Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Effective Leadership in the 21st Century: Lessons for the Tourism Sector in the African Continent

Written By

Portia Pearl Siyanda Sifolo

Submitted: June 19th, 2020 Reviewed: September 1st, 2020 Published: September 18th, 2020

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.93844

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Edited by Syed Abdul Rehman Khan

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Although Africa has been one of the world’s fastest growing tourism regions, when comparing it to the rest of the world, tourism still lags behind. Tourism is a dynamic and a competitive industry that continues to develop whilst the tourists’ preferences are changing. Consequently, leading and managing in the tourism sector is of great importance, particularly in the 21st century. The purpose of this paper is to explore leadership concepts to draw lessons for the tourism sector in the African continent. Leadership in the African continent remains questionable and controversial; the nature of effective leadership has been the subject of great debate. The findings reveal the prominent African leadership concepts from Ubuntu, Culturally embedded values, Communalism, Common good and Paternalism as some of the existing leadership concepts that could be applicable to an effective leader in the 21st century in the tourism sector in Africa.


  • Africa
  • tourism
  • effective leadership
  • Ubuntu

1. Introduction

The employees play an essential role in the delivery of quality tourism products or services, therefore, Africa needs capable institutions and transformative leadership at all levels to achieve the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 aspirations. Tourism is among the priority areas in the Agenda 2063 (a blueprint to drive Africa’s development and transformation for the next 50 years) that have immediate potential for growth and job creation in Africa [1]. The tourism sector is identified as one of the diversified economy for expanded strength to outside financial stuns whilst being the sector that would see intra-African trade escalating [1]. Moreover, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimate that by 2030, there will be 1.8 million international tourist arrivals - which means an average of 5 million people crossing international borders (consuming tourism products and services) every single day [2, 3]. This indicates the resilience of the tourism sector, whilst challenging the leaders in the travel and tourism industry to be more effective and efficient. Being the industry with low barriers to entry, tourism sector provide job opportunities to the well qualified and low skilled people at a domestic and international level. A number of global trends and risks ranging from wider fiscal deficits, unorthodox monetary policies, and slow economic growth after COVID-19 lockdown, political risks, global supply chains, security risks, and inflation easily influence the tourism scene. Therefore, effective leadership is necessary globally for the tourism sector to thrive due to global competitive environment and other unpredictable complexities challenging various organisations. It is paramount to achieve the continental aspiration set in the Agenda 2063.

We live in the world where travellers demand greater value for products and services, hence, Destination Marketing Organisations (DMO) work tirelessly to promote and market high quality tourism products and services. Leadership is crucial in achieving positive outcomes; therefore, the cultivation of leaders with exceptional character and skills is important to Africa’s tourism landscape. This chapter presents the state of leadership in the African context, draws lessons for the tourism sector in Africa from early approaches of leadership and African concepts ranging from Ubuntu, Culturally embedded values, Communalism, Common good and Paternalism.


2. Why leadership in Africa?

There is enough coverage of development and application of leadership perspectives in western organisations; information is limited on tourism leadership in Africa. “Leadership in the African continent remains questionable and controversial; the nature of effective leadership has been the subject of great debate. Masango asserts, “African leaders who used traditional method of leadership were viewed by some westerners as barbaric” [4]. Dieke [5, 6, 7] states that the problems in Africa’s tourism are “closely related to structural imbalances in their overall development pattern, and there are no clear strategies for development in general due to tourism not being integrated with other economic sectors”. Okupe, Ward and Ogechi concur that lack of political is an impediment to tourism development in Africa. Furthermore, “lack of implementable tourism master plans contributes to the under-development of the African tourism industry” [8, 9, 10, 11].

A study conducted by Zhang, Khan, Kumar, Golpîra, and Sharif on tourism, logistical operations and environmental degradation warns that the carbon emissions and fossil fuel emissions associated with logistics development may pollute environmental sustainability in the end and create negative effects on inbound tourism [12]. Hence, there is a need for responsible and effective leaders. Therefore, contributing to the academic gaze, the prominent African leadership concepts for the tourism sector in Africa is critical. Several studies have contributed to leadership and management in Africa [13, 14, 15, 16]. Among them is a study by Nicolaides on management and leadership in the hotel industry in South Africa, where he indicate the adoption of paternalistic approach by managers due to their vital role as business leaders [16].

