Ten Greatest Leaders of all time-an African Perspective
Student who chose the top ten from an African Perspective
Who are your greatest leaders?
A group work exercise in a lesson on leadership produced some interesting results that in my opinion should be shared. This little study shows how 18 students from different countries in Africa and from different age groups see great leadership. The instruction was simple; “List in your groups for today the ten greatest leaders of all time, you have 15 minutes”.
When the results were analyzed some interesting conclusions became apparent. These students major in Bible and either, Counseling, Ministry or Leadership and are in their second or third year of study. There are 6 women and 12 men in the class and the countries represented are Swaziland, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Their groups were chosen randomly and consisted of three persons each.
The top leaders according to these students came out as follows:
- Nelson Mandela
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Robert Mugabe
- Mother Theresa
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Robert Kennedy
- Martin Luther (the Reformer)
- Dr.Kamuzu Banda
- Desmond Tutu
- Barack Obama
The rest of the 26 leaders mentioned also included the present or past leaders of the countries where the students came from, showing a pride in their own people.
With my somewhat western mindset, due to me growing up in South Africa, there are indeed (at least to me) some interesting conclusions that can be made after studying these results:
- It is interesting that Jesus only received two votes in a Christian College situation. Perhaps as the Son of God they did not consider him; I hope so. Other famous religious leaders like Buddha and Mohammed do not even get a showing in.
- Freedom fighters rate highly in the minds of these black Africans who have often been affected by wars in their own countries and certainly have a rich history in this area as they moved out of colonial control into independence, often in the last generation.
- Scientists in distant history, artists and innovators did not even get a mention. So Rembrandt, Picasso, Einstein, Beethoven, Ford, the Wright Brothers and many others in those fields were ignored. Does this show a lack of knowledge of history of simply a lack of concern for art or technological leaders?
- Literature likewise was ignored, and none of the great writers or poets were mentioned, be they European or even the more modern African ones. Bob Marley did get a mention, perhaps because of his music or perhaps because of his words. Certainly some of the authors from the past would be on some people’s lists. Confucius, Socrates, Shakespeare, Darwin, Rousseau, Marx, and even some more modern writers and thinkers could be considered.
- Leaders in the wars that make up an important part of western history had no takers except for Napoleon who was mentioned once. Ghensis Khan, Alexander the Great, Hitler, Mussolini. Churchill and Montgomery are just a few that come to mind. Even the more local Shaka Zulu and Muslikatzi are forgotten.To many people Shaka has become an icon of African History popularized in movie and TV mini-series and even Budweiser adverts in the USA. He does not get a mention here.
- Important world leaders like Bismarck, Lenin, Khrushchev, Thatcher, Gorbachev, Peron and Kohl, would normally all have their support, but here are nowhere to be seen. This shown in my mind that most people do not really look outside their own world and that world history is probably not taught in most countries. The next point also indicates this!
- Explorers like Magellan, de Gama, Diaz, Drake, and Columbus, and in Africa Rhodes and Livingstone, that to some made up an important part of the history of the modern world, are all missing. Livingstones fight against the slave trade would seem to be important, at least in my mind.
- On the political front Smuts, Castro, Kissinger are ignored, but Kofi Annan at least gets a mention.
- High finance and business is another area that is left out and so Ford, Kennedy, Oppenheimer and in more recent times Donald Trump are not rated. Bill Gates is mentioned.
- Sporting leaders also do surprisingly not find a place on the list. Makes you think as we spend so much energy, money and time in the sporting arena.
- Medicine produced some great leaders and Madame Curie, Florence Nightingale and Chris Barnard come to mind, as do those in the Psychological field like Freud and Rogers.
The list of these Africa students seems to lean heavily to more modern times and this may be that the students in Africa tend to come from a background where recent and more local history is of greater importance, and more real, than what happened many years ago. Ancient history and a study of the classics can seem to have little or no relevance for today. Obviously Africa is where they grew up and live and just like everyone else in the world we look at our world through a window that is open where we are.
A similar exercise in other parts of the world would be interesting, and if you do one send the top ten to me for a possible follow up article on leadership as it is seen in different parts of the world. If nothing else this article should open up the debate in your mind as to who the greatest ten leaders in the world were. Also thing about adding your personal list to the one of these students.