In the past, the view of the management function was to achieve profitability for the organisation by means of planning, organisation, leadership and control (Le Roux, 1995). This was executed from the top down via command and control, leaving little room for flexibility, innovation and adaptation. This is not conducive to the rapidly changing environment, externally and internally, that organisations face today. Leadership, particularly transformational, on the other hand, is concerned with creating a positive culture/climate and to be a catalyst of constructive changes within the organisation.
The effective leader shapes and shares a vision that provides direction, focus, meaning and inspiration to the work of others. The leader influences followers to accomplish group or organisational objectives. Yukl defines leadership as “the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish the shared objectives ” (Yukl, 2002:7). According to Nkomo, leadership can greatly impact on the behavioural context of an organisation.
How the leader leads and how the organisation practices leadership create a particular “behavioural context” that influences the behaviour of people in the organisation (Nkomo, 2004). Leadership as specialised role refers to how the leader was selected, their typical behaviour, and effect of the behaviour of the leader on the group/organisation. The leader thus being appointed in a specific position with specific leadership/managerial tasks and authority to delegate tasks to subordinates to achieve organisation objectives or personal objectives of the leaders. Can use control over rewards and punishments to manipulate subordinates.
Leadership as a social process where a leader influences peers and subordinates to achieve certain objectives, how it is done and the way the members of the group relate to each other. Results are influenced by the nature of the situation and the influencing methods that have been used. Leaders can also influence subordinates based on emotions. Leaders influence followers to believe it is in their best interest to co-operate in achieving a shared objective – influence is based on reason. On the other hand emotional aspects can influence followers – Leaders inspire followers to willingly sacrifice their selfish interest for a higher cause.
In the current Western functionalist paradigm, transformational leaders pay particular attention to the building of trust, which ensures reliability and predictability of employee responses and reduces the need for supervision and control. They set the organisation’s direction and shape employee behaviour. The assumption is that employees will take initiative once broad goals have been set. If leadership is seen to believe in the organisation’s vision and values and lives it, the employee will also adopt these values and the vision.
High value is placed on teamwork, empowerment, performance management, rationality, delegation, listening and learning. Leadership is responsible for setting the psychological tone of the organisation by displaying and promoting desirable attitudes, values and beliefs, which are the building blocks of organisational culture that is based on employee commitment, involvement and morale. Leadership is largely legitimised on the basis of performance. If a leader fails to perform, followers and subordinates have the formal and informal power to unsettle or dethrone leaders.
It is a culture of survival of the fittest where the leader must get rid of poor performers, with little tolerance and forgiveness. (Blunt, 1996) The African model of leadership differs from that of the West. Self-reliance and self-interest are subservient to ethnicity and group loyalty. Interpersonal relations are placed above individual achievements. Wealth is first of all extended family wealth and then ethnic or tribal wealth, often to the expense of the organisation (Blunt, 1996). Ethnic cleavages can affect the performance of the organisation. Leadership is paternalistic of nature.
Leaders bestow favours and expect and receive obedience and deference, with consensus playing a major role in decision-making resulting in decision making within levels to be taking a long time. There is also a great capacity for tolerance and forgiveness (Blunt, 1996). It was found that the leadership style in Africa is authoritarian, personalised, politicised and a high power distance, with power concentrated at the top. In this context, the leader’s job becomes one of operationalising directions received from above, making them clear to subordinates and providing advice and support.
African leaders are therefore overwhelmingly concerned about the quality of hierarchical relationship with their superiors, rather than with individual or organisational effectiveness. This degree of dependence on seniors by the more junior individuals is seen as normal (Blunt, 1996). There is a masculine dominance across all ethnic groups. Managerial ideologies tend to reflect unitarist ideas seeing the organisation as a cohesive team (happy family) with the emphasis on loyalty and conflict avoidance, emphasising ubuntu (humaneness), group decision making and interdependence.
Managerial styles reflect both Western values based on individualism and meritocracy and an authoritarian legacy of apartheid and colonialism (Horwitz, 2002). From a followers perspective Africans prefer a leader that is kind, considerate and understanding to one who is too dynamic, productive and demanding. Leaders are seen to possess genuine authority but are expected by their subordinates to use it sparingly and in a humane and considerate way (Blunt, 1996).