Leadership Practices In Nigeria And Egypt


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This study tends to throw more insight on leadership practices within the Africa environment. An extensive amount of research has been carried out on leadership across culture, none has shed light on leadership practices within the Africa environment. The purpose of this study is to fill this disparity and Hofstede cultural framework (1980) will be used as reference.


Whilst one realize that much of history, political science and the behavioural sciences are either directly or indirectly concerned with leadership, the statement that more concern and research has concentrated more on leadership than on any other topic becomes plausible. However, there still is no distinctive definition, let alone best answers to which approach is more effective than others in the international environment. For the purpose of this study, leadership will be defined as the process of influencing people to direct their efforts toward achievement of some particular goal or goals (Hodgetts and Luthans, 2003).

Leadership is extensively acknowledged as being very chief in the study of international management, but relatively fair effort has been made to systematically studying and comparing leadership practice all over the world (Hodgetts and Luthans, 2003). The Most available research on leadership in cultural context concentrate more on comparing the American leadership context with that of other parts of the world, but a persistent question remains: To what degree are the findings generalizable to other cultures? This is a significant question for both executives and researchers. It is significant to executives because their competitive activity is progressively more global. Globalization creates many business opportunities, but it also creates multifaceted challenges. Managing people and organizations from other parts of the world is more multifarious than managing domestic functions due to diverse cultural beliefs (Hofstede 2001). Researchers are fascinated for the reason that cross-cultural research will help "fine tune" on hand theories by introducing a wide range of variables, behaviors, and processes. It helps recognize aspects of existing theories that are generally appropriate and those that are culturally reliant (Yukl 2002).

Leadership Practices

There are numerous theories of leadership, each shedding some insights into the nature of the observable fact. Over the years "neo-charismatic leadership theories" such as transformational leadership theory (Burns, 1978; Bass, 1985) and visionary leadership theory (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Kouzes & Posner, 1987; Sashkin, 1988) have gained prevalent recognition, both with scholars and practitioners. House and Aditya (1997) note that these theories are all of a common sort and have quite a lot of common distinctiveness. First, they all try to clarify how best leaders are able to pilot organizations to attain stupendous accomplishments. Second, these theories try to give details on how some leaders are able to achieve astonishing levels of follower motivation, approbation, respect, trust, loyalty, commitment, and performance. Third, they strain symbolic and emotionally alluring leader behaviors, such as farsighted, frame alignment, empowering, role modeling, icon building, outstanding, risk taking, and compassionate behaviors, as well as cognitively oriented behavior, such as adapting, showing resourcefulness and environmental sensitivity, and intellectual inspiration. Finally, the leader effects specified in these theories include follower self respect, motive awakening and emotions, and recognition with the leader's vision, values, and the collective, as well as the traditional reliant variables of earlier leadership theories: follower satisfaction and performance (House & Aditya, 1997).

Kouzes and Posner's (1987) visionary or practice leadership theory belongs to this faction. They analyzed more than 1,200 "personal best leadership experiences" of managers and executives from various industries in the United States. Based on wide-ranging case studies and interviews, they have acknowledged five practices that are common to thriving leaders:

Challenging the Process (CP)

Inspiring a Shared Vision (ISV)

Enabling Others to Act (EOA)

Modeling the Way (MW)

Encouraging the Hearth (EH)

Searching for challenging opportunities, questioning the status quo, experimenting, and taking risks.

Envisioning an exciting future and enlisting others to pursue that future.

Fostering collaboration, and empowering and strengthening others.

Consistently practicing one's own espoused values, setting the example, planning small wins.

Giving positive feedback, recognizing individual contributions, and celebrating team accomplishments.

Table 1: Five Common Practices of Successful Leaders Source, Kouzes and Posner's (1987)

Koopman, et al. (1999) argue that countries that are high on uncertainty avoidance will not "Challenge the Process" as much as countries with low uncertainty avoidance.

Dimensions of Culture

According to Dimmock and Walker (2000), culture means the values, customs, traditions, and ways of living which distinguish one group of people from another. This definition aligns with that of Hofstede (1991), who defines culture as patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting underpinning the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another. In Hofstede's definition of culture, the collective programming of the mind refers to the mutual beliefs, values, practices of a faction of people, whether that faction be a society, nation state, or organizations. This study will focus on the leadership practices in organizations.

