Gogo Leadership #1: Building Leaders through African Wisdom

“Gogo Leadership” is a new Good Work Foundation (GWF) blog series that shares two things: (a) The wisdom of elders who have become “servant-leaders” and, (b) A unique approach to leadership that has grown out of a principle of Ubuntu.

Gogo Leadership is a response to an opportunity to take leadership theory that has grown in western, capitalist-driven organisations and merge that with older leadership wisdom that is found in collective “sharing communities”, and is rarely (although this is changing) interpreted to fit “successful organisations.”

At GWF, our team has committed to finding local talent to run and manage each digital learning campus. In doing so, we have also committed to developing a new approach to leadership and personal growth. One that responds to a changing Africa and one that is proud to embrace parts of our African culture that aren’t always applied to business.

In this first blog, Gogo Maureen Groch – Head of Team Leadership and Development at GWF – discusses Professor Vuyisile Msila’s five foundation pillars of ubuntu, and then introduces readers to the GWF leadership model.

“A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” The Servant as Leader – Robert Greenleaf.

 Servant leadership is reflected in the African philosophy of Ubuntu – I am because we exist. Before I talk about Good Work Foundation I would like to introduce the five foundation pillars of Ubuntu identified by Professor Vuyisile Msila and discussed in his book, UBUNTU – Shaping the Current Workplace with African Wisdom, are: 

  1. People centeredness: Doing things for others. Each person does his share of the work, and trying not to let the team down.
  2. Permeable walls: Team members know what needs to be done because there is constant and effective communication.
  3. Partisanship: Everyone is loyal to team goals and to the brand of the organisation
  4. Progeny: Collective wisdom (collaboration). Collective decision making.  Respect for leadership.
  5. Production: When the four pillars above are in place, production and the individuals/village/tribe/company prosper!

 It was from this foundation that the culture, values and leadership development programme of GWF took root. We have always had as our focus the need to build people: growing young people, both staff and students, to be empowered individuals, in empowered teams.

This is translated into an empowered GWF and empowered rural communities! Since 2013 we are continually developing, implementing, reviewing and changing our modular curriculum for transformational leadership development.  The curriculum focus is on the “hardware” and “software” necessary for effective leadership. Here are some highlights from progress in 2015:

  • What has been hugely successful has been “weaving” into this curriculum interventions by skilled professionals, both South African and international experts. It has been important to make sure that the interventions add value and are in sync with our curriculum. We have had very exciting workshops and on-line coaching on both the soft skills/software of leadership as well as hard skills/hardware of leadership. In particular we have been fortunate  to welcome business coaches, life coaches, acclaimed sociology professors and leading business people. Just as an aside: you will be surprised how willing people are to share their wisdom. Take the first step and ask.
  • The methodology  for all modules presented is one of team/group/interactive discussion: gathering collective wisdom. The “World Café” methodology is a process for fostering “collaborative dialogue, sharing mutual knowledge through conversations that really matter. If you change the conversation you can change the future.” – The World Café, J Brown and D Isaacs.
  • We continue to explore and build on the personal development model – a three stage virtual cycle of positive energy. Stage 1: Intrapersonal skills – know yourself; Stage 2: Interpersonal skills – manage yourself; Stage 3: Intradependence – Serve yourself and others.

I look forward to sharing more of what we are learning as a young team who are empowering ourselves and each other. I will provide a book list at the bottom of each blog which I will add to as we continue through this series.

Mo Groch is one of the wisest GWF ambassadors, mother, counselor and Gogo.

Gogo Mo Groch is the Head of Team Leadership and Development at GWF.

Have a wonderful holiday season.


Gogo Mo

Book List

Leap Frog Option Sue Mehrtens

Ubuntu– Shaping the Current Workplace with African Wisdom Prof Vuyisile Msila

Attuned Leadership Dr. Reuel Khosa

World Café Juanita Brown and David Isaacs