Adaptive leaders redefining success in Africa

11 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Adaptive leaders redefining success in Africa

The Sunday Mail

Stephene Chikozho

Big Business Ideas

AFRICA — with its rich tapestry of cultures, languages and histories — presents a unique mosaic of leadership styles that have significantly shaped its path towards business growth, governance and development.

From transformational leaders who inspire change to authoritarian business figures who command with an iron fist, the continent’s leadership landscape is as diverse as its people.

This article delves into the adaptive leadership style that has emerged across Africa, highlighting its impact and the lessons it offers.

The future is adaptive

The African continent, with its unique blend of challenges and opportunities, has become fertile ground for adaptive leaders who are not only navigating the complexities of the global market, but also driving significant socio-economic transformations within their communities.

Perhaps it is imperative to unpack adaptive leadership and the features that underpin its success in various African scenarios.

Adaptive leadership — a model that emphasises flexibility, collaborative problem-solving and responsiveness to change — is increasingly seen as a beacon of hope for the continent’s future.

Across Africa, leaders in various sectors are recognising the limitations of traditional, top-down approaches in addressing contemporary issues.

From the bustling tech hubs of Nairobi to the corridors of governmental institutions in Addis Ababa, there is growing consensus that adaptive leadership is not just beneficial, but also essential for progress.

Empowering communities and embracing change

At the heart of adaptive leadership is the belief that challenges should be tackled through the collective efforts of individuals at all levels, not just by those in positions of authority. This approach is particularly relevant in Africa, where community ties are strong and local knowledge is invaluable.

In rural Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia, for example, adaptive leadership has led to remarkable advancements in sustainable agriculture.

Farmers, local leaders and non-governmental organisations have collaborated to develop farming techniques that are not only more productive, but also more resilient to climate change.

Through valuing the input of the community and adapting to the environmental realities, these initiatives have ensured food security for thousands.

Innovating for a better tomorrow

The tech sector in Africa is another arena where adaptive leadership is making waves.

Young entrepreneurs and innovators are at the forefront of solving some of the continent’s most pressing problems, from failure to access healthcare to financial exclusion.

Through fostering a culture of experimentation and learning from failure, these leaders are driving Africa’s digital revolution.

A notable example is the rise of mobile money, a technology that has transformed economies across the continent.

Adaptive leaders in the fintech industry have worked closely with regulators, telecom companies and users to refine and expand their services, demonstrating a keen ability to navigate complex systems for widespread benefit.

Rebecca Enonchong, a Cameroonian tech entrepreneur and founder of AppsTech, champions adaptive leadership by advocating greater representation of women in technology, both in Africa and globally.

Her efforts underscore the importance of diversity and inclusion in building robust, innovative businesses.

In the face of rapid technological changes and economic fluctuations, adaptive leadership has become increasingly important. Adaptive leaders are those who can navigate challenges with agility, making swift decisions and adjustments as circumstances evolve.

Douglas Hoto — an accomplished Zimbabwean business leader, celebrated actuarial scientist and group chief executive officer of First Mutual Holdings Limited — has exemplified adaptive leadership by steering the insurance business through Southern Africa’s complex regulatory and economic landscapes in Zimbabwe, Botswana and beyond, demonstrating the power of flexibility and resilience.

Facing challenges head-on

Despite its promise, the path to embedding adaptive leadership in Africa’s fabric is not without obstacles. Resistance to change, limited resources and external pressures can hinder efforts to adopt more collaborative and flexible leadership approaches.

However, the successes witnessed thus far provide a compelling case for persistence. By continuing to foster environments where adaptive leadership can thrive, Africa cannot only address its current challenges, but also build the capacity to tackle future ones.

A call to action

As Africa continues to assert its position on the global stage, the continent’s business leaders will play a pivotal role in shaping its economic future. The need for adaptive leadership has never been more acute.

It calls for a shift in mindset from all stakeholders — universities, governments, businesses, civil society and the international community — to support and cultivate leaders who are ready to navigate the continent’s complexities with agility and vision.

The journey ahead is undoubtedly daunting, but with adaptive leadership lighting the way, Africa’s future looks brighter and more resilient than ever.


 Stephene Chikozho is the managing director of Urbane Create Agency — a strategy, marketing and advertising agency. He writes in his personal capacity. You can follow him on social media (Instagram, Facebook, X, LinkedIn, Threads, WhatsApp: +263772409651) or email: managingdirector@


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