There is still limited information on travel and tourism management that consider African leadership concepts. Okupe identify leadership as one of the key gaps in the operation and management of tourism in Africa [10]. The online poll results on tourism leadership conducted by the Southern and East African Tourism Update revealed that 58% of the participants thought that South Africa’s collective tourism leadership was severely lacking in May 2020 when it comes to recovery post-COVID-19 [17]. Whilst 28% indicated that during the time, there were plenty of discussion but no action and only 14% believed that leaders were doing their best in trying times [17]. With myriad of factors covered in the literature, the development and application of leadership concepts embracing cultural values among African organisations that incorporate “African Leadership” in their practice, still needs attention. The difference in the underlying principles of management in Africa and the West remain evident. According to Nkomo, African states are described as ‘irremediably corrupt’; ‘hopeless’; ‘criminal’; ungovernable’ or generally in ‘chaos’ [8]. Although the challenges facing the travel and tourism industry in the continent are vast, this chapter embraces the Ubuntu, Culturally embedded values, Communalism, Common good and Paternalism to draw leadership lessons. Dieke [5] states that is it essential for the tourism sector to attract the quality staff to meet the increasingly globalised service standards. A background on the state of the tourism industry in the African continent is of importance.


3. The state of travel and tourism in the African continent

Africa remains a continent with authentic and diverse cultures. There are several top-quality natural and man-made attractions, high standards of accommodation and infrastructure and a good transportation network with the potential to attract millions tourists annually [5]. Although Africa has been one of the world’s fastest growing tourism regions, tourism still lags behind when comparing it to the rest of the world. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Competitiveness 2019 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) indicates that the Sub-Saharan Africa’s travel and tourism market is very small. In 2018, the travel and tourism industry’s gross domestic product (GDP) of African countries totalled approximately $42.1 billion, with 37.4 million tourist arrivals in 2017, about 1.6% and 3.0% of the global total, respectively [18, 19].

Furthermore, the COVID-19 widespread disturbance brought universal travel to a sudden stop and altogether influenced the tourism industry. Worldwide and household tourism esteem chains were disturbed. COVID-19 widened the gap in the total number of tourist’s receipts when comparing with the rest of the world. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [3], worldwide compression in tourism entries may have obliterating financial results as a few creating nations are profoundly subordinate on tourism. One may ask a question of whether COVID-19 responses by leaders from different tourism organisation could be a good start to determine the African leadership styles and behaviours. It is during challenging times where effective leadership could be explored in this dynamic and a competitive industry.

Prior COVID-19, there were 1407 million international tourist arrivals in 2018, a 6% increase on the previous 4 years; tourism receipts amounted to $1480 billion, an increase by 4.4% higher than global GDP growth as in the previous 8 years [20]. Opportunities for tourism development remain vast, yet limited due to various challenges facing the leaders in the continent; therefore, understanding the travel and tourism sector trends and issues in Africa is paramount to achieve the aspirations on the sector as indicated in the Agenda 2063, as well as to provide practical leadership solutions. This chapter is by no means proposing solutions to the myriad challenges facing the tourism sector in Africa, but merely intends to draw leadership lessons from African concepts.

Table 1 presents the summary of the selected challenges in the travel and tourism industry in Africa.

GlobalisationEconomic globalisation/trade openness in promoting environmental quality in the long run. Effectively sharing vital reliable travel information, for example, essential signage’s that can guide travellers in the proper manner to translation of services offered. This may be linked to infrastructure development.[21, 22, 23, 24]
InsecurityConflicts, terrorism, and general instability. These acts have changed the way business is done on a global basis, creating problems with global supply chains, delays in travel, and interruptions in communications. Geopolitical insecurity, visa regimes, cross-border travel and terrorism[5, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29]
InfrastructureIn many locations in Africa, infrastructure is outdated and underdeveloped. Institutional or structural fragmentation, weak relationships between the various institutions and players, duplication of effort, and gaps. From the supply side, air transport and transport infrastructure remain the biggest challenge for travel and tourism development in Africa.[8, 9, 25, 29]
Policy and regulatory environmentCreation and enforcement of uniform standards and protocols to connect with the travellers (domestic and international) and tourism stakeholders is limited. For example, tourism is one of the most taxed sectors from the taxes paid on airline tickets, hotel rooms, attractions, local transportation, souvenirs etc.
Social and political structures evolve leading to inconsistencies in policy application. Lack of international openness requires policy attention at the regional level. Environmental degradation
[25, 30, 31]
Financial securityLack of access to finance and non-financial support. Limited coordination, unsustainable value chain linkages in rural and urban areas. New patterns of economic production and consumption[32]
Continuous innovationEffectively adopting ongoing revolutions in information technology and telecommunications could be a challenge[5]
Population changesPractical relationship (beneficial, trust) between tourism-related businesses to strategically position themselves in the web of relationships. Inequality, unemployment and poverty[23, 30, 33, 34]
New forms of urbanisationInability to cater for today’s travel aspirations due to limited access to the market. Inability for unique product development, quality standards and community experiences through arts, culture and crafts. Tourism is identified as an overlapping economic sector as a result, there are duplication of efforts and general gaps[30, 35]

Table 1.

