Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Leadership Behaviour of the School Principal: An Exploratory Study in Five Special Schools in Kwazulu-Natal

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Leadership Behaviour of the School Principal: An Exploratory Study in Five Special Schools in Kwazulu-Natal

Article excerpt


This study examined the leadership behaviour of the school principal at five special schools in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. A quantitative survey was conducted involving 50 teachers (11 male; 39 female) across the five schools. The Likert-scale survey questionnaire used in the study comprised 37 items categorised along five dimensions of leadership: collegial relationships; communication of vision and goals; professional and personal growth; shared decision making, and recognition of professional skills and accomplishments. The data was analyzed using multiple statistical procedures, including mean point value, standard deviation, t-test of significance and one-way-analysis of variance (ANOVA). The findings revealed that there is limited evidence of the leadership factors and characteristics examined in the study at the five schools. There were interesting differences by gender in responses of teachers on whether the key leadership characteristics were displayed by their school principals. The findings suggest a strong need for re-culturing of the special schools in the direction of participatory and transformative leadership styles and a sharing of power.

Key words: school leadership, gender, school principal, special schools.


The impact of the leadership behaviour of the principal on a school's ethos, culture and motivational climate are explicit and implicit in research globally (for example, Barbour, Clifford, Corrigan- Halpern et al., 2010; Grobler, Bisschoff & Beeka, 2012; Kocolowski, 2010; Rice, 2010). Internationally, effective schools research shows that good principals influence a variety of school outcomes such as student achievement, motivation of teachers, well-articulated school vision and goals, effective allocation of resources, development of organizational structures to support instruction and learning as well as emotional well-being of staff (Davies, Hammomd, LaPointe & Meyerson, 2005; Raihani, 2007; Rice, 2010). The role of the school leader is complex and leadership varies from school to school. Many scholars have argued that there is no one best way to lead as leadership styles are linked to context, and there are often webs of contextual influences operating (Hargreaves & Fink, 2006; Leech & Fulton, 2008; Raihani, 2008).

There are many leadership models proposed in the literature, for example, an autocratic style; a bureaucratic style, an invitational leadership style, a charismatic style; participatory leadership, and a transformational style (see for example, Kamper, 2008; Murphy, 2008; Swanepoel, 2008; Van der Mescht & Tyala, 2008). Drawing largely on literature on participatory and transformational leadership, researchers have proposed a core set of leadership practices which are valuable in school contexts (Bass & Riggio, 2006; Day, Simmons, Hopkins, et al., 2010; Dinham, 2004; Hallinger, 2011; Leithwood & Riehl, 2005; Leithwood, Day, Sammons, Harris & Hopkins, 2006). Three key behaviours are found in this core set: (1) developing consensus about goals and priorities which includes building a shared vision and creating high performance expectations; (2) developing people including offering intellectual stimulation, providing support, and modelling important values and practices; and (3) redesigning the organization which includes creating and maintaining shared decision-making structures and processes; building collaborative cultures, and building relationships with parents and the wider community. A number of qualities essential for effective leadership in schools are highlighted in the literature. The most important of these are the creation of a climate so that teachers can have opportunities to feel more adequate as professionals; see greater significance, possibilities and responsibilities in their roles; perceive the situation as one in which improvement is not only possible but highly valued, and feel that their contributions to the achievement of organizational goals are recognised and valued. …

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