarize the challenge of leadership from the Nigerian perspective “The political elites is not a productive class, but rely on the control of state structures to access economic rewards. The over politicization of the Nigerian state is also understood in the context of the unmediated struggle for power, influence and patronage. The local governing class instead of pursuing power with a commitment to an ideology rather sees power as a contest without any ideological commitment and instead based on their self-centred political gains.
Other scholars look at the issue of Africa’s bad leadership and to be the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment, “Bad leadership, the passiveness of citizens to hold their leaders accountable and a silent international community have combined to give African leaders an opportunity to wreak havoc on their countries and people (Mills, 2011).
African leaders are, said President Goodluck Jonathan at the 2012 World Economic Forum in Addis Ababa, part of the problem of the continent as most of them place their ego above the interest of the people they lead (Ogbu, 2012). African leaders have actually been at the centre of persistent corruption, have aided illicit financial outflows and capital flight, frustrated local ingenuity, and led states as their personal property.
The reason behind some past presidents in Africa desiring to come back to power or in some cases change the laws in their countries aimed at perpetuating their stay in power is a question not only for the leaders themselves but for followers to answer. Examples of such leaders in Africa include Togo’s Eyadema, Omar Bongo, former president of Gabon cling to power for 42 years, appoint his son Ali as his minister of defence, his daughter Pascaline head of the presidency and his son-in-law Paul Tongine the minister of foreign affairs (Mills, 2011: p. 230) Do we lacks role models or are there inadequate all-round role models?
Examples abound of political or business leaders in Africa who are role models in their field of expertise but are poor family men and women, morally bankrupt among others . A good role model he is a good influence. In Africa, there are few of either because of greed and selfishness in leadership or as a result of poor orientation and personality, what are available are mere influences, good or bad.
In the military and among the political class, what exist are godfathers, godmothers (not even mentors) and at times, godfathers destroy their own godson for selfish reasons, and godsons consume their godfathers when they have come of age. (Folarin 2014) (Elaigwu, 1986).
This point was emphasised by Former President Obama when he spoke in Ethiopia in 2015 Nobody should be president for life,” he declared in a speech at the African Union, an umbrella organization. “Your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas. I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country. It will be good for yours, too, in some cases.” (Baker 2015)
Do African Leaders have the capacity to be leaders? (Kehinde, Afegbua, and Issa 2012), Kamuntu, 1993 attempts an answer- most African leaders assumed their role with limited experience and training in the art and science of directing and effectively managing the affairs of a modern state) The challenge to African is to develop the capacity of leaders who would be able to create a balance between the values of African societies and the countries governance system.
African’s culture is deep seated and has implication for our facets of life as such culture affects our everyday experiences including leadership.
(Roberts, 2000) “Incompetence in leadership in most African countries is not only the problem of people who occupy positions in government; it is a reflection of the leadership culture. We’ve had different leaders with the same results for decades. The power distance that exists between leaders in government and citizens is also reflected in organizations and families.
In such a structure, leaders don’t serve; they are served, because occupying leadership positions make leaders superior and unaccountable to the people they lead’’. It is not an understatement to say that much of Africa’s problems and challenges emanate from leadership and governance weaknesses; therefore addressing this is considered a prerequisite for development.
Current literature on leadership are now concerned with addressing globally chronic problems such as abuse of power, bullying, unethical behaviour, and workplace alienation (Sendjaya, Sarros, & Santora, 2008 ). One theory that that is rapidly gaining momentum among leadership theorists and practitioners is servant leadership first introduced by Greenleaf (1977/2010) in an essay entitled “The Servant as Leader.” “According to Greenleaf, servant leaders are concerned with building better societies and institutions by addressing contemporary problems from the fundamental predisposition of concern for the growth, wellbeing, and benefits of the led”.
Culturally appropriate leadership behaviours has emerged in recent years within organizational studies in South, East, and Central Africa. African leadership theorists suggest that the philosophy of Ubuntu “holds promise for progressive and ethical change for Africa” (Ncube, 2001, p. 77).
Ubuntu is a cultural worldview common among the Bantu tribes of Africa that emphasizes the interconnectedness of self within society and the extension of humanness within shared community (Le Grange, 2011; Murithi, 2009). Ubuntu has been held up as an African worldview that has the potential to counteract the continent’s plague of genocide, patriarchy, autocratic leadership, corruption, and human suffer.(Brubaker, 2008) addressing leadership deficit in Africa has also taken a motivational approach which involves.
Examples from The MO Ibrahim Foundation established, in 2007, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership with the aim of celebrating excellence in African leadership by awarding a prize to a deserving former Head of State or Government recognising The prize was not awarded in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013, because there was no one, deemed qualified for the award (Straziuso, 2012; Tran, 2009), a reflection of how serious the challenge of leadership is in Africa. (Poncian & Mgaya, 2015)
Leadership issues abound also in the many businesses in Africa. The organization of today cannot afford to depend upon the leadership of individual or/and a small team of senior executives to meet this challenge. The organization needs to harness the ideas, skills, energy, and enthusiasm of the entire team for success.
For the meeting of new challenges, this new concept and practice of leadership has evolved, where line managers have taken over the leadership role along with the top executive and his small team of senior executives. Leadership is an important factor for making an organization successful.
The problem: Non-Governmental Organisation in Africa
All the evidence suggests that the leadership of NGOs is an issue of major importance. Such leaders can shape the destiny of not just the organization itself, but also the communities with which they work. Effective NGO leaders do have a pro-poor agenda and can impact the lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
There is limited research on NGOs in Africa thus this study will look at the issues of NGO leadership from Africa as well as other continents however the issues discussed are by no means very similar.
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