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Ubuntu And Its Influence On Leadership Commerce Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Commerce
Wordcount: 5451 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This research will focuses on how Ubuntu can influence and be applied to leadership strategy management and implementation in the hospitality industry of South Africa. It is therefore important in this research to understand the differences between leadership and management in order to have a clear understanding on the influence of Ubuntu in the Hospitality industry of South Africa.

Adair (2006) explains that leadership is of the spirit compounded of personality and vision and he illustrates that management as a trend of the mind more of an accurate methods, calculation and routine. This is to say that leadership is the understanding and sharing of a common purpose without which there can be no effective leadership. Adair believes that management is to manage change and leadership is to manage growth. In this research paper it will be established if the Ubuntu style of leadership and management can bring about any strategy in management and nurturing of growth within an organisation in the hospitality industry.

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The main purpose of this research study is to realise the influence and determine the impact of Ubuntu in leadership in strategy management and implementation. Because the style of Ubuntu leadership and management involves the leading of an organisation by departing from the hierarchically structured management relations and rather introduces a cooperative and supportive form of leadership in which collective solidarity of the group is employed and respected (Prinsloo 1998).


The principle of knowledge within the fields of management, strategy and leadership theories and practice has been developed and adopted mainly from the Western capitalist principles, with leading thinkers in the field being mainly of European or American dissent. These thoughts have then been ‘exported’ beyond American or Western boundaries as trade has moved from being multinational, through international to global, and practices such as international outsourcing have become more widespread. While some areas of Asia, mostly India, may be both responsive and adaptive to some of these Western practices, other areas of Asia and Africa as a whole are not so. This paper offers contextual understanding of how the Concept of Ubuntu or Ubuntu leadership can be able to influence on strategy management and implementation in an organization with a case study of the Hospitality industry.

The Western world has mostly underpinned and still continues on supplying leadership, implementation and strategic management ideas; this is through the political systems, and economic infrastructures to Africa, since the time of the colonial times to present. Though seemingly with good intentions, these Western theories that are continuously being used in organizations (business) in Africa have not achieved their desired outcomes because many Africans find it difficult to relate to them, having to sacrifice their authenticity in order to fully embrace such Western ideals. Thus the need to find out if Ubuntu kind of leadership and management can serve the purpose of indigenous Africa to fully embrace it.

This now places an interest for the need to understand the Ubuntu context as well as the indigenous thought system and, in particular, the perspective of the Ubuntu worker.


The hierarchical organizational structure in every business structure will always reflect the organized coordination which ensures that the goals and objectives of the said entity are is achieved. The aim of this proposal is to investigate the Ubuntu leadership style used in the Hospitality industry. It is very cardinal to find out if Ubuntu style has a great influence in good leadership, strategy management and implementation. It is also of great importance to discover if this kind of leadership style can achieve both the institutional and the individual’s objectives and goals. The other important reason for this investigation is to find out whether or not the leaders and managers in these institutions are motivated to improve their work-place. All these issues will be investigated through answering the following questions:


The objective of this research paper is to determine the degree to which Ubuntu leadership style can influence the strategy management and implementation in a hospitality industry of South Africa.

How does the Ubuntu leadership style impact on the outcome of the strategy management and implementation process in a Hospitality organization?


Below are the sub-problems which have been identified to be ideal with the main problem and gain insight into the role that Ubuntu leadership plays in the strategy management and implementation process.

Does the research literature reveal the existence of any significant of Ubuntu leadership style to be more beneficial and influential in terms of strategy management and implementation in South African Companies?

Does the research literature reveal the existence of a significant relationship between Ubuntu style and strategy management in South African industries?


The aim is to discover how Ubuntu leadership can influence strategy management and implementation in an organisation. Thompson, Strickland and Gamble (2005: 32 – 34) states that crafting a strategy, no matter how complex a task is substantially easier than successfully implementing one. Strategy formulation is primarily an intellectual and creative act involving analysis and synthesis. Implementation is a hands-on, operations and action orientated activity that calls for leadership and managerial skills. Therefore Ubuntu leadership style often entails a change in corporate direction and therefore frequently requires a focus on effecting strategic change.

Implementation is historically a top-management responsibility closing strategic capability gaps and making sure a company maintains strategic focus. Strategy formulation and implementation are linked through learning (de Kluyver and Pearce, 2003: 125-126). Grant (2002: 526) mentions, “New organizational structures and strategic priorities point to new models of leadership….. So the question is can Ubuntu style stand to the task to play the role of top management by communicating effectively and formation of new strategies?

