To lead or not to lead : principals' constructions of leadership in a climate of school transformation.
This dissertation assumed the style of the narrative to document how principals lead school transformation within the realm of a fledgling democracy after decades of apartheid rule. It zooms in to the school site to portray how principals construct themselves to orchestrate change that is consistent with the national policies of redress and equity. Located in the quantitative paradigm, the study depicts a general sense of school transformation. Thereafter, it is relocated in the qualitative paradigm to document the topical life histories of three principals from diverse backgrounds to illustrate how their experiences - lived and living - give definition to their constructions of leadership. Working within the interpretative paradigm, with the theory of transformational leadership underpinning the theoretical orientation of the study, has led to the understanding that the role of the principal is a conflicted one. The principal is conflicted by the incremental demands and the evolutionary nature of the role, the principal's interpretation of transformation and his/her expectation to manage and lead transformation. As a result, principals construct themselves mainly as managers of change, but perceive themselves to be leaders of change. While leadership gurus are adamant about attributing distinguishing features to the process of managing as opposed to the process of leading, they also recognize that organizations need both managers and leaders. It is undisputable that schools are organizations that also need managers and leaders. Therefore, it is incumbent on principals to manage and lead schools in transformation. In analyzing the data collated from principals and teachers in the study, it is evident that the processes of management and leadership are interdependent. Principals are expected to act as managers or leaders, depending on the situation, and at other times they are expected to draw on both skills of managing and leading. In the final analysis, it has been detected that while principals are leading transformation at different tempos because of their varied lived experiences, the important thing is that they are beginning to break the bonds with apartheid education. A colossal task indeed, when one considers that the findings of the investigation illustrate that principals are charged with the following conflict situations. The past oppressive system with the present democratic system, decentralization of education while maintaining core elements of centralization, stakeholders that support transformation as opposed to those who resist the process and the roles of management versus roles of leadership. While implementing change the principal is responsible for ensuring the stability of the institution. All the time dealing with the fact that she/he hails from a background that is vastly different from the one she/he currently works and lives in.