Human resource management and leadership development

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The leadership and philosophies of African leaders have affected institutions and companies in various African countries for many years. For example, charismatic leaders were believed to be those who have the natural capacity and personality traits or qualities to lead. Hence, leaders were said to be born or natural "great men". Traditionally, leadership was said to be an attribute of personality. Born or charismatic leaders became real leaders because they have such personality qualities but also: ambition, patience, pride, humility, wisdom, friendliness, dependability, force, endurance and, of course, managerial competence. Modern functional leadership is essentially to facilitate the interaction within a group to achieve present goals, to realise the organization's strategic objectives. Such functional managers or leaders are usually nominated, appointed and selected from among equals. If people utilize proper and effective managerial tools and motivation, performance and effectiveness increase considerably. Of course, this is also applicable to African managers and leaders acquiring or possessing modern functional leadership skills in a target achievement and 'productive' environment (Kiggundu, 1990, p683-685).


Most leaders want to be more effective in their leadership. Some think they only need to learn techniques, others assume that they can learn a magic formula or foolproof method. Effective functional leadership implies an intensive development process. Some of the ability comes as a result of experience and mistakes of others, from personal insights and by learning managerial skills. To become truly effective African managers and leaders they will have to be developed through sustainable leadership and managerial competency programmes that offer training with a difference. These development efforts should be highly interactive, aimed at leadership and managerial competence such as delegation and responsibilities acceptance. These customized interventions are generally for a short period, followed up and coached by their superiors. I.e. the participants should be given room to experiment with their newly acquired skills (Kanungo, 1990).

It is certain that African countries will grow and develop in the coming years; look at the example of the pace of growth of mobile phone networks and coverage. Efficient infrastructures, systems and processes are put in place. However, just this is not enough; Inspiring functional leadership is an absolute necessity for growth. Sustainable investment in the modern development of African managers and leaders is primordial. In order to accelerate and maintain growth in sub-Saharan Africa we must put in place the right learning work environment and formal, high-impact development possibilities (Onah, 1981).

The subject of International human resource management has been growing in leaps and bounds in the last decade. As a result, there is now an impressive corpus of knowledge on the dynamics and challenges of managing people in various parts of the world and how these approaches cultural and other contextual factors. However, as some authors have pointed out, there is a disturbing unevenness both in the breadth and depth of research into comparative and international human resource management. For example, Kochan et al. (1992) noted a number of weaknesses that characterize international HR research. These include a narrow focus on giving advice to expatriates, neglect of theory while focusing on the needs of international particularly American and an apparent preference for cultural explanations at the expense of institutional, strategic, political and economic ones. In the intervening years, there has clearly been an improvement and the IHRM debate has matured remarkably.

Nevertheless, many of these weaknesses have not been resolved conclusively. Thus in a recent extensive review of the literature, Clark et al. (1999) identified two major short comings: an apparent insulation from previous work and critiques of cross-national and international management research and second, an overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon perspective in much of the research. The Asian region has witnessed a lot of interest in the recent years. There has also been some attention given to the emerging economies in Eastern Europe and South America. These economies have been described variously as emerging, which in the case of the former refers to their abandoning centralized planning. Some of these emerging and, in the case of east Asian economies certainly prior to 1997, 'Tiger economies' enjoyed rapid economic growth rates and at the same time attracted a lot of academic curiosity.

Africa has not participated fully in either set of activities. As i note elsewhere (Kamoche, 2001) researchers seem not sure where to locate Africa since African countries have neither been growing at impressive rate nor are they emerging from the stagnation of centralized planning of the eastern European type. A gap thus remains in our understanding of the complexity of Human resource management in Africa as academic research in the mainstream literature focuses elsewhere. The purpose of this special issue is to rectify this imbalance. While the literature on African management problem remains comparatively modest, multinationals on the other side have been making inroads into what some see as the last great frontier.

Determining how to characterize and categorise the nature of management in Africa is a task that has continued to haunt researchers. Jackson argues that the tendency to cast the problem into a 'developing/developed' world dichotomy is not only pejorative, but it also hampers critical research into the subject. There is, according to him, a danger in trying to make the 'developing' more like the 'developed', thus denying the indigenous roots of the approaches that are suitable to Africa. He thus proposes a cross-cultural model that incorporates various perceptions of the value of people in organizations and proposes managing people in such a way as to build cross-cultural synergies.