Top challenges confronting leaders in the travel and tourism industry in Africa.

Globally, the tourism industry is dynamic, and it is viewed as a major force in the construction and development efforts of governments in developing countries. For example, the study conducted by [12] on tourism logistical operations and environmental degradation in Thailand pleads with “governmental authorities to enforce green practices in logistical and transport-related operations, and need to increase tourist safety and security, to attract foreign tourists respectively”. The industry needs leaders and managers with a sense of current and future developments and the ability to work with various stakeholders. “A changing world demands a new leadership style emphasising societal impact and commitment to the common good” [36]. Furthermore, African leadership has become valuable in the 21st century. In today’s world, effective leadership is significant for the travel and tourism sectors to thrive; the industry underpins much of the global economic activity. The United Travel predicts that 8 million new jobs will be created in Africa because there was jobs rise in the total number of travel and tourism from 22.8 million in 2017 to 30.8 million in 2028 [3, 5]. The previous statistics provide hope for the sector. A glimpse of the general leadership approaches is significant to better explore leadership theories.


4. Lessons from the early approaches of leadership concepts

There are many schools of thought and approaches to leadership; therefore, reviewing theories of leadership is essential. Early approaches to the study of leadership adopted universal or a generic perspective. Mullins produced the framework for the study of managerial leadership as indicated in Figure 1 [37]. The primary composed approach to examining leadership dissects individual, mental, and physical characteristics of solid pioneers. For the last four thousand years, each generation has written about the art and science of leadership [38]. “Most leadership theories have been developed in capitalist western countries up to now and do not take into account the view and learnings from countries that have been in deep crises for many years” [13, 32]. Early approaches to leadership in the African tourism industry are captured by Gyr who revealed the early forms of travel and types of journey occurring in Africa. In his article, the “History of Tourism: Structures on the Path to Modernity” reveals that a well-travelled writer with an interest in both history and ethnology visited Egypt, North Africa, the Black Sea, Mesopotamia and Italy. This is one of documented early forms of travel and types of journeys occurring in Africa. Leading often means having the ability to effectively direct and guide a team to achieve, and sometimes exceed, objectives set, which contributes to the company’s overall results.

Figure 1.

Framework for study of managerial leadership. Source: Mullins (2018).

There are common themes about the nature of leadership and leaders captured in every continent in the context of politics, the military, philosophy and businesses. Research literature on tourism reveals that leadership has not received the necessary attention in both tourist destinations and networked environments in general [39]. The work by [28] covers tourism and environmental degradation in China, while Zhang, Khan, Kumar, Golpîra, and Sharif covered logistical operations and environmental degradation from Thailand perspective [12]. Although tourism businesses in Africa are not isolated from developed and developing communities, there is interdependence of the different sectors, individuals and groups involved in tourism [4]. Hence, there is a school of thought on various contingency or situational leadership, where the behaviour of the leader is explored by looking at the situation at hand or the context. For example, the environment in which the tourism sector operates is increasingly complex and competitive, leaving organisations to structure themselves in order to get quick, flexible and innovative responses. There has been a rise within the number of tourism organisations experiencing changes due to increasing tough financial climates, competitive advertising conditions and continuous technological changes over the final few decades. This ever-changing global landscape has led to a number of challenges as well as opportunities that organisations, its leaders and employees can embrace. Numerous tourism organisations that have had to re-assess their working models. The tourism sector continues to develop whilst the tourists’ preferences are changing as the tourism consumers are more mindful of the significance of their free time and are more specific in their choice. Pechlaner, Kozak, Volgger & Volgger [13, 39] refer to the contingency theory by Fiedler, the leader-member exchange (LMX) theory by Graen and Uhl-Bien and transactional/transformational theory by Bass, Avolio [40] and Spencer et al. as successful theories in describing and explaining effective leadership in firms and other organisations. Consequently, leading and managing in the tourism sector is of great importance, particularly in the 21st century. Therefore, creative thinking enables leaders to contribute novel insights that can open up new opportunities or design mutually beneficial effective work groups.

