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This time from Africa: developing a relational approach to values-driven leadership

Read the full paper here (open access) co-written with Mollie Painter and Jo-Anna Russon published in the Journal of Business Ethics (2020).



There is a tacit assumption that Western approaches to leadership development suffice in supporting African leaders in their role as champions of values-driven business, and this may underpin both theory and practice within African and other non-Western contexts.


Even more disturbingly, this absence may also reflect persistent colonial and neo-colonial biases in favour of Western philosophical tradition in ethics education on the African continent (see Nkomo 2011; Murphy and Zhu 2012; Alcadipani et al. 2012; Smith 2013, for general discussions of these issues in management and research).


In response to these risks, we will illustrate that:


There is much to be learned from the African context’s diversity and richness in terms of underlying philosophical basis and empirical developments that could inform and enhance business ethics theory, practice and education more broadly.

Our paper develops the importance of relationality in ethical leadership, an issue that has been the focus of recent attention in business ethics scholarship. However, this relational component has not been sufficiently theorized from different philosophical perspectives, allowing specific Western philosophical conceptions to dominate the leadership development literature.


We aim to broaden Western conceptions of leadership development by drawing on twentieth century European philosophy’s insights on relationality, but more importantly, to show how African philosophical traditions, namely Ubuntu, precede this literature in its insistence on a relational ontology of the self.

To illustrate our theoretical argument, we reflect on an executive education course called values-driven leadership into action, which ran in South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt in 2016, 2017, and 2018. We highlight an African-inspired employment of relationality through its use of the ME-WE-WORLD framework, articulating its theoretical assumptions with embodied experiential learning.


Read the full paper here (open access) co-written with Mollie Painter and Jo-Anna Russon published in the Journal of Business Ethics (2020).




This paper is part of a broader research project, partly financed by a Visiting Fellowship Grant of the British Academy. Other publications will follow, subscribe for updates below.  



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