Leadership And Culture In South Africa Management Essay

The requirement level of leadership to contain cultural diversity has raised the continuing progress of globalization. As the facts that many contemporary leaders are confronting with, they are left no choice but to make every effort to combine all cultural components inside his or her team, it is the only way to make organizational behaviors work effectively nowadays. Especially in South Africa, national leadership based on cultural clusters is extremely important for any business growth and effective leadership. Cultural integration has made major impacts on a number of issues including perceived leadership style, satisfaction and trust between leaders and employees.


Africa is the only one continent which has completely witnessed the evolvement of human beings. Archaeologists have successfully found the most original and earliest fossil of completely evolved human being, which indicate the conclusion, as demonstrated in Evolving Theory by Darwin, that Africa is considered to be the original source of human beings’ birth. It has been shown by a number of archaeological documents that people in each tribe of Africa had created and developed phenomenal ancient civilization for the first time in human beings’ history. In ancient ages, while western colonists were still locked in by glaciers, the living situation on the continent of Africa had reached peak. At that age, the Nile River was nourishing surrounding areas and the Sahara was still covered by Greenland and forests. Especially the Egyptian civilization needs to be discussed. They were the first people who successfully calculated PI as 3.16. And their achievements in construction, sculpture and paintings were remarkable as well. Pyramid and Sphinx are still the most astounding construction miracles existing in modern world, which could be also taken as a monument for talented Egyptian people.

Geographical Settings

Geographically, the continent of Africa can be divided into five different areas, respectively as Eastern Africa, Western Africa, Northern Africa, Southern Africa and Middle Africa. Particular climate and special geographical setting has given Africa abundant treasures and resources, which are being traded to every corner of the world. Nowadays, South Africa is famous for the abundance of mineral resource, including oil, gold and some types of rare elements.

Social Relationships

The language context after colonial administration in South Africa has left behind many evidences in the situation of local governments, police system, and military institutions.


When it comes to the topic of education in South Africa, a complicated relationship between Arabian and Education had been established. Hence, the major issue of South African education has been in the center of the process of Arabian transformation. Three of this transformation include, to promote the Arabic language by building up standards and modernizing them to meet the new requirement of independent South Africa, to gradually replace French with standardized Arabic in all formal areas of lives, and to conserve authenticity of South African unique culture and value system or belief, as well as to make sure political unity and socio cultural coherence.


Language plays an important role in modern development of South Africa, both positively and negatively. In order to maintain and strengthen major national cohesion and identity a wide range of countries in Southern Africa, language is functioning as a significant sign of group identity, in relation to a communicative system existing from different population groups. This function always stimulates a natural sense of solidarity among communities to create feeling as belonging to some group, which is much larger than local or regional area. In the complicated language environment in Africa, highly complicated set of linguistic configurations, which are presented by many continents’ nations, reflects a major need for caring and precautious attention to national integration. According to the 2001 census, isiZulu is the mother tongue of 23.8% of South Africa’s population, followed by isiXhosa at 17.6%, Afrikaans at 13.3%, Sesotho sa Leboa at 9.4%, and Setswana and English each at 8.2%. Sesotho is the mother tongue of 7.9% of South Africans, while the remaining four official languages are spoken at home by less than 5% of the population each (2001 census).

Summary of spoken language in South Africa



Number of speakers*

% of total


5 983 420



3 673 206



711 825



7 907 149



10 677 315


Sesotho sa Leboa

4 208 974



3 555 192



3 677 010



1 194 433



1 021 761



1 992 201



217 291



44 819 777


Religion and other belief systems

In the complicated language environment in South Africa, highly complicated set of linguistic configurations, which are presented by many continents’ nationalities, reflects a major need for caring and precautious attention to national integration. This is one single concept which has been recognized and adopted by majority of South African people as particularly special importance. At the latter half of 20th century, when the concept of independence had finally been achieved by across the whole African continent, the inheritance of largely imposed and arbitrary borders resulted in an immediate emergence of quite a few nations with mixed populations, people of which barely share anything in common, both in language and cultural concepts.

According to the 2001 census the overwhelming majority of South Africans, or 79.8%, are Christian. The independent African Zion Christian churches predominate, being the faith of 15.3% of the total population, and 19.2% of all Christians.