It is said that good leadership in today’s organizations calls for actively involving everyone in the organization, leaders are still ultimately responsible for establishing direction through vision and strategy (Daft. 2005: 535). Thus the concept of Ubuntu can surely apply.

The results of this research will be analysed to place emphasis on the combination of leadership styles required by a transformational and transactional leader during the strategic planning process.


The research might face the difficulty of determining when the categories are saturated or when the theory is sufficiently detailed (Creswell, 1998: 58). The grounded theory has been critical for its failure to acknowledge implicit theories which guide work at an early stage.

The limitation of this theory will be taken into consideration throughout the research and data analysis because there has never been any method in social science without being criticised. Every possible out come will be taken to ensure the rigid conformity to the principles.


1.6.1 UBUNTU

The doctrine of Ubuntu has been used in almost all the parts of Africa. This culture has been of Doctrine has been most used and applied in South Africa. Most Academic commentators have pointed out the philosophical notion classification known as Ubuntu, which symbolises the beliefs, values, and behaviours of a large majority of the South African population.

Ubuntu is defined by Mangaliso (2001) as “humaneness–a pervasive spirit of caring and community, harmony and hospitality, respect and responsiveness–that individuals and groups display for one another. Ubuntu is the foundation for the basic values that manifest themselves in the ways African people think and behave towards each other and everyone else they encounter” (Mangaliso, 2001:24). Ubuntu has been viewed to be one of the most critical values in the African culture as a whole, and it is believed that this practice on the basis of management can be harmonious with the peoples of Africa. But the question still needs to answered is can Ubuntu can it compete and be of any advantage universally (Mbigi, 2005; Mangaliso, 2001).


Leadership has been well defined by Gray (2004) that it is managing the performance of others in any organised set up (Gray, 2004: 76). Conceivably the commonest constituent of definitions found in the literature concerns exercising influence in one way or another. This is quite clear since it implies that the exercisers of power should be able to have some ideas of their own about what they want to achieve, or what they want other individuals to do. In other words, they have vision, and are proactive in trying to turn that vision into reality by involving other people.


Strategic leadership is defined by Daft (2008) as follows; “The ability to anticipate and envision the future, maintain flexibility, think strategically and initiate changes that will create a competitive advantage for the organization in the future” (Daft, 2008: 511). The other definition of strategic Leadership is of Dubrin (2004) which provides a clearer picture of the concept of strategic leadership. This definition of Dubrin helps to understand the necessity and effectiveness of carrying out strategic management. He defines it as a “Strategic management refers to the process of ensuring a competitive fit between the organization and its environment” (Dubrin, 2004: 401).


Managing culture is another element of leadership. It is the entrepreneurial leader’s role to shape the organizational culture by setting example, the norms, standards and defining the values of the organization. Rossouw, Le Roux and Groenewald (2003: 167) state that managers often find it difficult to think that there could be a relationship between an organization’s culture and its strategy.


It is assumed that for this study, the respondents of the questionnaires will answer all questions as openly and honesty as possible. The respondents will answer the questionnaires on their own and that, the questionnaires will not be completed in groups or influenced by other people or respondents. The respondents will answer the questionnaire in one sitting. All employees are ready and willing to be a part of the project work. All respondents will have technical and operational experience in their area of work. The results from this study which is focused on a particular sector (Hospitality industry) can be used in other organisation with the same Style of Ubuntu leadership in strategy management and implementation.



The evolution and progression of indigenous management theories and practices in Africa has been seriously affected and hindered by colonialism. The imposing of colonial administration was introduced by the western countries, and their management theories and practices are considered as the engine and the universal remedy for the continent’s socio-politico-economic development. The Western education, scholarship and prose generally diminished and denounced the astonishing management competency and practices of early African civilizations; this is evidenced, for example, in the building of the great Egyptian pyramids. It is assumed that these so called “foreign management systems” generally failed to achieve the desired results as they discountenanced African cultural inertia and social milieu. The paper addresses the development and effective if Ubuntu leadership style in Strategy management and implementation. Ubuntu leadership is an African management philosophy, which is rooted in the African cultures, value system and beliefs, to provide the practical way for the efficient and effective running of organizations in Africa, with the aim of having a global competitiveness. The Ubuntu leadership style or the “new management techniques” known by different scholars, puts much of its emphasis on humanness, communalism and African patriotism, and it provides the veritable starting point for the development of indigenous African management philosophy.


