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Doctoral Project Abstract

Balancing the Life of an NGO Leader in Africa

Jean Baptiste Kamate

An unbalanced work-life among Nongovernmental organizations (NGO) leaders leads to poorly led or designed organizations and perhaps more fundamentally; it threatens the future of these organizations and their critical programs. NGOs bring expertise and resources to the development of poor communities in Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America. Some of them show better leadership and organizational effectiveness as compared to governments in targeted countries. However, these leaders regularly talk about work-life balance and do not even attempt to live it. The growing concern in humanitarian circles for a balanced life suggests we need to start addressing the issue at leadership level. There is limited hope for employees’ rest and renewal when leaders themselves fail to rest. A balanced life is the harmony between fundamental elements of self, community, and environment.

The “super person” mindset, the ambitious goals, the internal and external factors and the lack of focus hinder every attempt to achieve a balanced life. The discipline for rest is sometimes desperately lacking, and the leader becomes a Great Man or a Great Woman. This severely affects leadership trust. Leaders are setting goals that are more ambitious and unattainable. One important way of rethinking goals is through life simplification - we should choose to simplify life. To simplify means removing events or things which are not necessary for life.

Work-life balance is a daily struggle for NGO leaders in Africa and the most successful leaders entertain a culture of rest and renewal. This starts with a calm life, with intensive listening that continuously refuels leadership. It recognizes that leaders do not exist in isolation, but in dependence of followers, organizations and the society. Therefore, when leaders build some harmony with these fundamental elements, they start building the institution that would make leadership redundant. Balancing work with life is necessary for creativity and innovation that enhance organizational future. Unbalanced life bears significant risks for leaders, their families, as well as their organizations. Today’s call for NGO leaders is to accommodate rest and renewal for employees and themselves in order to sustain organizational future and minimize leadership tragedies.

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