In regard to the dimension of cultures, Hofstede (1991) advocates the development of cultural dimensions as ways of describing, measuring, and comparing cultures. Culture dimensions are defined as core axes around which significant sets of values, beliefs, and practices cluster (Dimmock and Walker, 2000). Furthermore, Hofstede took the position that culture dimensions are constructs that ought not to be reified. Hofstede further states that dimensions which aids in measuring culture do not exist. Those dimensions are simply tools for investigation which may or may not spell out a circumstance. In addition, neither Hofstede nor Dimmock and Walker makes available a vivid answer to the following question, "what are the culture dimensions that researchers should abide to when carrying out their research on different cultures?" based on the above, this study argues that there is no one factual dimension of culture. This argument is based on the fact that there could be one tool as a measure of culture which could sufficiently determine a dimension in an assured case, and fail to determine the same dimension in a different framework.

Hofstede (1980) identified four core dimensions of culture:

Power distance (PD)

Uncertainty avoidance (UA)

Individualism vs. collectivism (IND)

Masculinity vs. femininity (MAS)

The extent to which people accept inequality in power among institutions, organizations, and people.

The extent to which members of a society feel uncomfortable with unstructured situations, uncertainty, and ambiguity.

The degree to which individuals are supposed to look after themselves or remain integrated in groups, usually centered on the family. Collectivism means a preference for a tightly knit social framework in which individuals look after one another and organizations protect their members' interests.

The degree to which people prefer achievement, heroism, assertiveness, work centrality (with resulting high stress), and material success as opposed to relationships, cooperation, group decision-making, and quality of life.

Table 2: Core Dimensions of Culture Source, Hofstede, (1980)

Hofstede (2001) later added a fifth dimension: Long-term vs. short-term orientation, which refers to the extent to which a culture programme its members to accept delayed gratification of their material, societal, and emotional desires.

Culture and Leadership

There has been a surfeit of studies to examine the correlation between culture and leadership. The literature points to a foremost divergence of views regarding the universality or culture of leadership attributes and efficiency. Many researchers have argued for a direct impact of culture on leadership practices, arguing that specific cultural traditions and norms are bound to distinguish leadership practice (Smith and Peterson 1988). Hofstede (1980) and his colleagues have suggested that power distance is the most important determinant of how leadership is practiced: Countries with a high power distance prefer autocratic leadership while countries with a low power distance prefer a more participative approach. In a related vein, Triandis (1994), in a broad review of the literature, concluded that the optimum leadership profile in a country is sturdily influenced by its cultural ethics. He demonstrates that employees in individualist countries prefer more freedom and sovereignty while those in collectivist cultures favour security and in group concord.

On the other side of this discuss are those who argue that at least some feature of leadership surpass national cultures. They maintain that progressively more common technological imperatives (Yukl, 2002), common industrial logic (Redding 1986), and generally accepted accounting principles, all dole out to complement management practices and structures (Tayeb 2000). Global corporations and international joint ventures diffuse cultural values, while the proliferation of MBA programs leads to a similarity of training in business disciplines around the world (Werther 1996).

A view of the Egyptian and Nigerian Culture

Nigeria is the most populous African nation, with over 150 million

Populations. It is located in West Africa, bordering Benin, Cameroon,

Chad, and Niger. It was ruled by the military for 16 years until a new

constitution was adopted in 1999 and a peaceful transition to civilian

government was completed. Nigeria's primary natural resources

consist of natural gas, petroleum, tin, iron ore, coal, limestone,

niobium, lead, and zinc. Nigeria has proven oil reserves of 36.2

billion barrels, the tenth largest reserves in the world. Proven natural

gas reserves are estimated at 182 trillion cubic feet, the seventh

largest reserves in the world and the largest in Africa. Estimates for

oil and natural gas reserves are as of January 2007. The country also

has an abundance of arable land. It consists of more than 250 ethnic

groups and is fraught with ethnic and religious tensions. In terms of social culture, Nigeria is more diverse. The main religions are Islam (50%), Christianity (40%), and indigenous beliefs (10%) (IMF, 2009).

Egypt is a country of explicit geographical and historical nature. It is an Arab Republic, located in North Africa, bordering Africa, Asia and Europe. Its population in 2001 was 61,401,600, which is the largest in any Arab nation. Its land area is 10,01,450 square km, making its population density among the highest in the world (Hopwood, 1993).

The Nile has played a fundamental role in Egyptian history, politics and culture. Throughout its history, Egypt has been a vastly centralised state. Ancient Egypt was a hydraulic society. The Nile provided the basis for agriculture, industry, trade and services. The water of the Nile was indispensable to irrigate the land and had to be shared. This called for cooperation and coordination among people (Ayubi, 1980).

The social culture of Egypt is characterized by Islam. Egypt has been an Islamic country for 13 centuries and this has exerted a powerful authority on the life and society of Egypt. Islam is a bond in the lives of Egyptians and a factor uniting Egyptian people. Muslims are little troubled by doubts or questioning, they have firmness in faith (Hopwood, 1993). According to Hofstede (1980), Arab countries including Egypt scored high on uncertainty avoidance. Other countries, such as Greece, Portugal and Guatemala scored higher. However, Parnell and Hatem (1999) argue that one of the crucial factors that may have lowered Arab counties score is Islam. Muslims do not question events and are more likely to accept uncertainties of life.

