Leadership Beyond Boundaries (LBB) is an initiative of the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) that strives to unlock human potential through international leadership development. Building upon decades of knowledge from CCL’s research and training practices, LBB’s mission is to make high-quality leadership development inclusive, accessible, scalable, and affordable to people worldwide. LBB accomplishes this by creating low-cost leadership development programs, tools, and models that are used by international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), community organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions worldwide. By democratizing access to leadership training, LBB empowers people to forge a new social contract — one that honors personal well-being, appreciates diversity, respects non-Western thought patterns, and values social connectivity and contribution in addressing complex global issues.

A key challenge faced by the LBB team has been to design and deliver leadership development tools and activities, created primarily for leaders in a Western context, to use with leaders operating in non-Western contexts. In other words, how do we develop and adapt best practice leadership development techniques to serve diverse leaders? This white paper shares some of the lessons learned from the LBB initiative on how to effectively contextualize leadership development practices for those who lead in non-Western cultures.

In this paper, we elaborate on ways to contextualize leadership development tools and practices for an African audience, focusing specifically on a case study of LBB work with healthcare leaders working in remote areas of Western Ethiopia. When leadership development reflects the local cultural dynamics, followers are more apt to recognize their leaders as credible. By reinforcing our knowledge of cross-cultural communication, CCL’s LBB initiative will continue to reframe leadership to include the specific dynamics, behaviors, and cultural imperatives of African leadership.

Additional Contributing Author:

Cheri Baker was CCL’s first Summer Fellow in Ethiopia during the summer of 2011. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served for two and a half years as Health/Water and Sanitation Volunteer in Northern Ghana. One of her main leadership development projects was creating and implementing two week long leadership development workshops for one hundred junior high school girls with ten trained high school female facilitators. She has also conducted extensive research on South Sudan’s new leadership paradigms for Project Education South Sudan, a Denver-based NGO. In March 2012, she published a paper entitled “South Sudan’s Enduring Secession Issues: Is Peace Possible?” in the peer-reviewed journal Applied Anthropologist. Cheri received her M.A. in International Development in 2012 with concentrations in Deeply Divided Societies and Capacity Development. She is currently working as a Subject Matter Expert on human rights and civil-military operations for the U.S. State Department’s African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) Program.

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