Research about leadership in Africa reviewed in first-of-its-kind paper

Posted on May 13, 2015

The first paper reviewing peer-reviewed research on leadership in Africa published from 1950 to 2009, to appear in one of the leading international journals for leadership studies Leadership, was authored by Dr Willem Fourie of the Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, along with two colleagues from the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership, Suzanne van der Merwe and Ben van der Merwe.

The paper, entitled ‘The Sixty years of research on leadership in Africa: A review of the literature’, points out that leadership in Africa is one of the few topics that straddles academia and casual conversation. Some argue that lack of responsible leadership is the reason for the continued challenges on the continent; others regard leadership as the solution for developing Africa. In theory, leadership in Africa provides one of the most exciting and perplexing topics currently available to researchers interested in comparing and enriching research on leadership conducted in or on regions other than Africa.

According to the authors, the paper has a dual purpose. On the one hand, it provides scholars with an entry point to the relatively large body of historical literature by means of a descriptive diachronic analysis of the literature. On the other hand, it also applies a synchronic analysis, and concludes with four interpretative statements on the scholarship on leadership in Africa. These concluding statements are that scholarship on leadership in Africa has changed, and the change is lopsided; female scholars are increasing, and they work on different themes from male scholars; legitimacy remains a key issue, and continues to evolve; and authenticity has become a key issue and is now closely related to reclaiming African values.

In this paper, the authors map the existing peer-reviewed research articles on leadership in Africa. They also expand on existing work on a number of levels, with their review situated in the post-colonial era and thematically demarcated only by the keywords “leadership” and “Africa”. The paper attempts to identify rather than harmonise differences in approaches and themes in terms of regions of origin, gender of authors and the decade in which articles were published.

This review and its findings therefore make a contribution to comparative leadership theory by means of an inductive, critical and eclectic systematisation and integration of research on leadership in Africa.

Click here to read the article.



- Author Petronel Fourie

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