In the 16th century, the focus of organisations was on management and improving productivity (refer to Figure 1). According to Iszatt-White, et al., in the 1880s and 1890s the core ideas of ‘scientific management’ were developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor and first published in 1903; they were later expanded to the principles of scientific management [41]. Among Tylor’s co-workers was Henry Laurence Gantt who left legacies to production management by coming up with the ‘task and bonus’ system that is linked to the bonus paid to managers to how well they taught their employees to improve performance [41]. Among Gantt’s contribution is a Gantt chart commonly used in project management (which is also used in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors) [42]; it is one of the most popular and useful ways of showing activities (tasks or events) displayed against time. Research into travel, tourism and hospitality has an established tradition of investigating leadership issues (although not always appearing under the label of “leadership”) [39]. In this chapter, Gantt’s contribution is highlighted because of its use on tracking project schedules (an essential component in effective leadership in the tourism sector). Gantt chart shows additional information about the various tasks or phases of the project; for example, how the tasks relate to each other, how far each task has progressed, what resources are being used for each task and so on.

We live in the world where dynamism of the markets and the current business scenarios require companies to have effective leaders that will be able to manage several projects simultaneously. Projects in the tourism industry are not new, the projects in a corporate context take about 50% of the organisational budget; hence, the nature of leadership and the characteristics of great leaders are debated intensely.

In the 20th century, the trait theories were developed where attributes or characteristics of ‘great men’ were examined. These theories presumed that leaders are born and that successful leaders have similar traits. The trait theory is concerned with the characteristics or traits that a person brings to the field in which leadership is worked out. Authors cite leadership traits to include, intelligence, assertiveness, good vocabulary, attractiveness, self-confidence and other attributes [22, 43]. Behavioural theories sought to measure the observable characteristics that leaders demonstrate, while theorists researched leadership as a set of behaviours. Pioneering studies are those from the University of Ohio State in the 1950’s that identified two behavioural dimensions, consideration and initiating structure; and from the University of Michigan which found two categories of leadership behaviour (employee orientation and production orientation). Another Behavioural approach to leadership is the Managerial Grid from early leadership studies developed in the early 1960s by management theorists Robert Blake and Jane Mouton as the basis for developing a two-dimensional grid for appraising leadership styles. It used the two behavioural dimensions “concern for people” and “concern for production” and evaluated a leader’s use of these behaviours, ranking them on a scale from 1 (low) to 9 (high).

The 21st century present new approaches or leadership paradigms that “share a number of common themes relating to the emotional or symbolic aspects of leadership” [41]. The 21st century refers to an era where characteristics of the new competitive landscape are driven by the continuing technological revolution and the increasing globalisation of business and economic activity [26]. In this era, leadership is often of a transactional nature in complex, competitive, tough financial climates and continuous technological changes. Andersen states that the managers and leaders have the responsibility to carry out risk analysis to reveal threats to ensure successful strategic execution [44]. The tourism industry is interlinked and prone to rapid developmental trends. Therefore, looking at the leadership approaches in Figure 1, one may argue that there are many skills required from the travel and tourism managers or leaders.

The characteristics of a leader range from personal management and the ability to motivate a team [45]. Leaders are famous for being proactive and positive, they communicate well and are good listeners, and they have integrity. They are approachable and are role models. They tend to focus on strengths and have respect and trust for the employees (which is part of servant leadership; it is an effective leadership approach that enhances work engagement). They observe the ‘golden rule’ and are sensitive to others. These characteristic are essential for a travel and tourism leader as they apply structured methods to allocate resources effectively. In other words, travel and tourism leaders are expected to be proactive (lead by an example in case there is a need for problem prevention), reactive (constant presents of there is a problem) and inactive at some point (trusting the group of stakeholders or a team will achieve common goal). Since there are numerous definitions of leadership, perhaps capturing few definitions is prudent.


5. Leadership definition

Leadership has been extensively studies for centuries. The concept is famous for being defined from individuals’ perspectives and the aspects that interests them most. Emanating from a historical and impactful leadership definition by Stodgill, “leadership is the initiation and maintenance of structure in expectation and interaction” [14]. The study by Masango on leadership in the African context reveals that, “leadership is a group phenomenon’, meaning that, there “are no leaders without followers” [14]. In other words, a definition of leadership in the African context must consider the collective aspect. He further stated that “leaders use influence to guide groups of people through a certain course of actions or towards the achievement of certain goals”, leadership is therefore, goal directed, and plays a significant part in the life of a group, tribe or community” [14].

With the changes in the societies, markets, customers, competition, and technology around the globe, organisations are forced to clarify their values, develop new strategies, and learn new ways of operating; hence, the definition of leadership has evolved to suite a certain context. Meyer and Boninelli concur that leadership has no sequential beginning or end, it is rather critical to understand perspectives on what leadership is about, and the implications for organisations in the modern economy [38]. One may then argue that leadership is a choice and being a good leader is a skill that anyone can learn. Some believe that leadership is inherent in certain individuals; hence, it is referred to as an essential in achieving the vision of the organisation. Others believe that leaders rise from the masses when the situation demands it. According to Amanchukwu, Stanley and Ololube, good leadership is developed through a never-ending self-study, education, training, and the accumulation of relevant experience [13].

