Africa is slowly limping back from its traumatic past. The booming economies of Sub-Saharan Africa have created numerous business opportunities both for African entrepreneurs and multinational companies eager to tap into new markets in Africa.
But running an office in Nairobi or Johannesburg is significantly different from operating in London, Berlin or New York. Many ventures in Africa flounder due to a lack of insight and understanding into the dynamics of local cultures and a lack of respect for the differences encountered.
Leadership effectiveness and therefore understanding of leadership in the African context is important for the future of African development.
Africa is now seeing what can be termed as a hybrid of the best of African & Western management styles. The Western approach informs the ‘what’ needs to be done while the African approach informs the ‘how’ to do it. Thus, senior executives and leaders have moved towards a more humanistic culture without compromising their drive for results.
While African leadership approaches have often been criticised for being poorly adaptive to increasingly complex globalised economies, there exist confident, self-assured African leaders effectively heading businesses that are part of Western multinational corporations operating in emerging markets.
What is the African management style?
In a very real sense, the success – or failure – of a business rests with its managers. So finding the right person to manage your enterprise in Africa has to be a key consideration.
Research says that managing people varies country by country according to the culture and the temperament of the people living there. In spite of its diversity, there are some common elements to managing in Africa, which are different from the rest of the world
The New Age African Manager
The new generation of African managers is highly flexible, culturally sensitive and resilient; determined to solve Africa’s problems with African solutions. These dynamic young entrepreneurs are aware of Africa’s past mistakes and have an internal drive to change and move forward.
The next-gen African manager shows a subtle but palpable resistance to Western-style business practices and organizational cultures which are sometimes imposed unilaterally on African businesses in the mistaken belief that they will work better or produce better results.
Working in Africa, can be extremely rewarding in terms of learning and honing of entrepreneurial skills. On the other hand, an average African executive is also weighed down by increased complexities posed by globalization, domestic competition, government regulation and shareholder pressure. They could also be affected by the rapid change, inadvertent disruption as well as minor and major crises such as the current economic, financial and political crises in Africa.
Despite the availability of capable and educated people, many African organizations could be hampered by conflicts and unhealthy politics, mired by in-fighting, favoritism, nepotism, and opportunism, undermining team spirit and innovation in the workplace. To perform and lead in such organizations, managers would need exceptional skills in communication and human behavior.
What is changing in Africa?
Traditional African business tended towards the accumulation of power and decision-making in the hands of a few senior managers with middle managers waiting in line to move up the corporate ladder over time.
Under the influence of the myriad of MNCs which have flocked into the country, hierarchies are breaking down somewhat and younger middle-managers are looking to become more proactively involved in decision-making. Managers are now moving from authoritarian to authoritative as they increasingly involve their teams in decision making.
As a leading recruitment agency in Africa, we observe that the biggest change to have impacted the middle management level over the last few years has been the introduction of a new cadre of local professionals into most companies. Skills and talents are being liberated by the internet and the mobile phone, driven by an entrepreneurial “born free” generation catering to a growing middle class.
Some takeaways from top African business leaders:
- Always be willing to make mistakes because they are the ones that make you grow the fastest and learn the most in the shortest amount of time.
- Don’t ever ask anyone in your organization to do something that you yourself are not willing to do.
- Do not take a job for money. Take a job that feeds your soul, your aspirations, and can help you grow while you are having fun.
- Ensuring that your business has a strategy that everybody in your company knows about it and is aligned with it, and then putting in necessary priorities and systems to enable execution
- Measure things based on the return on effort.
- Travel light; move fast, be agile and nimble, don’t over analyze things and act quickly.
- When trying to make a decision, you should go with 40% to 60% information. You shouldn’t wait for 100% certainty because if you wait too long you will find someone else has seized the opportunity.
- If we treat our staff well, they will treat our customers well, and those are the people that make our business happen.
- Work hard, enjoy what you are doing and everything will be okay.
- If you want good people, you pay well and the job will be done well.
While headhunting for executives in Africa, we realize that most businesses in Africa struggle to hire the right manager. Bad managers or rather culturally misfit management leading to poorly managed work groups that are consequently less productive and less profitable than well-managed groups.
Africa has a shortage of management talent. As leading multinationals lean towards localization, there is a scramble for good African management talent. African business leaders and the government would do well to train and equip the next generation of entrepreneurs and managers for the business landscape in Africa.
Datum Recruitment Services is assisting leading organizations across multiple sectors with CXO hiring and board member recruitment.
Connect with us to benefit from our know-how on executive search, market information, salaries and hiring trends in Africa & emerging markets on http://www.datum-recruitment.com/