The proportion of women researchers and those holding research leadership positions in the health sciences in Africa has increased but women still remain vastly underrepresented. The current research landscape shows a shift toward large collaborative, transdisciplinary and transnational platforms that require both strong scientific and relational leadership, which many researchers have often not been required or incentivized to develop. Given women’s underrepresentation, this changing landscape may likely have a differential impact as they may not have the experience and confidence to navigate these spaces. This paper will provide perspectives on gender and research leadership from African researchers in the health sciences, and identify the core competencies, skills and experiences needed to be a successful research leader. It will also share strategies and actions that researchers, institutions and funders should adopt when shaping the career development of women researchers and addressing national health challenges at African higher education institutions.