«Strategic leadership has been proposed as critical to organizational effectiveness. As African economies transition from socialist to open market ...»
Cultural Value Orientation, Personality, and Motivational
Determinants of Strategic Leadership in Africa
David B. Zoogah
Morgan State University
Strategic leadership has been proposed as critical to organizational effectiveness. As African economies
transition from socialist to open market states, strategic leadership will be instrumental to the
effectiveness of African organizations. Unfortunately, few studies of strategic leadership in African
organizations exist. To fill this gap, a model of strategic leadership is proposed here. Strategic leadership is viewed as a behavioral competence that top and lower level employees can develop, a view consistent with extant studies of strategic leadership. In the model, strategic leadership depends proximally on motivation to lead and to follow and distally on personality and cultural value orientation. Theoretical and practical implications for management of organizations in Africa are discussed.
Several decades of research have shown leadership as vital to organizations. Extant studies have found that one particularly important type of leadership that influences organizational development, growth, and competitive advantage is strategic leadership (Hambrick & Mason, 1984; Hitt & Ireland, 2002). Strategic leadership, referring to styles and skills executives use to influence the strategic orientation of organizations, includes behaviors that show vision, direction, purpose, and context for employees and propels the latter to follow strategic, tactical, and operational policies (Ireland & Hitt, 2005). It positively influences organizational change, learning, innovation, and performance as leaders use change-oriented behaviors to restructure organizations (Vera & Crossan, 2004).
Currently, African countries are transitioning from state-controlled to capital market structures (Ikiara, 1999). As a result, organizations are exposed to intense competition particularly from multinational corporations taking advantage of economic liberalization programs. Strategic leadership, therefore, seems important because it is more likely to enable African organizations to integrate effectively in the global economy (Ikiara), learn, and gain legitimacy (Zoogah & Abbey, 2008). The extent to which strategic leaders provide strategic direction and motivation determines not only the effective transition of the organizations but also their growth and development. In other words, strategic rather than traditional leadership seems critical to African organizations. Yet, studies of strategic leadership in Africa seem lacking. A International Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 4 Iss. 2, 2009, p. 202-222 © 2009 School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Regent University ISSN 1554-3145, www.regent.edu/ijls Zoogah/INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEADERSHIP STUDIES 203 review of the leadership literature in Africa shows descriptive but not empirically and conceptually rigorous studies of strategic leadership. Without rigorous models, executive behaviors may not be appreciated.
The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to propose a conceptual model of determinants of strategic leadership in the context of African organizations. Specifically, this research focuses on cultural orientation, personality, and motivations of individuals to lead and follow. First, a review of the literature on strategic leadership in general and specifically in Africa is discussed followed by the conceptual framework. Implications for management and practice are discussed in the conclusion.
Grounding the Problem
Leadership, one of the most studied concepts in organizational behavior (Northouse, 2004), has been defined from various perspectives and studies with different approaches (Hartog & Koopman, 2001; Northouse). Characterized by process, influence, group context, and goal attainment, leadership refers to the process of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward the achievement of a set mission and its goals and objectives. Research in leadership have established trait, skills, style, situational, contingency, transactional, and transformational approaches (Northouse).
Within organizations, extant interest seems to be on strategic leadership. Strategic leadership theory evolved from upper echelons theory (Hambrick & Mason, 1984) and focuses on the instrumental ways dominant coalitions impact organizational outcomes and the symbolism and social construction of top executives (Vera & Crossan, 2004). It has been suggested that strategic leadership differs from traditional leadership in two major ways. First, it focuses on the strategic level of organizations and views executive work as relational, symbolic, and strategic activities (Vera & Crossan). In contrast, operational leadership (e.g., path–goal, contingency, Leader–member exchange) focuses on leaders’ task- and person-oriented behaviors as they attempt to provide guidance, support, and feedback to subordinates. Second, while strategic leadership focuses on the creation of meaning and purpose for the organization (Boal & Hooijberg, 2001), operational leadership focuses on execution of purpose and enactment of meaning. However, researchers have used elements of operational leadership theories such as trait and styles (Bryman, 1986), information processing, contingency (Fiedler, 1967), and leader– member exchange (Graen & Scandura, 1987) to understand interactions of top executives especially when they focus on “characteristics of individuals at the strategic apex of the organization” (Boal & Hooijberg, p. 516).
Activities of executives which sometimes intertwine with operational processes of organizations include strategic decision making (i.e., creation and communication of visions for the future); development of key competencies and capabilities; development of organizational structures, processes, and controls; management of multiple and diverse constituencies; selection and development of successors; development, sustenance, or transformation of an organization’s culture; and establishment and modeling of ethical infrastructural mechanisms (Hambrick, 1989;
Hickman, 1998). A review of the literature shows four dimensions of strategic leadership. First, transformational and transactional theories have been applied to top-level managers (Lowe, Kroeck, & Sivasubramaniam, 1996). Along with visionary leadership these “can contribute to a more realistic view of top management” (Vera & Crossan, 2004, p. 223).
International Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 4 Iss. 2, 2009, p. 202-222 © 2009 School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Regent University ISSN 1554-3145, www.regent.edu/ijls Zoogah/INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEADERSHIP STUDIES 204 Others have suggested situational and functional leadership as additional dimensions, arguing that focusing on only transformational and transactional dimensions may not be appropriate because they neither capture the plethora of situations executives face nor enable executives to fulfill some important functions that are essential to leadership effectiveness (Zoogah, 2008b). Uncertain environments and relatively unstable environments require leadership behaviors consistent with the specific needs (i.e., demands and values) of the situation (Card, 1997) because an executive always has to “gain understanding and mastery of a situation” (Gabarro, 1987, p. 238) and “develop a sufficient power base and credibility to gain acceptance as the organization’s leader” (Gabarro, p. 238).
