The enablers and disablers of leadership for transformational change in Africa:

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Publication Date: 
27 August 2013
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Executive Summary

Leadership for Africa is based on the premise that leadership is a capacity of fundamental importance for transforming Africa’s potential to equitable and sustainable realities. Furthermore, it is based on the premise that existing transformational changes across the continent can provide a substantial contribution to the questions that enables and disables leaders to contribute to bring about change.

In order to allow African knowledge to emerge from the lived experience on the continent itself, it was decided to use a grounded theory approach to document case studies of transformational change and to use these case studies as basis for a qualitative process in which enabling and disabling factors are identified.

As this promises to be a very large project, it was decided that a research methodology should be tested and refined in a country-specific Pilot Project. This was done in Tanzania.

This final report of the Pilot Phase of the Leadership for Africa project commissioned by the Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development (UONGOZI Institute) presents two final deliverables:

  • An updated, refined and tested research methodology. The team at the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership is confident that this methodology can be replicated in an academically responsible manner. This is in order to discover African knowledge on leadership that can be developed into leadership development material, and as contributions to policy-making initiatives.
  • Preliminary research findings. The results of a pilot study always have definite limitations, as such a study aims to test, refine and finalise a research methodology within a limited timeframe. Nevertheless, the team is confident that the results outlined in this report are a legitimate reflection of a legitimate research process.

In summary, it is proposed that the research methodology should have at least the following features:

  • Grounded theory should be employed to allow African knowledge to emerge in an inductive manner.
  • Descriptive and operational definitions of “transformational change” and “leadership” should be used as instruments to standardise and replicate the research process.
  • A raw list of potential case studies should be generated by using the print media and other publicly available reports on key developments in a respective country. These sources should be triangulated.
  • Data on the chosen case studies should be gathered by using both primary and secondary research, where the former should include individual interviews and focus groups.
  • Peer review processes should be instituted in a way that enables continuous feedback and tracking of progress within the respective steps.

In terms of the research findings, three case studies of transformational change in Tanzania were identified, namely:

  • a transformational change in road infrastructure development;
  • women in political decision-making structures; and
  • HIV/AIDS awareness in Tanzania.

Each of these case studies presented features that enabled or disabled the respective changes. When taken together, the following enablers and disablers of leadership emerged, and the reader is kindly referred to the respective sections for more information. The enablers and disablers are:

Appropriate changes in legislation and policies

  • In all of the case studies it is clear that appropriate changes in legislation and policies play a major role in enabling transformational change. Appropriate legislation and policies should not be equated with their implementation.

Appropriate and sufficient funding

  • From the available data it is clear that the appropriateness of the funding is more important than the perceived sufficiency.

Partnerships for change

  • Collective expressions of leadership are crucial for stimulating or supporting change. A key feature of these partnerships is that they seem to be organised around a shared perception of a challenge faced by society. Executive Summary.


  • A major enabling factor is the willingness of persons to view themselves as agents with a responsibility towards society.

Appropriate skills

  • The development of appropriate skills is shown to be an important factor in enabling persons to bring about change.

Personal support structures

  • Even though not an explicit feature of all the case studies, the enabling role of personal support structures in enabling individuals to facilitate change should be mentioned.