SHRM Foundation Research
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SHRM Foundation Research

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Towards Understanding Effective Corporate Leadership and Motivation in Africa

Funded: December 2012     Completed: March 2014

Terri Lituchy, PhD., University of the West Indies, Barbados, and Concordia University, Canada
Betty Jane Punett, Ph.D., University of the West Indies
David Ford, Ph.D., University of Texas, Dallas

Executive Summary
This project addresses an important current issue in HRM for both academics and practitioners: leadership and motivation in Africa.  The study identified effective leadership and motivation approaches which derive from and are applicable in Africa. Based on qualitative and quantitative research, Dr. Terri Lituchy and her LEAD research team found differences in effective leadership in Africa that is not common in western research or business. We develop surveys and models sensitive to culture and its relationship to leadership and motivation in the African context. These models are intended to inform the preparation of indigenous training and development programs for use by HR practitioners in African countries.


Statistical analyses confirmed that empowerment (LEBQ, alpha=.716);  Servant alpha=.942); and Transformational (alpha=.982) leadership is important in Africa. All of the model fits were significantly sound.  Additional analyses found that 15 factors explained 74% of the variance in the data.   These included being a big man, religion and spirituality, and Ubuntu that are not included in Western measures of leadership. We now have a survey that is culturally appropriate for Africa.

Our findings will assist in leadership and motivation initiatives. We believe the development of leadership capacity hinges on the availability of leadership exemplars and understandings that tackle leadership effectiveness from the context in which the leader(s) function. This is germane for the matter of motivation as well. Attempts by managers to implement motivation for employees in organizations when the nature of motivation itself is not fully understood can lead to problems, and a lack of motivation. The findings will assist towards developing theories of motivation and leadership that speak to the African circumstance and lead to building training and development programs to improve leadership and motivation in African countries. We believe that this, in turn, will improve productivity and performance in these countries. These results will inform managers in terms of their own leadership practices as well as in the development and implementation of motivational approaches. It will also be used to build training and development programs to assist HR professionals in improving HR practices in the companies they serve.

The results of the LEAD study will contribute substantially to HR practice. For example, our research suggests that basic needs are key to motivation in an African context. This is not surprising given the relative poverty in many countries in Africa. It suggests that some simple “rewards”, such as the provision of subsidized meals at the worksite would be a substantial motivator. HR professionals can use results such as this to investigate the impact of providing subsidized meals on attendance, performance and turnover. The costs and benefits of providing subsidized meals are quantifiable and can be evaluated by HRM departments. Similarly, our initial results suggest the importance of the male in leadership positions. This suggests the need for training programs to encourage greater gender/management equality. HR professionals can use research such as this to develop relevant programs.

Study Methods
The LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Motivation in Africa and the Diaspora) study employed both qualitative (Delphi Technique and Focus Group) and quantitative (Survey) research methods to examine Effective Corporate Leadership and Motivation in Africa. The Canadian Diaspora/African respondents was composed of 164 people, with mean age of 27.86 (SD = 9.49); 50.6% of the sample was female. The sample was composed of participants from Canada (38.4%), Ghana (23.2%), Uganda (10.4%), Kenya (7.3%), China (4.9%), and small numbers of other countries (10.9%). The survey that was was composed of: the leader empowering behavior questionnaire (LEBQ) (Konczak, Stelly, & Trusty, 2000); Page & Wong’s servant leadership scale (Dennis & Winston 2003); and Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, & Fetter’s (1990) transformational leadership scale; as well as 45 items from the qualitative results not found in western scales.

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