November 01, 2016

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion: African Proverbs on Leadership

Artika R. Tyner

Diversity is needed to bring together the brightest minds to create solutions to the business, economic, and social challenges of the 21st century and beyond. This is a call to leadership—the type of leadership that is evidenced by one’s ability to learn from others, develop a shared vision, and build cultural bridges.

While traveling in Ghana, from Accra to Kumasi, I had the opportunity to draw upon the strength of diversity and inclusion. I embraced and explored cultural perspectives on leadership. For instance, I learned about the importance of collective engagement where knowledge is a gift we share and cherish together. I also discovered the transformative power of a shared vision and collaborative partnerships. This cultural exchange and learning experience expanded my knowledge on how to become a more inclusive leader. Inclusive leaders are learners who embrace the very essence of our shared humanity and common destiny. The trip also demonstrated the importance of expanding the leadership studies field by exploring diverse perspectives on leadership. Through this process, our understanding of leadership will be enhanced and enriched.

During my Ghana visit, I gathered a list of motivational quotes on leadership. These quotes draw upon the rich cultural heritage of Africa by offering practical advice on self-reflection, skills development, and team-building. Each quote will provide inspiration for your leadership journey.

On Learning: Knowledge is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested. ―African proverb.

On Collective Engagement: Knowledge is like a baobab tree; no one person can embrace it with both arms. ―African proverb.

On Leadership vs. Management: One head does not go into Council. ―African proverb.

On Followership: He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk. ―Malawian proverb.

On Vision: If you know the beginning well, the end won’t trouble you. ―Ghanaian proverb.

On Ethical Leadership: When virtue founds a town, the town thrives and abides. ―Ghanaian proverb.

On Servant Leadership: One does not regret having helped another. ―Kenyan proverb.

On Innovation: One head does not exchange ideas. ―Ghanaian proverb.

On Unity: Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ―Kenyan proverb.

On Interconnectedness: A person is not a palm-tree that he should be self-complete [or, self-sufficient]. ―African proverb.

On Teamwork: If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ―African proverb.

On Community-Building: One finger cannot lift up a thing. ―African proverb.

On Dignity/Humanity: All human beings are children of God; no one is a child of the earth. ―African proverb.

On Listening: The fool speaks, the wise man listens. ―Ethiopian proverb.

On Feedback: A leader who does not take advice is not a leader. ―Kenyan proverb.

On the Future: Life is as you yourself make it. ―Ghanaian proverb.

On #LeadershipforSocialJustice: Judge each day, not by the harvest, but by the seeds you plant. ―Guinean proverb.

After reading each quote, take a moment to pause and reflect. You can begin by pondering these questions: How can you apply the quote to your daily journey? What are the key leadership lessons? What skills do you need to develop to become a more effective and inclusive leader?



Artika R. Tyner

Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a passionate educator, author, sought-after speaker, and advocate for justice. Her recently released leadership book, The Leader’s Journey: A Guide to Discover the Leader Within, provides indispensable tools for leadership development (ABA GP Solo, 2015). At the University of St. Thomas, Dr. Tyner serves as the Associate Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion. She trains students to serve as social engineers who create new inroads to justice and freedom.