Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Cross Cultural Analyses Theory A: Preliminary Perspectives on an African Model of Leadership

Theory A: Preliminary Perspectives on an African Model of Leadership

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Over the past century, numerous theories and models of leadership have been explored, expounded and promulgated by businessmen and women, management gurus and organizational consultants. These theories have typically been based on the wisdom accumulated in Western societies, usually American and Northern European. The one notable exception to this tradition is the so-called “Theory Z” concept of leadership which was based on Japanese management practices. (Ouchi, 1981) Many of the so-called “Japanese” strategies of leadership and management that Ouchi proposed in his book on “Theory Z” actually originally came from American consultants who were working in Japanese companies. However, there was a sufficiently unique perspective being offered by Ouchi to make his work valuable to leaders in American and European institutions.

Theories X to Z

Ouchi’s “Theory Z” built on the work of Douglas McGregor (1960). In his now-classic book on the “professional manager,” McGregor proposed that most American managers operate from a “Theory X’ perspective which, in tum, builds on the assumption that workers are inherently nonmotivated and that leaders and managers should be engaged primarily in monitoring work and motivating employees. McGregor offered a second perspective on management and leadership, which he labeled “Theory Y.” This perspective is founded on the assumption that workers are inherently interested in their work, that employees take pride in high quality performance, and that leaders and managers need only provide direction and support. Ouchi expanded on McGregor’s Theory Y by introducing the concept of team and collaborative organizational culture-­ characteristics that are prevalent in many Japanese organizations.

Obviously, there are many other societies and cultures in the world from which we can gain wisdom regarding effective leadership and management. This breadth of wisdom is particularly important given the movement to globalization in both the nature of resources that are available to contemporary organizations and the threats that are being faced by organizations and societies. It is imperative that we gain a clearer sense of how leaders operate in other parts of the world.

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