African Centered Leadership-Followership: Foundational Principles, Precepts, and Essential Practices

Article excerpt

Introduction

"You can't lead us if you don't love us; you can't save us if you don't serve us."

-Cornel West

This paper spotlights four inter-locking, synergistic and sociocentric practices that are cornerstones in the conceptual framework of African centered leadership-followership (ACL-F) theory. They are Sovereignty--Maat restoration and Sankofa--Johari Sita installation. Before examining these precepts, principles, and practices, two textual usages must be addressed: (1) the hyphenation of leadership and followership and (2) the use of the adjective "African centered".

First, the hyphenation of leadership and followership is our way of textually elevating followers and equating their status with that of leaders. According to the ACL-F construct, which openly draws from Kemet (ancient Egypt), one of our classical African civilizations, neither seshemu (leader) nor shemsu (follower) is superior to the other; in fact, they are opposite sides of the same coin (Bass, 1995). In Western culture, however, the shemsu is often looked down upon as weak-willed and subservient destined to stand in the shadow of the omnipotent seshemu blindly following orders while the seshemu basks in the limelight and reaps major rewards. This is not the case with ACL-F.

In practice, ACL-F is a collegial, egalitarian partnership between leaders and their core followers with their roles frequently switching. Like Vishnu and Shiva, the cosmic dance team of Hindu mythology, leaders and followers are inseparable co-creators, always in motion, giving and receiving, pushing and pulling, leading and following. ACL-F agrees with leadership theorists Warren Bennis (1994) and Robert Kelley (1992) who view followers, in particular "effective" or "exemplary" followers, as more important to an organization's success than leaders. In the political arena, when in sync, followers and their leaders re-order social systems and bring forth new nations. In the African experience, followers and their leaders moving as one created the great West African empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhai and all the wonders gracing the African social universe.

Next we must address the use of the adjective "African centered", which distinguishes this school of leadership theory and practice from all others. By African centered, we mean, like Molefi Asante (2007), having the mind and the skills to interpret data, persons, and events from the standpoint of African agency. When this perspective is applied to the history of American leadership, for example, the role of an African American leader like Sojourner Truth or Frederick Douglass becomes central to a balanced study and understanding of 19th century American leadership history.

In addition, African centered in the African centered leadership-followership (ACL-F) paradigm means deliberately and methodically researching indigenous African societies and their diasporic expressions for leadership-followership precepts, principles, practices, theories, patterns, motifs, icons, institutions, rituals and ceremonies we can adapt for contemporary usage.

The four processes discussed in this paper are both prerequisites to ACL-F and ACL-F action steps. More than just leadership with an African "flava", ACL-F seeks a radical re-ordering of Black leadership thought as a prelude to a radical reordering of the African World Community. These radical re-orderings, we believe, begin with the embrace of an African centered vocabulary, value system and worldview.

In summary, ACL-F is a school of pan African nationalist leadership training and development that selectively incorporates social principles, political concepts, cultural practices, kwk., * created by and used effectively in traditional African societies on the continent and in the Diaspora to maintain social cohesion, economic solvency, and politico-cultural sovereignty. The ideal African centered leadership-followership (ACL-F) practitioners (intellectual maroons) have the will and the skill to create 21st century, sovereign, self-sustaining, democratic African villages (kilombos) as a prelude to creating a near sovereign, then in time a sovereign, democratic, communitarian, prosperous, peace-and-justice-filled, African nation (taifa) within what is now the United States of America. …