SMEs AND BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP IN AFRICA
Keywords:SMEs, effective leadership, leadership in Africa.
A portion of literature on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and leadership in Africa has revealed that most organisational leaders in Africa work in SMEs while the mortality rate of SMEs among African countries remains very high with five out of seven new businesses failing in their first year. Effective leadership is a key predictor of organisational success or failure and creates an environment conducive to performance improvement. The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework that will enable organisational leaders to identify challenges that are likely to act as barriers to the process of providing effective leadership in Africa and suggest ways of overcoming those challenges. The findings show that the most problematic barriers to successful SMEs include: lack of strategic management skills, a written vision, and core values. The leaders often allocate resources, giving priority to their personal (or culturally induced) goals rather than overall organisational goals; they use a directive leadership style and fail to treat organisational goals with importance. Additionally, the study depicts a wrong perception of the subordinates towards their leaders rooted in African cultural values that considers a leader or manager who often seeks the opinion of his subordinates as being weak and incapable. Environmental influences such as negative cultural and socio-economic conditions in Africa play a direct or indirect role in leadership performance. This paper suggests effective ways of addressing these challenges thus: African organisational leaders to be equipped with strategic management skills and technical skills, leaders to empower the employees to act with confidence, encouraging independent thinking and creativity. Training of African organisational leaders in transformational leadership skills and hiring more candidates who exhibit transformational leadership qualities. Organisational leaders can influence the culture positively with behaviours such as articulating a compelling vision or leading by example.