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Expert advice for the next generation of African leaders
October 18, 2017

Strong leadership will unlock Africa’s potential.

That was the message that came out of a discussion between pan-African telecommunications magnate Norman Moyo and public health expert Dr. Helene Gayle at this year’s Mandela Washington Fellows Summit. They sat down to share their tenets on leadership with some of the continent’s brightest young up-and-comers.

These are some of their top tips for Africa’s leaders of tomorrow:

Lead with values

“If you want to be a successful leader in Africa,” Moyo advised, “you must be clear on your values.”

This is vital, he said, calling a lack of values in leadership a cancer eating up public and private sectors across Africa.

Communicating these values from the top is key, he said, to make sure they carry down the chain of command.

“I don’t like losing sleep wondering if there is any ‘hanky-panky’ going on with a business deal.”

Woman sitting at conference in front of flags of Africa
Woman sitting at conference in front of flags of Africa

Lead through risk-taking

Gayle noted that leadership doesn’t only come from the top down, but from actions taken.

Early in her career, Gayle worked on HIV and AIDS prevention for the U.S. federal government at a time when officials didn’t want to loudly acknowledge the disease in public.

“I took some calculated risks,” she said. “At times I was called on the carpet for being outspoken on the issues, but I always had my facts together.”

She was careful never to act out of spite for her organization or leadership. “I did it because I felt that if I did not get out there and talk about these issues, then people’s lives were in the balance.”

She said this was the proper motivation that made the risk worth it.

“I think getting into trouble isn’t a bad thing if you’re doing it for a good reason, particularly if you’re doing it for an important cause that’s bigger than yourself.”

Lead with empathy

Man sitting at conference in front of flags of Africa
Man sitting at conference in front of flags of Africa

Both Moyo and Gayle spoke on the importance of interpersonal skills in community leadership.

Moyo said leaders must align their objectives with the community’s needs.

“What are your people, your stakeholders, your community members most passionate about?” he asked. “You’ve got to find that, whatever business you run, because if you connect with them in that way, they’ll follow you.”

Gayle spoke about the servant leadership model, which sees the leader’s role as enabling other people instead of empowering themselves.

“I think people are willing to follow leaders who they feel are actually there to serve their interests,” she said about the importance of empathy in leadership.

“People follow a passionate leader who speaks to their needs and follows through on their execution,” Moyo concluded.