Original Research

President Mwanawasa’s transition to transformational leadership in combating political corruption in Zambia

Rueben L. Lifuka, Shanil J. Haricharan
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 50 | a2161 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v50i0.2161 | © 2024 Rueben L. Lifuka, Shanil J. Haricharan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 October 2023 | Published: 25 April 2024

About the author(s)

Rueben L. Lifuka, Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Shanil J. Haricharan, Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


Orientation: Transformational leadership styles, characterised by vision, ethical behaviour and self-awareness are crucial for institutional change and combating political corruption; yet, the current knowledge on their relationships is limited.

Research purpose: The study investigates the influence of political and institutional context, personality traits and leadership behaviours on President Mwanawasa’s anti-corruption campaign in Zambia.

Motivation for the study: There is a scarcity of academic research on the complex connections between political leadership, personal characteristics, political institutions and political corruption.

Research approach/design and method: This qualitative study utilised purposive sampling; semi-structured interviews with five key informants; and secondary data that were gathered through literature study and documentation analysis. Wilber’s four-quadrant model was used for thematic data analysis.

Main findings: The study highlights the importance of transformational leadership, particularly visionary and ethical leadership, in combating political corruption. It emphasises the relationship between values, emotional intelligence and leadership transition, and describes the shift from transactional to transformational leadership by advancing through stages of ego development.

Practical/managerial implications: The study emphasises the importance of considering contextual factors when addressing corruption and its implications for political leadership, institutional norms, governance and leadership transitions in public policy and practice.

Contribution/value-add: The study enhances understanding of political corruption by utilising a multidimensional analytical approach that considers individual and institutional consciousness domains. It also enhances comprehension of leadership behaviours and personal growth by examining ego development stages and leadership transition.


political corruption; transformational leadership; emotional intelligence; personality characteristics; ego development

JEL Codes

I18: Government Policy • Regulation • Public Health; J38: Public Policy; Z18: Public Policy

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions


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