Leadership policy in the south african context.

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This paper will try to develop thoughts and weave new ideas and information into the understanding and insights, and support new perspectives of thinking. In order to achieve this, the paper will try to incorporate the knowledge from articles with the view to making the contents to be well understood. When one is introduced for the first time to an idea, the concept or argument, it seems to raise questions as it might be strange and a bit not easy to assimilate. Understanding only comes after the content has been read in more than once.

It is again in this paper where the test will be whether the theoretical dimensions of change and practical implications for leading and implementing change will be able to be linked with the practical situation in the classroom, schools and systems.

Leadership is regarded as one of the areas that have problems and it is also challenging. Leadership in every situation seems to be important and its importance if ever increasing. Leadership theories are very diverse especially from country to country and they deal with decision-making , compliance and giving directions but theories seem to be in need of being developed according to their context and the relevant situations. The essence of this would be dealt with in this paper.

The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the development of leadership theory and how the nature of leadership changed over a period of time. Leadership seems to have taken an increased importance in general and specific only in education especially in South Africa.

According to Kenneth Leithwood, (March 2003:53) “this renewed focus is the result on the trends and conditions, viz; the outcomes of schooling are coming under great scrutiny and there is a stronger interest in how school leaders can influence these outcomes.”“ the context for individual leadership in schools and environment surrounding schools are more complex and present new challenges for educational leaders” “research results and expectations about leadership seem to provide justification for giving leadership more attention”.

Presently, schools and the education systems in South Africa are subject to a number of changes and under pressure to perform, like IQMS (Integrated Quality Management Systems) has been introduced. The result is that education leaders are accountable for the structures and processes utilised as well as for the performance of learners and educators. Schools that are underperforming are even given to office for zero percent which that in itself is a ridicule. Although there are as many definitions of leadership the core concept coated from the work of Leitwood,( 2003).

"Thus, it may be said that leaders mobilise and work with others to articulate and achieve shared intentions"

The above means that there is no leadership we without purpose and direction, leadership always influences decision, again leadership is a function, and cannot be separated from the context and the specific situation. Therefore school leaders can be defined as: "persons, occupying various roles in the school, who work with others to provide direction and to exert influence on persons and things in order to achieve the school's goal" Leitwood, et al( 2003.9)

Linking change with leadership.

The second phenomena and the paper would like to address is change. It is necessary to understand changes as well as the link to leadership. This means the core outcome for this paper can be formulated as developing the ability and skill to lead a cultural change in the field of education.

Michael Fullan in this field is that "... change cannot be managed. It can be understood and perhaps led, but it cannot be controlled"

In this context a valuable link with leadership practice is made by: Michael Fullan(2003:3) "leadership then, is not mobilising others to solve problems we already know how to solve, but to have them confront problems that we have never yet successfully addressed"

This paper is about South Africa; the state was trying to redress the past imbalances and came up with the outcome based education curriculum 2005. The ANC is the government of the day wanted to have a curriculum that will be inclusive and to ascertain that the designated group, that is, the people (blacks) who did not receive adequate education during the "segregation development" era. Minister of National Education, Prof S. Bengu announced the launching of curriculum 2005 in to be implemented in state schools.

In this paper the practical implementations and implications of the policy document in addressing provisions related to vulnerable children and the teaching of the learning of OBE is investigated. The he paper will further assess teachers understanding of the policy will explore the readiness of the teacher to teach OBE.

In South Africa after the completion of teacher training teachers are supposed to be up-to-date in education through workshops which aims to provide continuous professional development. However, most of the workshops intended to instruct teachers in the changes in the curriculum. When OBE was integrated into the curriculum all learning institutions were expected to embrace it. The Ministry of Education adopted a cascade model to train teachers to teach using the OBE. However, it is shown that teachers were finding it difficult to teach to the learners due to the nature of the infrastructure, lack of facilities e.g. libraries and computers. The program also came with new terminology which was very confusing.