Leadership should be visionary, motivating, and stimulating for the team members; hence, the transformational leadership style is advocated for tourism leaders [40]. Thomas distinguishes leadership from management by identifying five nuances not found in management such as giving direction, providing inspiration, building teams, setting an example and being accepted as a leader [46]. Leadership is viewed as a process (focusing on what leaders actually do) and as a property (the set characteristics attributed to individuals perceived to be leaders) [47]. Therefore, looking at the travel and tourism organisations, cooperation as the base in the organisations and their environment is critical. This permeates through the consistent travel and tourism management practices, processes, procedures, tools and techniques (value chain). Leadership is an effective tool to be used by the travel and tourism managers to influence outcome, otherwise, lack of leadership skills could be directly associated with failure which my negatively affect the contribution of tourism in the country and the rest of the continent. Perhaps, distinguishing the differences between leadership and management in projects is paramount.


6. Difference between tourism leadership and tourism management

Linking the association between leadership characteristics and successful managers offers invaluable information. Henceforth, differentiating between the roles of a manager or a leader in context of tourism leadership and management is difficult. Welch differentiated between the manager (someone who works to carry out the aims of the organisation) and the leader (serves to create new aims, tweak old ones, or initiate new courses of action) [48]. Drawn from [49] work, the difference between tourism leadership and tourism management in this chapter is summarised as follows;

Tourism management “refers to the oversight of all activities (related to the travel, tourism and hospitality industries) of planning and organizing through decision-making process which enhance effectiveness and efficiency of the tourism industry”.

Tourism Leadership is a “process of leading others for achievement of objectives; the concept encompasses motivating and guiding people to realize their potential and achieve tougher and challenging organizational goals in travel, tourism and hospitality industry”.

Leaders and managers are there to serve the organisational need [9]. Normally they require a multi-functional inclusion. Understanding the internal and external perspective of management as a manager and as a leader has a significant effect to the success in the organisation. An internal perspective of management is within the organisation is where by scarce resources are used more effectively while improving the existing procedures and methods to ensure efficient product or a service. An external perspective focuses on developing and improving quality of life. Therefore, tourism manager or a leader needs to have knowledge of both the internal and external perspective to deal with a number of global trends and risks (wider fiscal deficits, unorthodox monetary policies, slow economic growth after COVID-19 lockdown, political risks, global supply chains and security risks and inflation) among others. The performance of a tourism manager and the effectiveness of a leader are both measured in terms of the performance of the team. Therefore, managerial and emotional competencies (as factors of leadership) have important causative effects in determining the success of a tourism organisation; although it is important to note that success can be negatively affected if the wrong leadership style is chosen and/or if the tourism manager or a leader is inexperienced (Novo, Landis and Haley, 2017). Although management and organisational aspects have been explored, it is critical to highlight that the focus of this chapter remains with exploring effective leadership in the 21st century. The following section will focus on the dynamic tourists’ preferences in the 21st century, with an intention to highlight the need for effective leadership.


7. Why effective leadership in the 21st century?

Effective leadership is one of the main and primary drivers for growth, development and innovation. Effective leadership is meaningful, impactful and profound. Effective leadership is one of the main and primary drivers for growth, development and innovation in the 21st century. According to [26] effective strategic leaders have to operate under conditions of uncertainty; they must view a volatile environment as presenting opportunities and employ an entrepreneurial mindset that allows them to identify and exploit those opportunities in contexts with significant ambiguity.

Effective leaders are able to keep their teams engaged. Kumar concur that effective leaders influence the entire organisation and people outside the organisation [50]. Their influence extends beyond the boundaries of the organisation as they continually identifying and interrogating the ethical issues [38]. They adapt and modify their leadership styles in order to maintain employee engagement, even if there are four generations in the workplace. It is critical to engage stakeholders, whilst minimising risk to adopt and maximise benefits through a focus on the organisational, cultural and people aspects of business transformations. Effective leaders must also understand the modern tourist concept. Vail, Moreland and Wilson warns against the high-quality tourist services that require skilled and motivated employees and that quality service, in turn, is the key to both higher profitability and good jobs [33].