% of total


35 750 641



654 064



551 668



75 549


Other beliefs

283 815


No religion

6 767 165



610 974



44 819 774


III. Cultural Dimensions:

During the last forty years, people around the world have witnessed a continuous seeking for primary explanations for the astounding growth of Sub-Sahara Africa economies, the region which might be called SSA sometimes. As people summarized about the accelerating growth in Asian countries such as Malaysia and South Korea, Sub-Sahara Africa also demonstrated one pretty good picture of their economic blueprints. And the whole process of accelerating growth happened in the quite similar way with the one in Malaysia and the other in South Korea. Even though these two Asian countries have began to taste the fruits of “economic miracles” (Akyuz and Gore, 2001), the Situation of South Africa is usually described by some other terms such as disaster or tragedy (UNCTAD, 2004). The major reasons which resulted in this consequence include institutional and structural weakness existing in the economic model and business system of Sub-Sahara Africa. Especially there is barely attention given to private enterprises’ development in this area. Meanwhile, some obvious issues also exist such as poor governance (Nwankwo and Richards, 2001), management ineptitude (Kamoche, 1997) and limited staff motivation. In generally, the explanation which has been universally acknowledged for South Africa’s poor economic performance is concerning the concept of Leadership Weakness.

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Some obvious phenomenon has drawn public’s attention. The leaders in African society always lack effective decisions and adapt poorly according to the demands of increasingly complicated economic system (Ochola 2007). Thus, leadership development has attracted policy interest during the past three decades, being guided by the point of view that more African management practices will be needed as ones in western countries, in order to improve their leadership skills. This view has provided intellectual legitimacy for the permanently existing stream of donor funded management group training program and organizational development interventions delivered to African organizations by western consultants.

As being outlined by most leadership theories in modern academic society, the other major stream of academy indicated the fact that in South Africa, culture provides a frame of reference or logic by which leadership behavior can be easily understood. For these scholars, culture symbolizes the shared values and standards which gather members of one society or organization together as a homogenous unity, which means people living in one specific cultural environment possess their conduct under the strict regulation through a collection of aspirations and universal orientations. Meanwhile, the social structures which develop through the processes of controlled behaviors are taken as to be orderly and permanently existing. Among the scholars who advocate this strong bonding relationship between leadership and cultural environments, Hofstede is the most remarkable one. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions argue that an effective leadership style may be appropriate in cultures which are high in power distance, collectivism, masculinity and uncertain avoidance. Meanwhile, he also indicated that this autocratic leadership style might also be conducted being characterized by external environmental orientation. It is true that autocratic leadership might be more proper and well-functioned for societies in which members have a higher concept of hierarchy and are unwilling to bypass the chain of command. In the opposite direction, the relationship-centered or democratic leadership styles are much more efficiently practiced in cultures or societies where power distance is quite low, however, the individualism and femininity in these societies are relatively higher in this dimension. On the other hand, it is easy to find out the fact that this leadership style in cultures or societies where internal environmental orientation would be dominant and featured.

Hence, theoretical arguments advanced in the two streams of research, cultural theories and leadership theories, have played an important role in affecting available studies on management in South Africa. However, the arguments have not been synthesized into a coherent framework which can be guiding empirical investigations in the field. A review of the current discourses on the connections between South African culture and leadership demonstrates that scholars are divided on the issue of how culture impacts leadership on the continent. There have been a large number of scholars who use culture to justify the uniqueness of South African Leadership styles, in the process of which culture serves as a unique descriptor, while others maintain African culture as an inhibitor of effective leadership practices.

IV. Implications for Organizational behavior in the country cluster

One key factor which people need to know, normally ignored from studies of leadership in South Africa is a consideration of the potential significance of cultural context in which leadership and management are being practiced. Recent studies have kept showing increasing awareness of this important factor. The discussion in this paper is dedicated in seeking to reinforce the importance of this line of research for aiming to gain better insights into leadership failures on the continent and to generate guidelines for effective leader development interventions. The macro cultures of South African societies as informing the goals, expectations, relationships and resource allocation decisions of African leaders. These factors reversely help them shape decisions and working patterns in the organizations. And their general contributions would be actually affected to some large scale.

Employee motivation

Employees are not those who deal with loyal commitment to the company and responsibilities. The leaders are performing this role. To a great extent, those employees are normally hired to provide help to the company. They don’t offer feedbacks to the company and are not considered to be going through a systematic training in order to cope with other transformations going on inside the corporations. Thus, employers in South Africa need to provide some leverage for their workers, which can be seen as motivations to push employees moving forward to come up with effective results to help the team and the company.

Decision-making processes (both individual & group)

Leadership decision making processes in South Africa are generally established with some routine international theories of decision making, which are also widely accepted concepts and solutions to other western and Asian countries. Consultations would be another major way for these leaders to develop a final decision. Every team member will be invited into the whole procedure of decision making and forced to provide personal opinions. Their opinions would be equally valued by the rest of team as the leaders’ decisions. No matter what the final decision would become, this procedure does a lot of benefits than the whole development of team since they provided employees with pride, dignity and motivation to devote them into the career more deeply.

