Evolving Leadership Required in South African Schools

By Botha, R. J. | Research in Education, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Evolving Leadership Required in South African Schools


Botha, R. J., Research in Education


Introduction

During the past twenty to thirty years there have been continuous and major educational transformation trends in educational institutions throughout the world. One of them is the shifttowards greater self-management and selfgovernance in schools. This trend, evident in a number of countries (Murphy, 2002; Cuban, 2008), is related to a move towards institutional autonomy, the so-called school-based management or self-management of schools (Bush and Heystek, 2003; Botha, 2006; Marishane and Botha, 2011).

The shifttowards school-based management-as well as other modern school reform initiatives and political and curriculum changes that have taken place over this time-has presented enormous challenges to roleplayers at every level of the education system, with many of the effects felt by those at the school level. This article, based on a descriptive review of the literature, offers a dynamic perspective on the evolving role of creative leadership in the South African educational context and concludes with a presentation of five new and emerging approaches to creative leadership with regard to the evolving role of school leaders in restructuring our schools of tomorrow.

Statement of the problem

As the leadership role of the school principal is widely regarded as the primary factor contributing to a successful relationship between school reform and school improvement and is therefore an essential dimension of all effective schools (Botha, 2006; Marishane and Botha, 2011), South African principals of the future, as their counterparts worldwide, will be increasingly expected and required to lead in new and creative ways to keep up with the new challenges. Due to modern tendencies and challenges in school reform, new and creative approaches to leadership will be required to address the changes. This leads to the main problem of this study:

* Which evolving leadership approaches will be relevant and dominant to school principals in the South African schools of tomorrow?

This question leads to the following sub-problems:

* What entails leadership in the educational setting?

* What are some of the evolving approaches to educational leadership?

* What are the more common characteristics of modern school reform that necessitate a change in leadership practices?

* What are some of these evolving approaches for educational leadership?

Conceptualising educational leadership

One of the traditional and widely accepted definitions for leadership is that of Greenberg and Baron (1993: 444) who describe leadership as 'the process whereby one person influences individual and group members towards goal setting and goal achievement with no force or coercion'. According to this definition, leadership is not a matter of passive status or of the mere possession of some combination of traits. It appears rather to be a working relationship among members of a group, in which the leader acquires status through active participation and demonstration of his or her capacity for carrying cooperative tasks through to completion. It can be concluded that leadership is generally defined as the process of directing the behaviour of others towards the accomplishment of goals and involves elements such as influencing and motivating people, either as individuals or groups, managing conflict and communicating with subordinates. Educational leadership entails all these aspects in an educational setting.

Traditional approaches to educational leadership

A synopsis of some of the 'older' and more traditional views of or approaches to educational leadership that gained prominence in the past few decades is subsequently given in order to understand how educational leadership has emerged and evolved over the years. Common among these approaches is the understanding of school leadership as an evolving process. The following seven leadership views or approaches have been associated with the principalship over the years (Blumberg and Greenfield, 1986; Tichy, 1990; Grubb and Flessa, 2006):

* Authoritative leadership: this traditional leadership concept presents the principal as someone who is totally in charge and is associated with aspects such as authority/power. …

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