During the pilot of OBE training program a tool works or what work session will be held at the Offices in which curriculum advisers were trained to prepare teachers in the home schools to infuse and introduce this curriculum throughout all classroom subjects. Ministry of Education officials were then to monitor OBE activities in the schools along with the curriculum advisers' regular monitoring functions. Unfortunately the introduction of OBE was met or received with opposition from teachers unions especially short workshops are not fruitful to professional development of teachers. It was difficult for their Ministry of Education in South Africa to train teachers to teach the curriculum adopted by the Ministry of Education.

Case study

In South African transformation of education teachers were expected to be introduced to a new curriculum OBE (Outcome Based Education). It was introduced in grades and phases. A quick change came when ministers of education came into power after 1994 in South Africa. Methods were imported from other countries without first doing feasibility study. Teachers were given circulars of this new revised curriculum which deals specifically with learning outcomes. As the years went by and workshops where organised, tension started mounting simply because this was clouded, that is, organisations such as teachers unions and other stake holders were not ready. Senior officials who were not doing the spade work did not understand what was taking place in the classrooms. Monitoring was not done properly to check the progress made, instead it was done through fast circulars to switch over to the new revised curriculum and no reasons where advanced. Because of this super imposition by the powers that be, teachers became recalcitrant and defied authority.

In this case study the paper will highlight the following:

  • there was no advocacy
  • no proper communication
  • no consultation and
  • No proper training.

All of these are managerial problems of not making a feasibility study. Teachers felt justified not to attend and was no monitoring. The other problem was that there will be no any monitoring because the product (OBE) was imported. It is very clear that even the importers had a superficial knowledge of what OBE was. In order that leaders will want it this to be in South African schools since it was foreign it needed a leader who would take the lead by perhaps making a pilot, so still the weakness of piloting it was to be done in schools where there are facilities and the teacher pupil ratio is far reasonable. Teachers were supposed to be trained so that the new curriculum can be internalised by them before it is transmitted to learners for assimilation.

In the following article by Melissa Horner: "leadership theory: past, present and future" issues on leadership theory are dealt with:

  • history of leadership theory and research
  • leadership and motivation
  • present leadership theories
  • characteristics of a successful leader
  • call for a change
  • leadership is a process
  • integration of teams and leadership and
  • team leadership behaviour

In a comprehensive review of leadership theories: Stogill, 1974, cited by Melissa “several different categories were identified that capture the essence of the study of leadership in the 20th century. The first trend dealt with the attributes of great leaders. Leadership was explained by Internet qualities with which a person is born (Bernard, 1926 cited by Melissa) the thought was “that if the trades that differentiated leaders from followers could be identified successful leaders could be quickly assessed and put into positions of leadership"

As much as a human being can be born with good leadership qualities, there are also some qualities that leader should acquire. A leader is able to lead using skills which might seem to be inherent but must also be reinforced or coupled with acquired skills.

There are no ready made from solutions and answers to all problems which we face. In some cases a leader has to be situational field in his leadership roles as there might be factors which might hinder processes, and there are instances where commonsense cannot be applied, but a need for an extra effort. A leader need to understand that people who are been led are the ones who make him a good leader by engaging the followers into activities which show that he is in a leadership position. A leader must be in a good position to cause followers understand where he is leading them to, lest he be sabotaged. As a leader it must be taken into consideration that the followers are unique and different, that is, he is leading a diverse group class thus the skills the leader acquired must be utilised to reinforce leadership.

Which theories can be applied in leadership for improvement in schools?

Leadership is not an easy task and should not be cheaply defined as it refers to a number of complex set of characteristics. Leadership can also refer to a set of behaviours depending on the specific environment, followers and circumstances. There is no one particular or ideal leadership pattern that is effective in all systems for all leaders. It is therefore, clear, that leadership occurs in many different ways and in varying situations and circumstances. There are a number of theories in leadership that can be utilised. Leadership is one of the crucial factors contributing to the effectiveness of systems organisations. The performance of followers is deeply affected by the leadership of the leader since management and monitoring is needed in a quickly changing situation such as exists in our positions like schools leadership. Strategic management becomes a very important tool. Leaders find themselves facing many challenges and uncertainties which they have adapt and adopt. Environments are ever changing therefore leaders should have a new way of leadership and be competent so as to ably transform an easy change in their organisations and schools so as not to be overtaken by events.

