Horizontal leadership: Going forth together

Three leading African Women came together to turn ideas into perspectives. Collateral Benefits is a platform that through a series of Perspective Papers aims to lift up the voices of African and Afro-descendant people from all walks of life, so that African and Afro-descendant intellect, wisdom and experiences can contribute to and shape the global conversations on the critical issues of our time.

I am pleased to be a contributor to Voices of African Leaders, a perspective paper in partnership with We Will Lead Africa.

I was fortunate to share the space with other individuals committed to the transformation of self. The work starts with us. The collaboration deepens the impact. It is about change in our lifetime.

To the question: What leadership narratives do we want more of to take Africa forward, now and for the future?

I put forward the idea of Horizontal leadership.

For leadership to matter, it must transform lives. A woman in agriculture has an important leadership role in the value chain of socio-economic transformation. A matatu driver has an important role in moving informal workers, civil servants, private sector workers, and activists to advance the continent in which they operate. 

While we have been focusing on leadership at the top, I believe that the kind of leadership that Africa needs is horizontal leadership, where ordinary citizens value their peers’ contribution to the whole. In the absence of strong respect for the links that make the continent move forward, we tend to think of leadership as vertical, associated with the one at the top. While the top is important, it needs a functioning society where each one of us understands our role in advancing the transformation agenda. My contribution is equally important to the woman’s agricultural enterprise and to the matatu driver because we contribute to the same value chain where all links need to be strong. We need that understanding of shared value in what we do to advance the continent. We are as strong as the weakest link and that weakest link may not always be where we think it is. 

In the end, enabling prosperity is the value that leadership should deliver. When it does not, it becomes an elusive concept associated with electoral cycles. And this is the wrong interpretation of leadership; where leadership goes forth to die. It challenges me because that vertical definition is the one that allowed me to value horizontal leadership the most. It need not be that way. It could be about the death of the habits that hold us back. We can go forward, together with our differences, keeping in mind that we are all contributing with the Africa we have. 

You can read and dive into the perspectives : https://tinyurl.com/y6bg8fft