Definition of Leadership in Africa within the Twenty-first Century Context: Empirical Research on Leadership in Africa

Main Article Content

Matete Lerutla
Renier Steyn


Orientation: Leadership is a widely used construct and there are numerous articles across multiple disciplines. In the past few years there has been growing interest to investigate the construct of leadership in Africa. Much of what is written is conceptual, and empirical articles on African leadership remain sparse. Research purpose: This paper reports on the findings of the systematic literature review that was conducted on leadership in Africa. The paper presents a qualitative review of empirical research highlighting key findings and implications for future research. Research method: The research investigation followed the traditional body of knowledge framework of concepts, statements, definitions, and conceptual frameworks to systemize reports on leadership in Africa. Articles were identified, selected and analysed using the systematic literature review methodology. Articles, statements, definitions, models, typologies, theories, and paradigms were explored and interrogated in each article to understand how they are linked to leadership in Africa. Main findings: A total of 96 articles were retrieved from eight electronic search engines. Following the application of inclusion and exclusion criteria, only thirteen articles met the set criteria - suggesting that little empirical research is conducted on leadership. The findings illustrated the extent of paucity of empirical research on leadership in Africa and clearly indicate a definite need to investigate it, and then to build on the understanding of African leadership through empirical research. The published articles showed that the concept of African leadership is seldom defined, measure-ments are typical of the Western tradition, and that the set hypotheses do not include the African context. Furthermore, no Africa-specific models or theories are presented. The positivist paradigm was most often used in the research. Practical implications: The literature review has provided an understanding of the extent of the lack of empirical work around leadership in Africa. There is a definite need for systematic empirical work to explore what leadership means in Africa, and to build the concept of African leadership as a concrete scientific construct. The paper concludes by providing suggestions on how to bridge the gap towards understanding leadership in Africa.

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How to Cite
Lerutla, M., & Steyn, R. (2017). Definition of Leadership in Africa within the Twenty-first Century Context: Empirical Research on Leadership in Africa. Alternation Journal, (20), 9-36. Retrieved from
Author Biographies

Matete Lerutla, University of South Africa

Renier Steyn, University of South Africa