In line with Jacksons's critique of the 'developing-developed' dichotomy, Horwitz et al. Argue that there has been an over emphasis on comparative analysis between Africa and the Western nations. In fact, the term 'developed world' tends to refer to Europe and North America. They argue that it is now worth turning attention to the East where interesting developments are been taking place, as African mangers, particularly from some Southern African countries, begin to cultivate business relations with their counterparts in East Asia (Alfred & Kanungo, 1990). They suggest that research will need to go beyond the current framework of convergence-divergence and begin to embrace elements of 'cross-vergence' with particular regard to the diffusion of high-performance work practices. The issue of cross-vergence is pursued further in Anakwe's analysis of Human resource management practices in one African country-Nigeria. She found that, in a survey of organizations across three major cities, the HR practices were a blend of western or foreign practices reflecting the significance of the local context.

This analysis offers a critique of the predominant convergence perspective, which according to the author, has been a source of confusion, frustration and malaise among the Nigerian workforce. Therefore there is a need for organizations to take into account the specific circumstances of their labour force while designing and implementing HR practices.

Multinational firms have an important role to play in African economies. In the past this role has generated a lot of controversy especially where these firms engage in unethical practices including the exploitation of workers and the destruction of the environment. According to Harvey et al., multinational firms are well placed to stimulate the development of human capital not merely through the traditional routes of creating employment and diffusing knowledge through expatriates but also through African experts who have gained knowledge by working in the West. An interesting paradox is the double-edge nature of social-cultural diversity in Africa. With up to 2000 different cultural-linguist groups/tribes, the potential for ethnic conflicts is never too far away. It is generally assumed that the arbitrary drawing of boundaries following the European scramble for Africa and the subsequent use of divide-and-rule colonial practice served to accentuate hostile tribal sentiments where none previously existed or they were merely latent (see also Leys, 1975). The importance of the family as a socializing unit and source of identity is amplified further at the ethnic level. As such, Africans tend to relate more to the tribe than to the seemingly abstract notion of nation-state.

This ultimately manifests itself in favorism along kinship and ethnic lines because the culture requires people to care for and support kith, kin and tribesmen. This very complex issue has been addressed in a number of contributions in this volume, either directly or indirectly. Nyamberga tackles the nature of ethnicity and seeks to assess the relevance of the concept of diversity. He argues that, since ethnicity is such a central construct in 'diversity', there is a need for organisations to adopt policies of 'inclusion' as opposed to 'exclusion' in managing the ethnically diverse African workforce. Beugr'e locates his analysis within the organizational justice discourse. He argues that the dramatic social and political change that have been taking place across the continent are likely to spill over into a quest for justice and empowerment in organizations.

Managers should therefore anticipate these trends and proceed to develop and implement fair organizational practices. These social and political changes have perhaps been more dramatic in recent years in South Africa with the dismantling of apartheid. Horwitz et al. investigate the extent to which recent legislative measures have helped address the enduring legacy of apartheid. They find that these measures are, in the main, inconsistent and inadequate, and that, although a legislative framework might exist, commitment to change at the organizational level remains a daunting challenge. Doing business in Africa is something many Western mangers and investors often find to be an extremely difficult task. Problems include lack of familiarity with the competitive environment, laws and regulations that are difficult to understand and which in some cases appear to be erratic and capricious. This confusion does little to assure confidence to potential investors. Harvey dramatizes these challenges metaphorically by drawing from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. He suggests that to western managers, with limited knowledge of the African business environment, their experiences are analogous to Alice's attempt to make sense of the rules and characters she encountered in her adventure. He then posits a model to help make sense of the challenge of developing HR practices in Africa, paying attention to categorise of African countries and the prevailing type of political leadership.


The research paper has the following aims and objectives;

To explore the concept of leadership in HRM in Africa.

To assess the current scenario of leadership in HRM in African corporate world.

To analyse the initiatives by the government in the development of leaders in HRM.