Non-western Leadership Theories LO25390

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 09/29/00

Replying to LO25383 --

Dear Organlearners,

Winfried Dressler <> writes:

>Harriett J. Robles asks:
>>I am getting ready to do some research on non-western
>>leadership theories and thought this group might be one
>>place to start. Would any of you have suggestions as to
>>authors I might begin with?
>Dear Harriett,
>'research on theories' sounds so much 'western' to me,
>that I am wondering how much 'non-western leadership'
>such research may capture.

Greetings Winfried (and Harriett),

I agree with you. A theory is a "logo-picture" (consisting of words
and symbolic expressions) of some practice. We modify this
"logo-picture" continually so that it resembles the practice better
and better. We contemplate this "logo-picture" so as to learn more
about its practice. The reason for making use of a theory is to get
a more holistic grip on the practice by the "associativity" pattern
of wholeness
. learner * theory * practice.
However, it cannot ever replace the practice as the only way for
learning since we also have to take into account fruitfulness, i,e
effective contact with practice.

Here in Southern Africa, before colonial times, people learned in
a much different way about practice. They made use of an interpreter
or "umlomo" (mouthpiece) to learn. The "umlomo" had to translate
the practice in metaphors, or to tell the learner in metaphors
how to address the practice. The "associativity" pattern in this
case is
. learner * umlomo * practice
The learners contemplated the metaphors used by the umlomo so
as to learn about practice. These metaphors entailed incidents
common to the learner.

In fact, all leaders made use of an umlomo to connect them to
their followers. A leader never addressed the followers personally.

>So I assume - please correct me - that 'getting ready' mean
>that you feel restricted by what you know as western leadership
>theories and that you wish to open up to a greater variety of
>ideas on leadership, so that you may learn more deeply what
>this thing 'leadership' may be.

When I read Harriet's original request, I wondered what leadership
she was interested in -- leadership in educational, scientific,
academic, political, economical, social or religious matters?
Perhaps she was thinking of leaders over the whole spectrum.

I myself think that our world is in dire need of leaders who can
help their followers to live with love, to conclude (perhaps in prayer)
every night before they go to sleep -- "today was a good day
because I participated in the emergence of unrestrained love."

>If so, I would assume further that your experiences and thus
>your inner more or less tacit knowledge on leadership is exceeding
>in complexity what has been articulated and come to know to you
>as 'western leadership theories'.

I agree. I would now add one thing. A leader knows through
authentic learning what will be crucial to the future. Thus the
leader opens up a path from the present to the future going
along all the crucial aspects.

>Then I would suggest the following: Try to articulate for
>yourself by comparing the theories you know with the
>experiences you have what is missing in the theories.
>Then you may start to search all walks of life and science
>for awareness of what you are looking for. When you feel
>sufficiently sure about your findings, you may wish to
>enrich the existing leadership theories with what you have

Winfried, you have said something very brave here, taking into
account how present academical research proceeds. The
present modus operandi is to take into account all possible
cited references and then to make a synthesis out of them.
To cite others as much as possible seems to give more weight
to what you will synthesize self.

I myself do take into account what all other people wrote on a
topic. But I do this because they give me merely an indication
of the complexity in the topic. I do it not because it might lend
authenticity to my own work. Auhenticity, as you have said, is
to take into account all which the person self knows by experience.
Should the person leave some things self learned out so as to
produce a more favourable paper, authenticity hits the ditch.

I have said above that the leader knows what will be crucial to
the future. Authenticity implies that the leader knows from own
experiences what had been crucial to the past. In other words,
a leader is a person who is well-equiped for the creative course
of time from the past through the present to the future.

There is a perpective on "non-western leadership theories" which
I think we have to take into account. There is no doubt in my
mind that the western world is heading in a certain direction. A
non-western leader may not only be aware of the direction in
which the western world is heading, but also not willing to head
in that direction. Just follow the world news bulletins and you
will be able to list at least 10 such leaders. Should we consider
a non-western leader who does not want to follow the course of
the western world, will we be able to make a theory out of his/her
leadership and eventually combine it into a comprehensive theory
of leadership?

I do not make or want to make any personal reflection on Harriet.
But the grip which LEM (Law of Excluded Middle) have on western
thinking is so great that I think the chances for a globally
comprehensive AND acceptable theory on leadership is very small.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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