Purpose – The paper aims at identifying the knowledge gaps in the existing African leadership studies and argues in support of further research in the field with a view to establishing the link between African culture and leadership practices and their implications for economic growth on the continent. Design/methodology/approach – It reviews the mainstream perspectives in leadership literature in general and African leadership literature in particular as a basis for the development of an integrated goal-behaviour-performance model. Findings – Previous studies have seen African culture as either defining the uniqueness of leadership on the continent or constraining leadership development. The paper suggests the presence of both types of impact on leadership. It also offers a conceptual framework that integrates the different perspectives on the relationship between culture, leadership and organizational performance. Research limitations/implications – The paper is based mainly on limited empirical investigations into leadership styles and functions in Africa. The scarcity of studies in the field therefore imposes limitations on the generalizability of some of the arguments. Practical implications – The paper encourages research in the field and provides some propositions to guide future empirical investigations. Ideas generated in the paper will guide organizational development strategies and poverty alleviation policies in Africa. Originality/value – It is one of the recent attempts to synthesize existing perspectives on leadership behaviour in Africa and its implications for economic growth and poverty alleviation.