OD Talk Summary: Team Intelligence & Development in the Context of Traditional African Leadership

This week marked our monthly OD Talk, and true to form, it was an absolute blast! You might be wondering why it was such a big deal—when do our chats not matter, right? Well, we explored such an eye-opening topic: boosting team intelligence by drawing from traditional African leadership wisdom.

Picture this: teams grounded in trust and interdependence (ubuntu), with collective buy-in and commitment (consensus), where nurturing emerging talent is a continuous process (eldership). Add a dose of shared understanding and knowledge transfer, plus adaptability, responsiveness, and innovation. That’s the dream!

Sure, teams are a go-to for hitting business targets, but not all of them hit the mark. Developing team intelligence goes beyond finding the “best” people and hoping for outstanding results.

One thing that worried everyone was “how could it be that traditional African leadership wisdom can deliver terrible outcomes?” We agreed that:

  • Powerful processes always produce significant outcomes, whether for the better or for the worse. We know that powerful leadership can and does produce positive or negative effects for society.
  • Traditional African leadership (Ubuntu, Consensus before command, Eldership, Storytelling, Adaptive leadership) is powerful.
  • Powerful leadership produces positive or negative effects depending on the context in which it is used.

When we asked; “what context would be needed for the power of traditional African leadership to produce consistently positive results”, we found that:

  • Purpose: Having clarity on the “Why”. What brings us together and where do we want to go? Is that “why” about self-enrichment at the expense of stakeholders or is it grounded in something better?
  • Stakeholders: Who is our ubuntu for, and who is it that must reach consensus? Who are the respected elders? When we gather under a tree or around a fire (or in a smoky room) to talk, who is there with us? Does that gathering really represent our ultimate purpose?
    • When our stakeholder circle is too small or defined by things like gender or race or tribe or age, then the outcomes follow only a narrow purpose.
    • Get the right people involved in the right discussions and roles.
  • Intent and conscious effort: It’s not just about having principles; it’s about living them intentionally and actively shaping our team culture and dynamics to align with our goals and values.
  • Culture: Let’s humanise our language and interactions, shift the mindset.
  • Continuous learning: Fostering a culture of growth and development, where we’re always seeking new insights, refining our approaches, and staying open to feedback and new ideas. 

And hey, just because we’re in Africa doesn’t automatically mean we’re living and breathing traditional African leadership principles. Some might talk the talk, but the walk can be quite different. Our conclusion is that we’ve got the tools and know-how, now it’s about creating an environment where these principles can thrive, transforming how we do things.

Reach out to learn more about how we’re weaving proven African leadership principles into our leadership and team development programs.

We would like to thank everyone who attended and engaged with us. Your insights truly made the conversation richer. If you missed this one, catch the recording on our YouTube channel.

Look out for more information about our next OD Talk taking place on the 20th of March 2024.