Why the focus on a ‘modern tourist’? Modern tourists exhibit a growing concern about the impact of their acts; the manner in which they choose to consume the tourism products and services has significantly changed. Tourists make choices based on different factors, from personal factors such as personality or aspirations, together with household factors like lifestyle or decision-making style; these affect their decisions [51]. A new type of consumer (in this case ‘modern tourist’) was born as a result of the technological evolutions of the late 20th century as well as a consequence of globalisation, hence today’s tourists are increasingly connected [51]. This is evident from the work of Vail, Moreland and Wilson who define the modern tourists as a growing market segments with many baby boomers with ample discretionary time and income; they are experiential tourists seeking low-stress outdoor activities, supplemented by quality dining, lodging, shopping, and cultural amenities. They further state that “many younger adventurers seek destinations offering outstanding expedition hiking, cross country skiing, and mountain biking, but they also want cell phone and internet coverage, a great meal, lively night life, and a comfortable bed after their exertions” [51, 52]. This point is also emphasised by [52] that “millennials don’t simply represent another generation of travellers; their preferences and lack of predictability make them different”, as a result, tourists demand greater value, more experiences and higher levels of quality ([24]: 01), hence, the new ethos in the tourism industry allows the tourists to take responsibility when travelling.

Tourists prefer to engage in physically and intellectually active holidays, with a growing demand for not only recreational activities, sport and adventure, but for knowledge of the history, culture and environment of the places being visited [24]. These new types of tourism are more closely linked to culture, nature, health, religion, etc., are growing three times faster than forms that are more traditional. Therefore, it is essential for a 21st century leader to possess the characteristics that makes them see opportunities everywhere; they should strive for excellence and live with an entrepreneurial spirit. They must work with a generous purpose and embrace culture in order to cater for the 21st century tourists.

Leadership in the 21st Century should be based on three pillars: values based leadership, network leadership and systemic resilience. Good leadership in Africa always shares life to others [32]. More lessons can also be drawn from the concept of responsible leadership for a leader to be 1) able to make informed ethical judgements about existing norms and rules; 2) displaying moral courage and aspiring to positive change; 3) engage in long-term thinking and in perspective taking; 4) communicate effectively with stakeholders; and 5) participate in collective problem-solving. In the 21st century, the leader must have company’s intention to do the right things and act in ways that are good for society. Ethical leadership has a major impact on the behaviour and attitudes of employees as it encourages the employees to perform a higher quality of work performance [7, 50, 53].

Effective leadership is gained through a combination of business knowledge and personal skills including determination, being open-minded, self-reflection, and excellent communication and team-building skills. Therefore, enhancing innovation is paramount in managing or leading in the services sector. Critical thinking is a primary tool for dealing with dilemmas and paradoxes, the support and encouragement of critical thinking is a key characteristic of effective leadership processes [54]. Stošić and Milutinović state that service excellence and innovation is a necessity in the tourism sector [48].


8. African leadership concepts: lessons for the tourism sector

There are factors influencing development and application of African leadership perspective. These factors vary from one country to country and from continent to continent. Drawing from the work by Nzelibe, there are certain trends that have influenced modern thought-system of management in Africa; these are guided by certain basic, traditional values, assumptions, and principles [55]. Hence, he refers to them as traditionalism, which has to do with adherence to accepted customs, beliefs, and practices that determine accepted behaviour, morality, and the desired characteristics of the individual in African society [21, 55]. Based on Nzelibes’ proposition, one may argue that effective leaders can apply the principles and practices in their management systems in the tourism sector for common good. For example, destinations are reinventing themselves using socio-cultural assets to attract tourists. This has been a common practice, particularly in leadership, where cultural expression involves issues and conflicts connected to the leaders and followers inside a variety of international, national, regional and organisational contexts [56]. Figure 2 presents the African leadership concepts.

Figure 2.

Selected African leadership concepts.

Another African concept is “communalism”, which stems from the belief that the individual is not alone, but belongs to the community [55, 57]. Communalism focuses on the community above the individual [50]. It implies a way of decision-making which is based on consensus [57]. African communalism is about communal feelings, world views, moral and cultural values based on closed-knit relationship among their kith and kin within a socio-cultural setting [57]. In other words, an effective tourism leader in the 21st century must see himself/ herself as part of the community, respect the values followed in that cultural specific setting and be in a position to live by the principles favouring the position held and the community. The tourism industry leadership cannot work effectively without community support and involvement [4]. Tourism is a community product, and it is therefore necessary to have community and local capabilities such as community leadership and formal and informal networks directly involved in tourism development and promotion efforts [30]. In Dieke’s words “tourism must be profitable to the communities to compensate for any dislocation of everyday life; it should gain the acceptance of the communities in relation to the type, scale and location of tourism development and planners should consider the need for protection of certain communities and sites and to meet their acceptable cultural standards” [5, 50].