Consistent with that view, Zoogah (2008b) suggested that strategic leaders’ ability to exert influence on situations, particularly ambiguous and unpredictable ones, influences leadership efficacy. Using demands (expectations or obligations created by situational characteristics—high and low) and functions (active features or characteristics that define situations—sociocognitive and economic) dimensions of situations (Vansteelandt & Van Mechelen, 1998), Zoogah (2008b) proposed four generic situations that generally emerge from uncertain environments (deprivation, conflict, exploitative, and opportunistic situations) and affect organizational functioning and processes. The behaviors of strategic leaders in these situations affect organizational productivity. Further, functional strategic leadership dimensions integrating Chemers’ (2000) and Hackman and Walton’s (1986) functional leadership models suggest image management, relationship development, resource deployment, and conflict management as four major functions executives have to fulfill as strategic leaders (Zoogah, 2008b).
Strategic leadership integrates transactional, transformational, situational, and functional leadership behaviors. Research has identified antecedents (absorptive capacity, capacity to change, managerial wisdom; Boal & Hooijberg, 2001) and outcomes (learning, innovation, competitive advantage, and organizational effectiveness) of strategic leadership in traditional organizations and strategic alliances (Elenkov, Judge, & Wright, 2005; Zoogah, 2008b).
Even though these studies are significant, they adopted a macroperspective by focusing on the work of top executives, not only as a relational activity but also as a strategic and symbolic activity (Hambrick & Pettigrew, 2001). They focused strategic leadership on the dominant coalition of the firm (Vera & Crossan, 2004). This view is significant. However, it limits strategic leadership behaviors to the strategic apex which seems contrary to social and empirical realities (Card, 1997; Hughes & Beatty, 2005). As a result, others have suggested a microperspective in which focus is on the behavior of all organizational members (operatives, managers, and executives) as influence mechanisms that regulate organizational processes and systems (Card; Northhouse, 2004). The studies seem to ignore the cultural context of strategic leadership. Decades of research in strategy and organizational behavior have shown the effect of societal and cultural environments on organizations. So, leadership scholars have suggested integration of context in leadership studies because of its criticality (Avolio, 1999, 2007).
Fourth, previous studies focused on developed economies (Boal & Hooijberg, 2001);
strategic leadership in transition and developing economies seem limited even though organizations in these countries require those behaviors to function effectively. Further, views of strategic leadership, especially those from non-Western cultures, provide additional perspectives that enhance our understanding. Finally, previous studies have adopted the perspective of only the leader without consideration of followership which effectuates strategic leadership (Avolio, 2007).
International Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 4 Iss. 2, 2009, p. 202-222 © 2009 School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Regent University ISSN 1554-3145, www.regent.edu/ijls Zoogah/INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEADERSHIP STUDIES 205 Consequently, this study improves upon previous research by adopting a microperspective for three main reasons. First, strategic leadership is viewed as an individual difference characteristic where an individual behaves in a way that facilitates achievement of organizational strategic objectives or goals. Second, there is a focus on the dominant behaviors of executives as individuals and employees which influence organizational goals (Boal & Hooijberg, 2001). Third, the developmental characteristics of strategic leadership are important for training. Extant research has suggested that strategic leadership has trainable characteristics (Avolio, Bass, & Jung, 1999). In this paper, the focus is on the African cultural context. By developing individuals with strategic leadership skills and abilities, African organizations can benefit from organizational learning, innovation, and productivity which have been found to be associated with strategic leaderships (Elenkov et al., 2005; Hitt & Ireland, 2002; Vera & Crossan, 2004). The contextualization of strategic leadership within Africa not only extends our understanding of leadership beyond developed and Western contexts but also assists organizations therein to develop the requisite competence. Finally, followership is integrated which effectuates strategic leadership in Africa.
Leadership in Africa
Few, if any, consistent studies of leadership in Africa exist even though Africa’s need for effective leadership is tremendous (Ndongo, 1999). In their review of leadership in non-Western contexts, GLOBE researchers Dorfman and House (2004) did not identify systematic studies of leadership in Africa. However, they found that a few countries in Africa exhibited behaviors suggestive of in-group collectivism. There seem to be three major problems with their study.
First, not only is their sample not representative (only 7 out of 52 countries), but the classification seems to be arbitrary and inconsistent with cultural and societal understanding.
Egypt and Morocco are classified as Middle Eastern probably because of the Islamic religion. No country from East Africa and only one country from West Africa (Nigeria) is represented. The other four countries are all from Southern Africa. Second, the authors defined sub-Saharan Africa as black Africa which seems incongruous with African definitions (Awedoba, 2005).
More importantly, the majority of the participants exhibited moderate behavioral characteristics (ingroup collectivism, societal collectivism, institutional collectivism; 4-5 on a scale of 7) which suggests either contamination (participants were not purely African in cultural practices) or nonrepresentation (participants were from urban areas which tend to have modern values rather than rural areas which have traditional values).
The few African scholars who have examined leadership behaviors in African organizations have focused on operational or supervisory leadership which is concerned with leadership in organizations (Ugwegbu, 1999). In a review of leadership in African organizations, Ndongo (1999) found that the majority of leadership studies use Western and traditional theories;