This view of Egyptian culture illustrates some of its most outstanding features, which are intensely embedded in its society. There is a propensity towards charismatic leadership, which is connected to its historical background. Social integration in the form of cooperation and organization among people stems from its geography, in particular its dependence on the Nile, and from its social culture, which depensd on Islam. Nigeria with her diverse social culture does not enjoy the same level of social integration and cooperation like that of Egypt. All of these features must be noted, in view of leadership approach which would be most suitable with the two cultures.

Leadership Practices in Nigeria and Egypt Using Hofstede's Framework

Hofstede's culture scores for the countries studied are accessible in Table 3. Because there is no culture score available for Nigeria, scores from the West African region (Nigeria, Ghana & Sierra Leone) were used as an alternative. Also, scores from the Arab region (Egypt, Morocco, & Sudan) were used for Egypt. Since these two countries leads their region (which in many ways is culturally quite homogeneous), It is assumed that the scores can serve as a rational proxy for the true Nigerian and Egyptian country scores.






Egypt (Arab region)





Nigeria (West Africa)





Table 3: Culture Scores for Nigeria and Egypt Source, Hofstede, 1980


These two countries regardless of existing within the same African region have substantially diverse cultural traditions. This becomes obvious from Hofstede's (1980) study: in power distance, Egypt scored 80 while Nigeria scored 77, indicating that Egyptian employees are more comfy with planned hierarchical levels and supervisors who make decisions, while Nigerians have preference, and more participative approach. In uncertainty avoidance, Egyptian scored 68 while Nigeria scored 54, means that Egyptian respondents have a preference to avoid risk and anxiety, while Nigerians neither seek nor avoid vague situations. Base on Koopman, et al. (1999) proposition, Egypt will not "Challenge the process" as much as Nigeria. On the individualism index, Egypt scored 38 and Nigeria scored 20, which shows that Egyptians are highly self-determining of their organizations, preferring personal time, liberty, and challenge, while Nigerian workforce have a good judgment of belonging to their organization. On the masculinity index, Egyptian scored 52 and Nigerian 45, indicating that Egyptians are more concerned with innovation, wages, training, and remaining up to date, whereas Nigerians centers more on a friendly environment, position security, physical conditions, and cooperation.

Critical glance at table 3, shows some factors of similarities involving the two countries in terms of the power distance and masculinity/femininity index. Nevertheless, uncertainty avoidance and collectivism/individualism index, Egypt has a much higher score, because of the task kinship plays in the Egyptian society. "An individual's social identity is closely linked to his or her status in the network of kin relations" (Hopwood, 1993). Kinship is very crucial to the Egyptian culture. Describing the tendency toward liberality and concerned in their culture, an Egyptian leader told of how early Islamic authorities imposed a tax on personal property in proportion to one's wealth and distributed the revenues to the poor. This degree of behavior left a certain culture of doing business in Egypt that has a strong emphasis on harmony with the environment, the industry, and the competition. Thus, the two cultures of Egypt and Nigeria are different in some spheres and relatively similar in others.

Religion is very vital, Hofstede never mentioned it in his cultural dimension. In Africa, religion plays important role in people's lives, while this is not typical in the case in developed world. Thus, it could be assumed that religion guides the behaviors of leaders to a great echelon in order to be viewed as estimable leaders by the followers. Nigerian leaders do not encounter much stress from their followers as long as they are abides by the set of laws of the organization. In Egypt, set of laws in organizations are not based on the Islamic religion; Egyptian leaders could abide by those rules and not be viewed as estimable leaders since they are not abiding by the Islamic religion (Yukl, 2002).

Conclusion and Limitation

The base of this study is to compare leadership practices in two Africa countries. It confirms that cross-national similarities really exist. Viewing some outline of concord with the collective concept of leadership. However, the study also shows that each country has distinctive practices that might not be suitable when employ in other cultures. For example, in the Egyptian culture is very much inclined by Islam, there is a high level of integration, social kinship and cooperation which is not an essential case in Nigeria because of diverse religion and culture.

The study however confirm that there is a cultural dimension (i. e. religion) which plays important role in the way leadership is practiced in Africa but may not be a subject in the developed world. This means that there is need for more research on leadership practices within the Africa environment or context.

Finally, this study was carried out under the assumption that scores from the West Africa and Arab regions in Hofstede (1980) study will serve as a representative of the cultures of both countries. This may not be exclusively factual, because even within a particular country, there are diverse cultural views which can influence the way leadership is practiced. As a result, it is suggested that the result of this study should be applied with caution.

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