Management Styles: Kenyans are relational, Nigerians are deal-makers

The differences between Kenyan and Nigerian management styles were explained to me during my stay in Lagos. After talking to managers from both countries, it became clear that what I had been told had some truth in it: Kenyans are relational, while Nigerians are deal-makers.

Setting the stage is important to Kenyans. You can’t go straight into business matters. Instead, you need to establish the relationship first, and spend some time getting to know your counterpart and allowing them to get to know you. In Kenya, the relationship comes first, and then business of mutual benefit may follow .

Nigerian business people are called "cheetahs". Picture: Yathin sk
Nigerian business people are called “cheetahs”. Picture: Yathin sk

In contrast, Nigerians rush to the point immediately. The Nigerian CEO of a real estate company told me “They call us ‘cheetahs’ ,” (rapidly clarifying, “cheetah”, the animal that reaches speeds of up to 100km/h or 70mph, not cheaters!”). They are very social but purpose dictates their relationships.

I think this difference in management style also shows in their driving style. In a previous post I traced some connections between the between the managing style and driving style, and I think it applies to the Kenyan case as well.

Traffic jam in the Nairobi airport area.

The other day, for instance, I was stuck in a horrendous traffic jam: it took us two and a half hours to drive 17.5 km – the picture gives you an idea of what it was like. To my amazement, people looked quite calm. There was hardly any sounding of horns, and it took a while before people tried to overtake. Had this happened in Lagos, drivers would have raced to sneak through impossibly small gaps between cars.

There are regulations that prompt Kenyans to take a picture when they observe non-civic traffic behavior and report it, and there’s a TV program that shows these pictures. Maybe it’s this kind of social control that’s behind the civilized driving behavior I’ve seen here.


2 thoughts on “Management Styles: Kenyans are relational, Nigerians are deal-makers

  1. This is a great insight into the big difference between Nigerians and the rest of Africa not just Kenyans. An analogy is the saying that “you look before you leap”. While you look, you must focus on the leaping or you might be carried away by the looking that you forget to leap. When you start a business deal by first focusing on the relationship, issues in the relationship may affect the business because of emotions. I guess that’s why we say in Nigeria that “business should not be mixed with pleasure”. In my opinion, a balance approach of focusing on the deal and keeping an eye on the relationship is the best.

    1. Thanks for this insight, Deo’. In addition to the balanced approach, I think it’s important to know where we and our counterparts are coming from so that we can adjust accordingly.

Comments are closed.