A number of African researchers today have embarked on the advocacy for the indigenous African management philosophy that would serve the need of the African continent. In South Africa today, there is an emergency of a philosophical thought system derived from African culture, beliefs, and values and behaviours known as Ubuntu, (Ubuntu is a Bantu word meaning, broadly, sharing and community). Mangaliso (2001) defines Ubuntu as “humaneness – a pervasive spirit of caring and community, harmony and hospitality, respect and responsiveness – that individuals and groups display for one another. Ubuntu is the foundation for the basic values that manifest themselves in the ways African people think and behave towards each other and everyone else they encounter”( Mangaliso, 2001: 24). According to Poovan, du Toit and Engelbrecht (2006) Ubuntu philosophy permits administrators, leaders and managers to tap into the familiar African values to build and reinforce their work environment effectively by:

Teaming up and organizing resources for survival – this maintains productivity and effectiveness which deeply depends on shared values and individual contribution: it encourages focus on communal (and differences) with reliance to minimize threat to survival through conflict;

creating of unified situations – the spirit of solidarity, that is, mutual regard among members and individual adhesion to the group; create situations defined by ‘group’ behaviours – sit together, focus, on each other, co-ordinate behaviour;

it enhances social oneness and participation – sets up informal opportunities based on traditional ‘pal abre’ – central village location for gatherings, activities, mediation, decisions, events and rituals.

Thus Ubuntu is considered to be an important value of African culture that can form the foundation of African management (Ubuntu leadership) philosophy that is in tune with the peoples of Africa. Though the proponent of Ubuntu leadership have argued that the concept was created as a system of management practice, for competitive advantage and to command a universal appeal beyond the shores of the continent (Mbigi, 2005; Mangaliso, 2001). Mangaliso (2001) suggests that: “Incorporating Ubuntu principles in management hold the promise of superior approaches to managing organizations. Organizations infused with humanness, a pervasive spirit of caring and community, harmony and hospitality, respect and responsiveness will enjoy more sustainable competitive advantage” (Mangaliso 2001: 32).

Therefore, Ubuntu leadership system emphasizes on teamwork, attention to relationships, mutual respect and empathy between leader and followers, and participative decision-making. These are very fundamental principles of management, which hold promise for improving organization activities and functioning in South Africa and Africa at large.



The distinctive feature about Ubuntu governance is an indigenous democracy with very deep African cultures that had emerged from African traditional institutions and practices. The hallmark of African traditional governance is the focus on collective stewardship (collectivism), freedom of expression, grass-roots participation, consultation, discussion and consensus to accommodate minority needs and views (holism). The emphasis was not just on majority views but also on compromise and accommodation. The focus was on the need to reach an acceptable consensus through discussions to accommodate minority groups and views in order to avoid majority group dictatorship. This was essential because the traditional African political institution was characterized by the cultural diversity of tribes and clans, which did not disappear as a result of majority rule (Mbigi, 1997:22).

This autocratic leadership style expects subordinates to be submissive and obedient. Because leadership in modern Africa is authoritarian and politicized (Kiggundu, 1988:226; Jaeger & Kanunzo, 1990; 17; Blunt & Jones, 1992: 6-23), such autocratic leadership styles, by expecting subordinates to be submissive and obedient, may stifle innovativeness and impede community motivation and Ubuntu.


For every industry especially in the Hospitality business, leadership basically deals with the human relations where problem solving, communication and decision making are promoted and cultivated. Leithwood and Mcleah (1987) indicate that highly effective leaders know many forms of decision-making are skilled in their use and are situationally sensitive in their selection of a particular approach to decision-making (Leithwood and Mcleah, 1987:35). They are thus very analytical and rational in the way they perceive and perform their functions. Basson and Smith (1991) allude to the fact that effective leaders can be selected or trained. It is also useful to think of leadership as a generic term which refers to the process characterized by the interrelationships among people as they work together in the formation and achievement of shared goals (Basson and Smith, 1991:148). Hallinger et al. (1989:9) claim that leadership in an industrial worldview influences people by developing a clear mission that provides an instructional focus for people throughout the community. Leadership does not reside exclusively with the chief or president; in fact Weber (1989:217) identifies the need to develop ‘shared leadership’ in the community (Weber, 1989:217). One of the current shifts in thinking regarding leadership is a shift from an instructional to a transformational leadership. Brandt (1992:3) declared that because of change and democracy ‘instructional leadership is out; … transformational leadership is in’. Such leadership is ‘leadership for change’ (Brandt, 1992:3).