Group behaviors, including teams (teambuilding processes)

Team building has already become an essential part for any group of workers in South Africa to grow more professionally. It is also the first step for them to bond with other people inside the team with some common interests or needs. In order to establish a more comfortable relationship and steady working environment, team leaders are forced by leadership necessities to undertake several times a month teambuilding activities. Whether these leaders can arrange such event and make sure their employees obtained a good bonding with other peers has become another major standard to measure the capability of leaders’ behaviors. Actually in South Africa, the multinational companies who just have local offices in this country will assign executive officers from their home country to take over the charge of teams, whose employees are selected from South Africa.

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The major communication valid in South Africa is based on internet emails and phone calls. The first reason to explain this would be the increasingly more advanced technology worldwide and the whole world has been termed as a village where people from various countries with totally different cultural backgrounds can share information, values, and certain thoughts. And this can be relatively the most efficient way to deal with these communication demands. The reason why business trips are not as many as in other more developed countries is that travelling budget for these officers remains low in South Africa.

In addition, South Africa is essentially a very tactile, and then cut it across ethnic boundaries. The back slapping, shaking hands is common for a firm, if it is foreign tourists, can be viewed as a sign of aloofness back away from this approach.

For the communication style, many white South Africans, such as commitment to a diplomatic approach and speaking simply, you can confuse with subtlety and ambiguity, unreliable, or lack of it. On the other hand, emphasizes many of the black culture of communication diplomacy or other they openly admit to disappointment that the listener cannot know the answer to the question

Power and politics

Power and politics is left to higher level society in South Africa. Even though these employees would share thoughts and value systems with other people as soon as possible, their leaders have to deal with powerful partners in the country to make sure their political impacts would stay by their sides.

Conflict and negotiation

Between white group and black group, there is no difference in conflict and negotiation area, The success of negotiations, the two partners to understand when other people arrive at what you want to understand how the negotiations. Negotiations are thus part of the business culture in South Africa, but a businessman, you should avoid harsh tactics and actions.In South Africa, and business conflict will always be solved personally or at court. Any partnership in the business world of South Africa will be formed based on some sort of agreement where friendship exists, or some middle man stays between two partners as leverage. As this situation is quite common in this country, a large number of business sues would be directly solved personally when three parts of this corporation would all appear. The middle man offers a solution or suggestion, and these two involved partners would seriously discuss the solution based on their common interests. When an agreement to eliminate this conflict is reached, none of hard feelings remain at all. However, there are still majority of cases which cannot be solved in this way. The court will be the other option. Normally when it comes to the court in South Africa, the involve amount of money would be extremely big enough to be left for personal negotiation.

Organizational structure and processes

Privatization is the most widely accepted way of organizing businesses in the South Africa because it allows contacts with international business. Businesses with foreign companies are organized through partnership and joint ventures. Foreigners are not allowed to own businesses in most South Africa without having a local citizen as a partner.

Organizational Culture

Organizational Culture, especially in the country of South Africa, involved a common value system generally held by every single member in a certain team. And this system existing uniquely in every business team varies from one to the other. Significantly affected by the cultural clusters among every single team in South Africa, organizational behaviors under this situation should be carefully undertaken. Not only employing those internationally wide accepted concepts of organizational behaviors but also delicately combining every factor which might make changes to the teams’ future with these common concepts bring about many obstacles or so called leadership challenges for team leaders in South Africa. Actually, this special requirement has become a major standard to measure the leading capability of leaders in this country.

Acrroding the book “developing people and organizations”, Jackson describes South African organizations as highly hierarchical, centralized and rule bound. Management opposes clear rules, strong leadership, controls its employees and gives well-defined lines of authority. Government still has a very strong influence on business and imposes rules as well. Family has influence on the company especially with the rising importance of blacks and their tendency towards collectivism.

Organizational Change

South African leaders never stopped making every single effort to bring about positive results to their teams and companies. In order to accomplish this point, making changes inside their organization is a necessarily important step. As mentioned above, in several parts of South Africa, the organization structure, which used to be described as a model where overseas executives act as leaders and domestic employees make general contributions as workers, is undergoing a slight change. The reason resulting in this has something to do the intentional transformation of modern international organizational structure. After all, it would be more efficient for domestic leaders to bond with local employees in that there is a common value system and cultural background shared by them as a whole. The left issue to undertake this major change would be the primary qualification of these domestic leaders in South Africa. Thus, majority of multinational companies who have an office in this country would take some actions to offer systematic trainings to these selected leaders. During these trainings, these leaders will be given thoroughly of the company’s culture and made to figure out a most effective way to put these thoughts and ideas into other employees’ minds by taking advantage of their cultural bonding with other members of the group.

Implications for leading in country cluster

What approach (es) or style(s) of leadership are most commonly used, and which are most/least effective?

