In an era in which people must work together across borders to address complex issues, there is an unfortunate and unprecedented decline in trust across the globe. Humility is known to be a predictor of greater trust between followers and leaders, but there are few studies connecting the two constructs and very limited studies from Sub-Saharan Africa. This qualitative ethnographic case study conducted interviews among Rwandan cooperative members to ask how trust and humility inform their perception of leadership. Rwanda has one of the fastest growing GDPs in Africa but is still deeply affected by a breakdown in trust in its history of genocide. The findings reveal the significant role character plays in selecting leaders, recognize and affirm the concept of ubuntu and the collective aspect of Afrocentric leadership, highlight the self-perception of Rwandan cooperative members as leaders, and define the boundary conditions necessary for trust and humility to promote effective leadership. The findings confirmed the hypothesis that an appropriate model for understanding leadership from a Sub-Saharan African cultural perspective will be one that includes trust and humility as key values. It offered insights into the leadership styles and strategies utilized in the cooperative and suggests a follower’s perception of a leader’s humility has a positive connection to a leader’s perceived trustworthiness and a follower’s perception of a leader’s trustworthiness has a positive connection to a leader’s perceived humility. The study contributes ideas for leadership development that build on the inherent confidence of cooperative members to be leaders. The study also emphasizes the significance of nurturing humility to foster greater trust among leaders and followers. It could also provide a foundation on which others learn to better recognize, honor, and nurture humble leadership that restores trust among disenfranchised communities.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Leadership; Trust; Trust--Leadership; Leadership--Africa, Sub-Saharan; Ubuntu (Philosophy); Humility

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Eric Hamilton