A case study of school principals' leadership styles and the sustainability of professional learning communities.
The Principal leadership styles play a significant role in professional learning communities (PLCs). Historically most principals have led schools autocratically and this has stifled teachers and the progress of schools. In response scholars have proposed new approaches to leading PLCs. This dissertation reports on the findings of a small scale qualitative case study that was undertaken to explore the leadership styles of three primary school principals in sustaining professional learning communities in their schools. This research study sought to gain insight into how the principals’ leadership styles promote or hinder PLCs. It also sought to explore reasons why principals support PLCs in their unique ways. The study was based on the understanding that these principals who attended and completed an Advanced Certificate in Education: School Leadership (ACE: SL) would have been exposed to new leadership styles within PLCs. The expectation was that these graduates would have adapted their style of leadership in order to promote the sustainability of PLCs. The research paradigm which was adopted was an interpretive paradigm. This study generated data through two data generation methods namely semi-structured interviews and documents analysis and the data was analysed using content analysis. Purposive sampling technique was adopted in this study. The results of the study revealed that Principals demonstrated a leadership style that was inclusive and supportive in exercising leadership. One can conclude that principals who lead PLCs in a strict hierarchical manner may inhibit the sustainability of PLCs as compared to principals who come alongside and support their teachers. In addition, principals whose leadership style nurtures the empowerment of teachers are more likely to create sustainable PLCs. One of the recommendations therefore is that Principals’ leadership approach must change in order to create the conditions necessary for a commitment to the school which can inevitably build sustainable PLCs. In addition, it is recommended that principals who attend future ACE: SL courses should be exposed to and be developed in leadership styles that are conducive to building sustainable PLCs. In concluding the findings for critical question two, the leadership style of the principal which involves teachers in the leadership of the school can promote PLCs. The opposite may also hold true. If principals do not share leadership with staff by distributing leadership, this may impede PLCs. Leadership styles that promote the growth and development of their teachers and assumes a more shepherding and supporting leadership approach are better able to promote PLCs. Principals whose leadership style values people are more likely to promote PLCs than those who are only task focused. Principals’ abilities to promote teamwork and provide support was also seen as vital to promote the long term objectives of schools. This requires principals to lead schools differently from the authoritarian approaches of the past. To determine why principals lead the school in their unique ways, four characteristics emerged and these are, pursuit of excellence, experience, passion and character. These four characteristics influenced the principals’ leadership approaches.