Euro-centric Approach

Management of white group reflects the Euro-centric business, and personal characteristics of a dictatorial and hierarchical authority. The organization from top to bottom in the information flow from the organization, Functions of leadership, decision-makers, she or he is a very important decision. Leadership is also provided to employees through the job description to use a certain amount of power and decision-making and goal orientation. Are controlled by management, employees, to perform his duties to pursue a given target incentive and punishment is based on the ability to receive

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“White measured significant higher than black managers on uncertainty avoidance. This means that white managers show a higher intolerance for uncertainty than black managers. It is important to note that, although white measured higher on uncertainty avoidance than black, both groups scored above average on this dimension.” (468-469)

Afro-centric Approach

With more black community entering business this management approach may become increasingly visible in organizations. The individual is a part of everything and has to find its place in society. People need a sense of belonging somewhere, and the administration need to feel affordable. The attitude of the company is quite informal with a free flow of information. The leader is a facilitator and guide for the group. Employees receive motivation in the group, and the group could improve group performance through people’s pressure.

“The Black South African management group reflects high levels f collectivism and humane orientation, above average leavels of performance orientation, uncertainty avoidance and power distance, below average levels of assertiveness and future orientation and low level of Gender Egalitarianism. This profile is to a large extent opposed to the western or European management systems and comparable to the afrocentric management system, which emphasizes collective solidarity, inclusivity, collaboration, consensus and group significance, concern for people as well as working for the common good, structure through rituals and ceremonies, patricrchy, respect and dignity.” (470)

Synergistic Inspirational Approach

This third approach is in South Africa, and trying to combine African values ​​with Western technology and management practices based on the principle of the rainbow nation. Practical approach of humanism is seeking unity in diversity. A leader must create an atmosphere of trust and respect in different values, and to create common values ​​and support of learning also is very important.

 The company has a strong base of values; you must have a strong vision and proper management. Literally, this approach takes the best of all cultures, saying that attempts to strengthen the bond to meet future growth.

It is clear that which leadership is the most effective, but it depends a lot of leaders and managers of organizations, and how quickly the change happened in South Africa. If people recognize the importance of diversity and start seeing the benefits, culture could be adapted.

“As Madi (1995) argues, Change is taking place in the new South Africa, even corporate culture has started to realize that we are all in Africa, and that the average South African is 15 years old and Black and they, with their sense of values, perceptions, and frames of reference, will be the workforce of tomorrow (470)




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How are leaders developed in these countries?

After so many years of research and debate, a culture-based conceptual model of South African leadership has been established. Based on careful consideration, two perspectives on the connection between South African culture and leadership behavior do not conflict with each other that obviously. Corresponding to the complex theory of leadership, people need to admit the fact that there are some necessary components of South African culture that promotes unique and positive leadership behaviors. However, some other components inside the South African culture would play negative roles which might drag effective leadership and management practices back. Therefore, constricted entrepreneurship and economic growth would be affected unexpectedly. It is quite important to understand this complicated situation, in order to confront with the fact that success of any leadership development initiative on the continent and future research should seek to provide us with that knowledge. And the observation underlining conceptualization of leadership proposed in this essay might be useful as a conceptual model, focusing on the importance of three dimensions of leadership.

Provide any other leadership insights about leading in this country cluster

Employees stay loyally to a certain employers with reasons. The simplest one would be the fact that employers would be their major sources of money, security and opportunities for career development. Some leaders might be not made of but they were instead born with great leaderships. And there might be some major differences between political leaders and leaders in other fields, because those leaders in political world choose to stay there for life.

Expatriate Assignment preparation: What key factors need to be considered when training expatriate managers for assignment in your country cluster?

Model the way will be the first step to undertake an effective leadership. It doesn’t immediately make any difference for just getting a title or a promotion. Instead, what helps the leaders win respects from their followers and gain honors from the companies they serve. Hence, it is quite important for them to perform as a role for their employees to follow. Only by achieving this can a leadership be successfully realized.

Second, they have to lock our common target which is making profits by increasing revenue and controlling cost and it was the next move to make everybody in the team to believe that this is the inspired vision, which could bring them an exciting, highly attractive future for our career. INSPIRING A SHARED VISION is the second trick to make team extraordinary.

While luck or being in the right place at the right time may play a role in the specific situations, it is believed that challenging the process is a wiser choice. Since they are developing an innovative solution based on a creative product, coming with a cutting-edge service, leading the team to make revolutionary turnaround of current embarrassment is significantly crucial.

Now, they are aware of the locked target, inspired a common vision for their future and they are also ready to challenge the process, it is the right time to enable others to act. The leaders need to foster collaboration and build trust, because they understand that grand dreams do not become significant reality through the actions of a single leader, leadership is a team effort.

The employees need motivation all the time to remain aggressive during the pursuit of achievement as a team member. What the leaders inside a team can do is to offer encouragement of the heart to stimulate the followers to move on. Especially in contemporary business world, accomplishing one single task requires a lot of efforts and many other factors to contribute. That has become the responsibility for the leaders to keep encouraging their followers to never fall behind.

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