SchLead 09-04-057


Leadership and Partnership

A Dialogue between Western and Tanzanian Christian Leaders


Ralph Schubert

VTR Publications (Germany), 2008, 237 pp., ISBN 978-3-937965-95-6



Schubert, born in Tanzania and raised in Germany, has served a dozen years with Wycliffe and SIL International in Tanzania.  This work is a dissertation-style report on his research into a Christian-ethical comparison of Western and Tanzanian leadership styles.  The research focuses on differences arising from three areas central to Christian leadership: culture, theology and character.  The differences in these areas create potential for misunderstandings and conflict in cross-cultural partnerships.  The purpose is increased understanding of what Christian leadership means in a global environment.  (8) 


Schubert relied on the published literature, questionnaires, interviews, and dialogue for his research.  The results seem to line up well with what is already in the literature. 


Chapter 1 is a literature survey.   Chapter 2 describes the research methodology.  The main data sources were published literature, participant observations, case studies, informal and semi-structured interviews, and a group discussion.  (57)   


"Before leadership styles can be evaluated, it is essential to understand the context in which leaders operate."  The cultural models by Hofstede and of Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner were discussed and compared.  Key issues are personal information and leadership, character and leadership, relationships and leadership, power and leadership, and conflict and leadership.  (87) 


Chapter 3 considered how Western and Tanzanian Christians leaders practice biblical values in their own cultural contexts. 


Germanic and Angl0-Saxon societies tend to be individualistic, assertive, universal, specific, neutral and inner directed, trying to avoid uncertainty.  They have a long-term and sequential time orientation, practice small power distance, and status is usually achieved.  (90)  Tanzanian leaders tend to be collectivist, modest, particular, diffuse, neutral and outer directed.  They have weak uncertainty avoidance, short-term and synchronous time orientation, practice large power distance, and status is usually ascribed." (93) 


"Westerners expect a high degree of participatory leadership where leaders share their power and delegate."  "Tanzanians value leaders who are loving, caring, helpful and forgiving…,community oriented and faithful.  On the contrary, bad Tanzanian leaders put their personal interest above those they lead.  They are selfish, proud and misuse their authority."  (100)


Both groups appreciate many of the same qualities such as listening, loving, caring, serving, humility, etc.  (105)  Tanzanians tend to exercise humility more as an external respect.  Tanzanians would like to see more leaders as "faithful and actions being taken if something goes wrong instead of being always merciful without consequences." (116) 


"In my view, there is often such a big gap between the ideal leadership picture and the actual practice because the cultural values are more dominant than the biblical." (119) 


For Tanzanians, "humility is more expected from followers than leaders.  Culturally it is very difficult to criticize an older person." (122)  "Whereas biblical values such as love and mercy are a challenge for Western leaders to practice, for Tanzanian leaders, the challenge is justice and faithfulness." (122)  


Chapter 4 examines relationships, power and conflict.  Westerners are more task and result oriented and expect clear goals and delegated responsibilities whereas Tanzanians are process oriented.  They stress relationships and expect leaders to understand their problems and help them solve them. (171) 


Tanzanians are event oriented; they practice a large power distance with a strong hierarchy; and status is ascribed.  Westerners are more time oriented, are much more egalitarian, and status tends to be achieved.  (172)  Tanzanians are a collectivist society, desire harmony, and are more modest than Westerners.  Western directness and assertiveness creates conflict.  Westerns resolve conflict on an individual basis whereas Tanzanians use group process to restore relationships.  (172)


Chapter 5 describes a Christian-ethical dialogue and evaluation.   Conversations illustrate the above themes.


* * * * * *

Your comments and book recommendations are welcome.

To discontinue receiving book notes, hit Reply and put Discontinue in the text.