J.P Spillane, R Halverson, J.B Diamond-Educational researcher. 2001-JSTOR: Educational Researcher, Vol.30,No 3 it is said that:

"the interdependence of the individual and the environment shows how human activity as distributed in the inter-active web of factors, artefacts and the situation is the appropriate analysis for studying practice. Cognition is distributed through the environments material and cultural artefacts and through other people in collaborative effort to complete complex tasks".

Latour, 1987; Pea, 1993 cited by Spillane J.P:

"an individual cognition cannot be understood merely as a function of mental capacity because sense making is abled. (and constrained) by the situation in which it takes place”. Rensick, 1991 cited by Spillane J.P

Distributed leadership requires everybody in an organisation such as a school to put an effort in bringing improvement. Involvement coupled with responsibility makes the organisation to achieve a shared goal. This type of leadership does not promote solo undertakings, that is, there must always be a sufficient consensus. Everybody's voice should be heard, people with expertise be roped in a knowledgeable people be given appropriate chance. In this leadership because everybody is involved commitment to collective vision of the organisation can be sustained since everyone will be party to the outcome. The final or the end product will assist all people to learn from each other in a meaningful way.

What makes change necessary?

To avoid stagnation one of the crucial issues to deal with in education is change. It is true changes are not always sweet but they have to be effected. It is important to bring about change in our endeavour to improve the school as an organisation. Change is two way, that is, followers can be affected by change which comes from authorities and can also as subordinates come up with a change.

What necessitate change in schools or organisations?

Between schools and organisations that are doing well in terms of achievement and the ones that are under achieving it is necessary to bring about change. In bringing change to this institution definitely they will improve.

According to James and Conolly:" it is inextricably linked to our emotions. Imposed change can call up a whole range of emotions anger at the imposition of and the denial of personal autonomy, sorrow at the sense of loss of the old and anxiety at the uncertainties but the new will bring."

To bring change a leader has to give an instruction, and an instructions should not be misconstrued to be a command. In this case the educational meaning of the word instruction means to teach.

Debora King: "with leadership for students learning as a priority, instructional leadership might simply be described as: anything that leaders do to improve teaching and learning in schools ..."

Leaders we are continually leading on daily basis and that makes their thinking to have a clear picture of things as they come. When one has experienced a new thing in ones' leadership life it would be very easy to form and make your followers to be aboard. A leader needs to be resourceful so that the decision that is taken can be informed and goal achievable. Gaining experience also helps a leader who wants to bring change to be capacitated.

Change is inevitable, as a leader you have to make it a point of that the innovative ideas you have must be implemented. In an organisation like score of the implementation has to be owned by the whole members of the staff for it to be effective. When an idea is owned by the whole staff, if it works or not, no one will allocate blame to the other.

What is expected from the leader?

According to Michael Fullan: The change leader: "only principal who are equipped to handle complex, rapidly changing environment can implement reforms that are leading to sustained improvement in student achievement." Here am a standard it is still changing how one leads in schools or organisations so that the resistance coming from followers can be managed.

Tony Wagner 2001. In the article on “Leadership for learning. An action theory of school change it is said: "today's successful educational leaders understand that they cannot make change alone or by edict, Mr Wagner notes. “They motivate groups to earn and to solve problems together by asking tough questions and naming big problems while refusing to offer easy answer"


In conclusion article it shows how leaders can bring about change that will bear fruit in the end. With this theory because of an implementation of change all stakeholders must be involved. It is true that teachers may not be interested in doing the job they feel secured. No one wants to lose their job. Teachers are at times resistant to changes especially if they were not initiated by them. They like being in the comfort zones. Now bringing changes through workshops that are not going to be monitored it is just a futile exercise. The understanding that leaders can work together with the stakeholders and form competent and work capacity could structures in the other way of making implementation successful.

It has been the modus operandi in the South Africa schools to import policies and products than hurriedly tried to implement because they think all that is from the West or elsewhere is good. The criteria used are not known to teachers that is why implementation will never be possible. Leaders need to assess whatever is new in the country, check out the challenges, clear then mist ahead of them.