The third African concept covered in this chapter is “Ubuntu” which is an African value meaning ‘humanness’, sometimes referred to as humanity to others. It also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’, or ‘a person is a person through people’ [18, 21]. The concept of Ubuntu goes beyond a sense of loyalty to something that is more deep-seated; is provides a sense of belonging and purpose [58]. As indicated earlier, that leadership is a group phenomenon that plays a significant part in the life of a group, tribe or community, hence, the trust relationship is of critical importance. The key values entrenched in African leadership include, being respectful to others and treating them with dignity. These values are reflected in the tourism sector where service excellence is at the centre of customer care and stakeholder engagement. Service excellence, customer care and stakeholder engagement cannot be obtained without trust and common good. Ubuntu is a critical African concept to an effective leader in the tourism industry as it promotes responsible tourism.

The forth concept is Paternalism, which is an African concept based on interconnectedness and solidarity [4, 41] Paternalism is defined as the managers’ personal interest in workers’ off-the-job lives and personal problems, and managers’ effort to support the employees to achieve personal goals and improve welfare [35]. Paternalism is a policy or practice that is fundamental for leaders to make and base their decisions on, so that they can act accordingly for the common good; whilst, constructing proper organisational practices. This concept can be beneficial to the leaders in the tourism sector. For example, [59] refer to paternalistic leadership behaviour and affective organisational commitment as a concept that will have direct and indirect effects on performance of small businesses and therefore the performance of tourism destination. Paternalism is conceptualised in two types: authoritaritative and benevolent. Authoritaritative paternalism values job and does not include a sincere generosity, whilst benevolent paternalism emphasises the commitment of the subordinate and an intimate care of the manager for the subordinate.

Africans sees themselves as bound by ‘a mutual obligation to consider others’. A study conducted by Nelson on travel and tourism and the common good reveals that the integration of knowledge and talent from individuals in the private, not-for-profit, and government sectors to advance the common good is important to a 21st century leader [52]. This is reflected in the impact review of and beyond [14] where the company presents valuable lessons from community projects, when working with people which are as follows:

  • Learn from their culture and customs.

  • Listen to what they have to say.

  • Create a platform for dialogue and participation.

  • Build on local wisdom and community assets.

  • Build the community’s capacity to find solutions to their own problems.

  • Build sustainable solutions and encourage ownership of assets.

  • Identify and prioritise the community’s needs with the community.

  • It is expensive in the short term, but cheap in the long term, which means the impact will be felt long after the fact.

  • Work with legitimate and credible community leadership.

  • Build-up process is slow, deep and strong.

  • Serve the community’s agenda and build the relationship.

  • Donor money and time is well invested for future generations.

“Most African businesses experience dilemma when choosing leadership approaches” [38]. African traditional leadership has been confined to communal areas and practiced African leadership that is “centred on culturally embedded values such as communalism, togetherness, rationalism, consensus and unity; these are encapsulated in the ethos of Ubuntu” [4, 41, 60]. Africa’s tourism industry requires leaders that understand the industry, its complexity and their role within it [8]. Ubuntu as a “traditional African value that prompts the establishment of a two way trust relationships as the essence of successful leadership” [41]. Leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and Desmond Tutu are famous for their culturally embedded values/approaches. There is a great need for the African continent to consider service leadership and ethical leadership, which is characterised by integrity, competence, responsibility, accountability, fairness and transparency. Companies often face challenges building leadership potential and effectively managing the project. There is a need to train the employees to move into leadership positions, not only for succession purposes but also for empowerment and acknowledgement. According to [9, 16], cultural enlightenment and awareness of employee diversity are critical leadership trait that encourages cross-cultural teamwork. This trait is important in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector where there is a higher proportion of women. Women generate higher returns on equity, while running balance sheets that are more conservative when it comes to business performance. In fact, where women account for the majority role players in the tourism sector, inclusion is necessary. The UN report indicated that in January 2017, only 10 women were serving as Head of State and 9 were serving as Head of Government [3]. This is an indication of the limited opportunities as far as the inclusion of women is concerned in the world. However, women such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former President of Liberia, the first elected female head of state in Africa, Joyce Banda, who has made history becoming Malawi’s first female president and only the second woman to lead a country in Africa are inspiring.


9. Conclusions

There is a lot that has been written on leadership from a business perspective to the philosophers’ viewpoints; even politicians and historians among others have dissected the concept of leadership. Leaders as people, play an important role in an organisation and to the society. This chapter presented the concept of leadership in the 21st century in the tourism industry as one of the services sectors in global economic growth, and Africa in particular. Effective leadership examples in the tourism industry can be drawn from large destinations with strong performance like Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritius and Zimbabwe in sub-Saharan Africa. Although South Africa, reported slower growth in arrivals in 2017, there was a strong increase in receipts, more lessons from the tourism leaders in the sub-region’s top destination can be useful. Island destinations Seychelles, Cabo Verde and Reunion, all reported double-digit growth in arrivals.



