In the last six decades of sub-Sahara Africa’s post-colonial history, there has been a vacuum of good leadership to steer Africa towards a developed economy and a continent of harnessed potential and real financial independence.
It is no doubt that transformational leadership is the blueprint for that leadership that will take Africa to its “Promised Land” (Okrah, 2015)
As a young leader, I have been inspired to implement change in my society through transformational leadership. However, reading the eleventh chapter of the book, “From Third World to First”by Lee Kuan Yew has introduced a new perspective in my approach to transformational leadership and change.
In this article, I share my thoughts about transformational leadership and culture citing lessons from the books, “From Third World to First” and “Transformational Leadership”.
Lee realized at a point that although he had seen transformational change in his life, he and his wife were completely deculturalized and they did not want to replicate that effect on the people in their leadership. Lee’s strong desire to transform Singapore’s educational system, coupled with his knowledge on the effects of the change on the culture and management of the people, informed his decision to ensure the right balance between his intended change and the need to preserve their culture.
Culture refers to the ways of life of the members of society, or of groups within a society. It includes how they dress, their marriage customs, language and family life, their patterns of work, religious ceremonies and. leisure pursuits (Giddens, 2005).
“As these changes were taking place, I feared we were losing something valuable in the Chinese school system. I wanted to preserve what was good in the Chinese schools: the discipline, self-confidence, and moral and social values they instilled in their students, based on Chinese traditions, values, and culture. We had to transmit these same values to students in the new bilingual schools or we would deculturalize them.” From the Third World to The First, Page 153.
The quest to maintain the right balance in the culture and transformational change must first start with you. Transformational leaders must thoroughly assess the implications of their change initiatives on people’s social and cultural lives. This will enable them to strike the right balance between development and culture. Although the we must change, we cannot lose the rich moral and social values our culture affords us – most importantly, our identity as Africans.
As a leader, finding yourself in a culturally diverse setting like Lee Kuan Yew did will pose a lot of ethnocentrism challenges. It is necessary to exercise fairness. Leaders in their dealings with people should remember the words of Lee Kuan Yew that says, “many tongues, one language“- page 144.
Before I leave, I will like you to reflect on the following questions:
1. What must change in my leadership context?
2. What will change because of my leadership?
Author: Richard Nyarko,
Central Leadership Program Cohort 2.