Leadership in South African higher education : a multifaceted conceptualisation
This thesis explores the meaning of leadership in the context of higher education in South Africa, a society in transition. The higher education system in the country is in a process of change from being fragmented and segregated, to being a democratic one, guided by various policies. Within this facilitative environment, very little is said about leadership yet 'leadership' has been blamed in many instances where things have gone wrong. This qualitative study consisting of semi-structured interviews with middlelevel academic leaders, reveals inequalities in terms of who is leading at that level. The study also reveals an awareness of the existence of these inequities among the manager-leaders; they do, however, hold two distinct viewpoints about the causes of these inequities. A feminist and poststructuralist framework is used to analyse specific dimensions of the manager-leaders' understandings and practices of leadership. In the absence of a defined discourse of leadership, the manager-leaders are drawing on their own personal experiences of how they have been and are led and their own practices of how they lead in order to conceptualise leadership and what constitutes a leader. The study shows that the managerleaders understand leadership as a combination of leadership practice, i.e. how it is being enacted and their notions of characteristics desired in leaders. Their descriptions of leadership seem to be characterised by relational elements. In addition, the findings show that race and gender have specific implications for leadership; from a racial perspective additional roles are added to the general identified leadership practices while a gender perspective reveals several invisible leadership aspects. The thesis therefore describes leadership as an activity or process influenced by contextual elements: historical imperatives, organisational factors, and personal and group constructs, such as race and gender.