The author thanks Tshwane University of Technology.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Notes/Thanks/Other declarations

Thank you to Tebogo Ramoneng, Tumelo Rampheri and Zime Mzelemu.

Appendices and Nomenclature



Politicians in their 30s and 40s face huge hurdles in sweeping away decades-old regimes. After several years during which younger leaders have come to power across Africa, 2020 could hold challenges that may force many of the newcomers to take a step back. Not all the young politicians are progressive, or even pro-democracy. Nevertheless, they are all representative of sweeping changes across the continent that have destabilised long-standing regimes and forced out some veteran leaders. The huge numbers of young people reaching adulthood across Africa have fuelled a powerful desire for change and has pushed forward a new wave of younger political figures who could dramatically influence the continent’s future.

  • Two “dinosaurs” who were forced out of politics in 2019 – Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the 82-year-old president of Algeria, who had ruled since 1999, and Omar al-Bashir, 75, in power in Sudan since 1989 – fell victim to mass movements spearheaded by young protesters, though in each case the once-powerful rulers were left vulnerable when armed forces withdrew their support.

  • One of the most striking recent appointments was in Angola, where its president, João Lourenço, appointed Vera Daves de Sousa, a 34-year-old former researcher and analyst, to be the new finance minister. Elderly men, especially senior soldiers who fought in the decades-long civil war, have long dominated the political system in the former Portuguese colony. Vera Daves de Sousa, 34, is finance minister in Angola, where elderly men, many of them veterans of the long civil war, previously dominated politics.

  • Alex Vines, director of the Africa programme at London’s Chatham House, said Lourenço’s appointment of a swath of younger people, including many women, to senior positions within the government was a gamble. “He has leapfrogged a generation to appoint more technocratic, able people, including many women, to key posts. He sees them as change agents … Next year will be the litmus test for the reform process,” Vines said.

  • Perhaps the most high profile of the young leaders is Abiy Ahmed, the 43-year-old prime minister of Ethiopia and winner of 2019’s Nobel peace prize. Since coming to power in 2018, Abiy has ended a nearly 20-year military stalemate with Eritrea, and pushed through reforms at home, dramatically changing the atmosphere in what was regarded as a repressive state. Nick Cheeseman, professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham and an expert in African politics, said Abiy was facing a hard choice between a shift towards authoritarianism, or the difficult task of generating confidence and belief in his reforms. “What happens in Ethiopia has massive implications for the countries around it,” Cheeseman said.

  • In Sudan, the protest movement that swept away Bashir has opened the way to younger political figures. Nevertheless, some may not be any more progressive or less predatory than their former rulers. One is Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a 43-year-old warlord accused of systematic human rights abuses, who has emerged as perhaps the most powerful man in the country. He is now deputy chairman of the sovereign council that still holds supreme power.

  • Elsewhere some young leaders who have challenged entrenched interests have stumbled. In South Africa, Mmusi Maimane, a 39-year-old once breathlessly hailed as the Obama of Soweto, resigned as leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance following disappointing election results.

  • Julius Malema, the 38-year-old leader of the populist, radical leftwing Economic Freedom Fighters.

  • In Uganda, Bobi Wine, an opposition MP and popular music star, has generated international attention but is yet to build the kind of political machine that would challenge the country’s veteran leader.

  • Yoweri Museveni, while in Zimbabwe, Nelson Chamisa, a 41-year-old former pastor who has led the Movement for Democratic Change since 2018, has struggled to mobilise sufficient numbers to destabilise the ruling Zanu-PF government under 78-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa.“They have inherited, or are opposing, deep-seated neo-patrimonial systems. You can destabilise them, you can even bring down a leader, but the transitional politics are very, very difficult and sometimes they just don’t work out,” said Vines.

The young rulers and challengers remain a minority. The average age of African leaders is more than 60, which means that the continent with the youngest citizens has the oldest rulers.


Chapter review activity

  1. How would you describe the leadership styles of the above-mentioned “Politicians in their 30s and 40s”?

  2. Which leader/“politician” has principles of African leadership and why?

Due to the testing times in 2020, such as the COVID 19, advise the Africa’s young leaders on the issues of change management and state the importance of project leadership.


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Written By

Portia Pearl Siyanda Sifolo

Submitted: June 19th, 2020 Reviewed: September 1st, 2020 Published: September 18th, 2020