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Another important aspect in hospitality industry’s leadership is the shared vision. There is the discipline for translating individual vision into shared vision. People should feel free to express their dreams, but also learn how to listen to each other’s dream. The fundamental role of leadership in Ubuntu setup is to create connotative meaning through significant but important rituals and ceremonies. Mbigi (1997) highlights that in traditional African communities the ultimate test of leadership maturity in terms of training and development is determined by the ease with which a new leader carries out rituals and ceremonies (Mbigi, 1997:19). It is through well-designed rituals and ceremonies that leaders can effectively manage collective meaning and collective trust. It is not just an intellectual journey. It is a symbolic and emotional as well as a spiritual journey. Therefore effective leadership in Ubuntu requires people to have convivial experiences by digging deep into their emotional and spiritual resources. This may be equivalent to the mission and vision in a Hospitality industry and an industrial worldview.

The sense of Ubuntu leadership system is to enhance governance, collective solidarity, respect, human dignity and the right to freedom of expression, as well as collective trust and compassion. Ubuntu is central to indigenous governance systems and can be central to modern governance.


There are several basic management principles derived from African tribal communities that embody this philosophy, including trust, interdependence and spiritualism (Mbigi & Maree, 2005). In the African management system context, the African Ubuntu philosophy represents humanness, a pervasive spirit of caring within the community in which the individuals in the community love one another. This Ubuntu approach plays a pivotal role in determining the success of any African organisation (Mangaliso, 2001:32). Ubuntu transcends the narrow confines of the nuclear family to include the extended kinship network that is omnipresent in many African communities. As a philosophy, Ubuntu is an orientation to life that stands in contrast to rampant individualism, insensitive competitiveness, and unilateral decision-making. The Ubuntu teachings are pervasive at all ages, in families, organisations and communities living in Africa.



Afrocentricity encompasses African history, traditions, culture, mythology, and the value systems of communities, according to Khoza (in Mangaliso, 2001:278-279), the Chairperson of Eskom, the supplier of electricity in South Africa. Khoza believes that corporations in Africa will be successful if they adopt the Ubuntu management and leadership styles, which are people-centred. It is perhaps telling that Eskom registered an after-tax profit of R5.2 billion over a period of 15 months up to the end of March 2005 after the corporation had adopted the Ubuntu management philosophy (Broodryk, 2005:17).

Similarly, Wolmarans (1995:4) reports that South African Airways (SAA) adopted an Ubuntu management system in 1994. Since then, the African Ubuntu philosophy has been a driving force in the company. The secret behind its success has been the publicly stated core values of South African Airways – these include corporate performance, customer orientation, employee care, corporate citizenship, integrity, safety, innovation and teamwork, which are all embodied in the Ubuntu management philosophy. Improved results demonstrate that culture and leadership style play pivotal roles towards the achievement of set goals and strategies of an organisation.

Emerging African management philosophies see an organisation as a community and can be summed up in one word – Ubuntu (Mbigi & Maree, 2005:v-vi). An African Ubuntu management system recognises the significance of group solidarity that is prevalent in African cultures, acknowledging that an African leadership style involves group and community supportiveness, sharing and cooperation. Ubuntu-based leadership dictates sharing burdens during hard times, because by doing so, suffering is also shared and diminished. What is distinctive about the Ubuntu philosophy is the premise of a short memory of hate (Mazrui, 2001). Africans teach children to communicate effectively, reconcile, and find ways to cleanse and let go of hatred and give the children skills to do so. The Ubuntu approach to life enables people to express continued compassion and Perseverance within communities and institutions.


African organisations can build cooperation and competitive strategies by allowing teamwork based on Ubuntu principles to permeate the organisation (Mbigi & Maree, 2005:93). As a people-centred philosophy, Ubuntu stipulates that a person’s worth depends on social, cultural and spiritual criteria. It requires a life that depends on a normative engagement with the community, a substantive appreciation of the common good and a constitutive engagement with one another in a rational and ethical community.

In this way, in order for a person to be identified as a true African, community and communality are substantive prerequisites. Communalism and collectivism are essential to the spirit of the African Ubuntu philosophy. Equally important in Ubuntu relationships is the aspect of working with others as a team (English, 2002:197; Poovan et al., 2006:17). A spirit of solidarity simultaneously supports cooperation and competitiveness amongst the team by allowing individuals to contribute their best efforts for the betterment of the entire group.

In a team setting, the existence of Ubuntu as a shared value system implies that team members are encouraged to strive towards the outlined team values, which consequently enhance their functioning together as a team (Poovan et al.,

2006:25; Van den Heuvel et al., 2006:48). The team is brought one step closer to being effective because of the increased level of team members’ commitment, loyalty and satisfaction, which ultimately has a positive impact on overall

performance. Thus, management systems that tend to focus on achievements of individual team members and not the entire group are likely to miss out on all the social and collective framework of an African society.


