A follower-centric study of women leadership in one secondary school : teachers' perspectives.
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South Africa’s transition into democracy, presents a distinct environment for the study of women leadership. This is so because extensive national and international legislative measures were put in place to uplift the previously marginalised status of women. Since leadership studies have primarily focused on leaders, this follower-centric study focused on ‘what’ secondary school teachers’ perspectives of women leadership were and ‘how’ such perspectives were constructed based on their lived experiences of being led by women in one school. Following a qualitative case study design, embedded within an interpretivist paradigm, the findings for this study were derived from document reviews, seven photo-elicited, semi-structured individual interviews and a photo-elicited focus group interview. The Social Role Theory, the Role Congruity Theory and the transformational theory, constituted the theoretical framework that assisted in analysing data against the social roles of women and prejudice against women leaders respectively. Findings revealed two contradictory styles of women leadership including a feminine or ‘Mothering Leadership’ and an ‘Iron Lady’ leadership style or a highly masculine leadership style. Male participants mostly identified with the Mothering Leadership style, refuting any oppressive, Iron Lady leadership styles. The caring, nurturing and intuitive; patient and persevering; approachable and understanding; humble and motivational; sociable, people and relationship-oriented attributes of mothering leaders were positively evaluated , while the emotional, sensitive and over-caring attributes of mothering leaders came under some criticism. The Iron Ladies’ autocratic and forceful; commanding and demanding; bold and assertive and task and performance oriented attributes were negatively evaluated by female participants with some appraisal of assertive attributes. A passive, robotic leadership style of women was identified in addition to them being perceived as ineffective team leaders and delegators. Due to the domination of males in leadership positions, women leaders were found to be heavily dependent on and following male leaders, while they remained submissive and voiceless in their formal positions. Leadership being largely judged against a yardstick that is male, evidently resulted in masculinist women leaders being subjected to derogatory name-calling, feelings of inferiority and an urge to go ‘more than the extra mile’ to prove their worth to a chastising society.
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