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Edition 12

The seven leadership lessons I learnt from my newly met African friends

05/09/2023

Greetings to all!

The Eleventh Edition – Welcoming Autumn and the Continuation of Reimagining Leadership.

I hope this message finds you rejuvenated from a well-deserved summer break, full of fond memories and fresh perspectives.

Over the summer, I was fortunate to meet some great leaders from a progressive African nation where we discussed culture, leadership, and team dynamics.

These interactions led me into rich, diverse, and incredibly enlightening discussions that painted a more intricate picture of leadership in various cultural contexts.

Below are seven key lessons that stood out from my comparisons between an “African leadership” and culture with those of Europe and America:

  1. Holistic Approach vs. Fragmented Strategy: “African leaders” tend to view challenges from a holistic perspective, incorporating societal, familial, and spiritual considerations into their decision-making. In contrast, European and American strategies might sometimes lean towards a fragmented approach, compartmentalizing issues without always recognizing the broader interconnections.

Example: When addressing economic challenges, an African leader might consider how it affects local families, traditions, and even spiritual beliefs, whereas a Western leader might focus more narrowly on the economic numbers.

  1. Community First, Individual Second: Africa’s culture places a significant emphasis on the collective community. Leaders prioritize the well-being of the group over individual achievements. This differs from European and American leadership which often champions individual rights and personal accomplishments.

Example: In team-building exercises, “African leaders” might emphasize group cohesion and collective success, while American leaders might spotlight individual performance metrics.

  1. Narrative-driven Leadership: Stories and narratives play a significant role in African leadership. This contrasts with the data-driven emphasis often found in Western cultures.

Example: An African leader might use traditional stories or parables to drive home a point or teach a lesson, while a European leader might use data, charts, and studies.

  1. Respect for Tradition: While European and American leadership often push for innovation and “breaking the mold,”  “African leaders” show deep reverence for traditions, balancing the old with the new.

Example: In corporate strategies, an African leader might include traditional methods or approaches that have been passed down through generations, valuing their timeless wisdom.

  1. Indirect Communication: African culture often favors subtlety and indirect communication, seeing it as more respectful and harmonious. In contrast, European and American cultures might prioritize directness, viewing it as more efficient.

Example: In feedback sessions, an African leader might use stories or analogies to gently guide an employee towards improvement, whereas an American leader might provide straightforward, direct critique.

  1. Interconnected Leadership: “African leaders” often intertwine leadership with other roles such as being a community elder or a spiritual guide. This multifaceted leadership contrasts with the more segmented roles often seen in the West.

Example: An African community leader might also be sought for spiritual guidance, blurring the lines between their leadership and spiritual roles, unlike their Western counterparts.

  1. Patience and Time: The African concept of time is more flexible, valuing patience and the process. Western cultures, especially American, tend to be more rigid with time, emphasizing punctuality and efficiency.

Example: In negotiations, an African leader might spend days fostering relationships and trust before diving into business, whereas a European leader might want to “get down to business” almost immediately.

As I revisit my experiences with “African leaders”, it’s essential for me to provide a note of clarity and respect. When I mention “African leaders,” I’m referring to the progressive leadership style of a specific African country I had the privilege of engaging with intimately. Africa, with its vast expanse of 56 diverse countries, holds a multitude of cultures, traditions, and leadership paradigms. It would be an oversight to generalize the insights I’ve gathered as representative of the entire continent. Each country, community, and individual adds a unique thread to the rich African tapestry.

While I deeply respect and value the privacy of my engagements, which prevents me from naming the specific country, it’s the gleaned lessons that I wish to spotlight. Each interaction, every narrative, and all reflections from these leaders provided a profound understanding of culture, leadership, and team dynamics that deviates and sometimes converges with what we see in Europe and America.

This brings forth a vital question, one I now pose to you: Have you taken a moment to consider the cultural nuances when engaging with colleagues, customers, or partners from different countries? How do these differences or similarities in leadership and team dynamics shape your understanding and your style?

Reflecting upon these questions might reveal hidden biases, expand your horizons, and most importantly, enrich your engagements. For in diversity, lies the beauty of collective growth.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences in our next edition.

Warm regards,

Dr. Elie Daher