Issues of corporate governance are becoming more pronounced in modern business practices. Corporate governance, which is intertwined with business ethics, is considered critical in organisational practice, as well as in general corporate productivity (Rossouw, 2005:105). The founding principles of business ethics and corporate governance are in line with the Ubuntu philosophy of regarding all members of an organisation as part of the community. It is this direct involvement of and with community members that brings about greater solidarity, love, caring and sharing within a grouping (organisation).

A major governance challenge in current governance issues has been corruption, which reveals the moral depravity and badness of the perpetrators (Broodryk, 2005; Moloketi, 2009; Nyarwath, 2002). Generally, corruption is caused by a lack of commitment to moral beliefs by the perpetrators, which is in turn due to the Weak moral will of an individual towards other people. Corruption can be seen as



In a Western worldview, the concept leadership accommodated the sense of belonging, as did the Ubuntu worldview. Sergiovanni (1982:231) supports this when he says: leadership promotes the feeling of actual belonging, participating, being co-partners in the entire organization. In all, a leader who has leadership skills sees to the rapid growth of the organization. Leadership skills are situationally specific, of short duration, and focused on specific objectives or outcomes’.

The Ubuntu philosophy represents an African conception of human beings and their relationship with the community that embodies the ethics defining Africans and their social behaviours (Dia, 1992; Mbigi, 2005:75; Van den Heuvel, Mangaliso & Van de Bunt, 2006:48). Africans are social beings that are in constant communion with one another in an environment where a human being is regarded as a human being only through his or her relationships to other human beings (Tutu in Battle, 1997:39-43). Therefore, the survival of a human being is dependent on other people – the community and society.


The Ubuntu management system and the “new management techniques” as advocated by African management scholars, set the revolutionary agenda for evolving an indigenous African management philosophy that will emphasize our cultural traits of humanness, communalism, and participatory decision-making in organizational life. African governments and the private sector must support the development of African management philosophy through creating an enabling environment for management research and the provision of adequate research funds or grants.




In investigating the phenomenon, the interpretative approach, particularly constructive-interpretative paradigm will be used in the study; taking into account its ability to generate an in-depth understanding regarding factors that impacts on Ubuntu leadership (Cohen et al, 2007:155; Creswell, 2003:52; McMillan & Schumacher, 2006:318). In the course of investigations, the interpretative approach would allow, the researcher to explore, analyse, describe, and show the relationships between Ubuntu and strategy management and implementation. That will be made possible because the phenomenon of Ubuntu and leadership will be investigated in their unique and natural setting (Lauer, 2006:76). Simply put; all interviews, observational field notes and documents analyses would be done at the participant place.

In employing the qualitative research design, a case study will be employed to sample participants, collect data, and analyse data as shown below.



The focus for this study will be on employers and employees of Orion group of companies which is a Hospitality Industry. The company has staff numbering around 1000 employees. Orion is sub-divided into many different business branches and each business branch is run as a business on its own. The research study focuses on Orion group; the staff compliment at each branch is comprised of about 100 full time permanent employees. From the total number of employees working at Orion Braamfontein office, all are eligible to participate. Over 15 participants out of the 50 employees will be selected for the purpose of this study and will form the target population for the study.


The researcher will use a purposive sampling to select participants. The identified sample comprised of fifteen participants; seven men and eight women. According to Budhal (2000:62), Creswell (2003:52) and, McMillan and Schumacher (2006:317), a sample represents a small and distinct group of “information-rich informants” that would enable the researcher to “understand the problem in depth”. The criteria for selecting such information-rich sample; amongst others, is that participants who are knowledgeable, informative and willing to talk (Lauer, 2006:78; McMillan & Schumacher, 2006:319).

Regarding the availability of the administration offices, it will assist in maximizing privacy and confidentiality during interview sessions (Keats, 2000:30; Pedroni & Pimple, 2001:11). Furthermore, purposive sampling will be done by combining strategies like site selection, network sampling and sampling by case in order to maximize its impact. Lastly, permission would be sought from the Orion Head office.

Having discussed how the participants would be selected; in the next section, the proposal explains how data will be collected.


The instrument to be used for data collection is a questionnaire. The questionnaire is chosen as it is the most popular form of data collection. It is important for the questionnaire to be constructed in such a way as to gain as much useful information from the respondent as possible (Newell, 1993, 48). With this, great care, time and efforts would be put into the construction of this research study’s questionnaire as to obtain as much useful information as possible. Questionnaires are created to be easy to understand, avoid ambiguous, draw up leading questions, quick and simple to answer (Kidder Judd, 1993).

In this case, questionnaire will be distributed to participants and collected once they have been completed. These questionnaires will be distributed through email, containing a hyperlink to


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