I have a long believed that the foremost challenge in the countries in African is not a resources but a leadership vacuum. Resources do matter and what’s of greater concern is how resources are developed and managed. Natural resource reservoirs are plentiful in many countries in Africa along with some of the necessary conditions needed to positively impact people’s livelihoods. Why aren’t the able countries experiencing radical changes, one might ask? One word, leadership! Granted certain challenges like infrastructure, policy and so-forth are often found wanting, but it’s people with passion, vision, character and competence who can take on such issues. The lack of leadership is not only at a national governance level; the leadership trap is also a challenge for ordinary Ugandans, teachers in class rooms and Pastors of churches.
As I prepare for my next trip to Uganda, I am thinking about the logistics necessary for another round of numerous meetings with a group of Pastors, educators and business owners about leadership. I have met with many pastors before to dialogue about the challenges they face in ministry and leadership is one of the items on their list. If leaders are not born how are they made? Any answers to such an inquiry will need to consider the Ugandan cultural context since any attempts towards tackling leadership issues in Uganda will be amiss to ignore the nature of leadership styles in Uganda and African. A relevant example is how the idea of Western democracy has struggled to take root in post-colonial African countries. The Western African country of Senegal has been a flag ship of a Western democratic leadership style in Africa, but the recent presidential election period in Senegal exposed how vulnerable western democracy leadership style can be.
Like the governments in most countries in Africa, the Christian church struggles with the notion of leadership. What theory or model works best? What is biblical leadership and are leaders necessary? In Ramsey’s presentation titled Leadership without Leaders, she addresses “the conceptual problem with leader” She notes that the concept of leaders assumes subject-object relation where a knowing, active subject acts upon a knowable and passive object. It ignores the relational performance, or social construction of social phenomena such as leadership.
Ramsey raises yet another dimension of concern about the concept of leaders. I was intrigued by the idea that the understanding of the concept of “leaders” could be problematic. Ramsey’s thought has got implications for the growing movement of leadership development. Is it better to focus on managers rather than leaders? Both are important, but I believe that a major area to focus on, is how managers and leaders learn and are taught.
In another article Ramsey discusses the use of provocative theory in management practice. I believe that a relational approach in training leaders and managers’ which is developed from within Uganda, can assist in grappling the leadership in the cultural context in Uganda. According to Ramsey, provocative theory is “… a relational process rather than a type of academic thinking and is seen as a process whereby academic theory stimulates, incites and promotes changed practice as learning.”
The provocative theory can be adaptable to the Uganda context and may facilitate discuss on how people learn while in practice. This allows for application and testing of theories, content and frameworks as to whether they work or not. A provocative approach can also be disruptive to the traditional approach to leadership where a leader takes charge, depends of explanation and sense making, provides direction for followers and manages them. For example the traditional model is used in most churches in Uganda where the main leader is the senior Pastor, as it is with the president of most countries. In response to conventional leadership, McCrimmon also contributes to Ramsey’s thought by writing:
It holds up impossible acts to follow as the paradigm cases of leadership, then it defines leadership in terms of powerful, inspiring influencing skills and, finally, it says anyone can learn to be like that. Traditional leadership theory creates employee dependency on managers for direction, which hinders employee involvement in generation of new ideas and innovations.
After this week’s reading assignments, I have more items to put on the discussion table with the Pastors in Ugandan and other people in positions of influence in regards to leadership, leaders and managers. I am eager to have a robust conversation about the use of power in the dominant and traditional leadership perspective. McCrimmon show: “the paternal model of leadership is a colossal waste of human energy in a complex, competitive world where all employees must be fully functioning adults able to make independent, confident decisions”
What do you think?
Caroline Ramsey “Leadership without Leaders”, accessed March 9, 2015, https://sites.google.com/a/georgefox.edu/lgp4-dmin-mod4/archive
 Carolyn Ramsey, “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice” Open Research Online 45, no. 5 (2012), 2. accessed March 9, 2015, https://sites.google.com/a/georgefox.edu/lgp4-dmin-mod4/archive
 Mtich, McCrimmon. Burn! 7 leadership myths to ashes. (Toronto, ON: Self Renewal Group. 2006), 82.