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Women principals in KwaZulu-Natal : reshaping the landscape of educational leadership.

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The concept and approaches of leadership focused mainly on the male experience and interpretation of what constitutes leadership. Studies on leadership in the main have ignored the perspective of women and this then impacts on the description of leadership in its entirety as a concept of 'one size fits all'. This study investigates the leadership perspective as enacted and experienced by women principals in secondary schools. The study combined both the quantitative and qualitative paradigm. A survey questionnaire was used to ascertain the leadership styles of women principals throughout the province of KwaZulu Natal. Semistructured interviews conducted with four women principals from the four ex- education departments were used to gain a deeper insight of the experiences of female principals as leaders. The study concludes that the features of the female principals leadership approach is participatory and transformational, where transformational refers to shared influence and co-operation, participative decision-making, teamwork and the concept of power for the empowerment of members of the organization. The importance of this finding is that it reflects that women as leaders are inclined to the transformational approach because it favours their feminine values of nurturing and caring. In the context of change and transformation in South African schools, it would be in the best interests of school principals, regardless of gender, to adopt a more transformational approach so as to empower individuals, develop an environment of trust and capitalize on unique and diverse abilities, skills and talent in order to change schools from a bureaucratic, top-down organization to a more democratic one. Given the critical role principals play in transforming schools, this finding suggests that appointing more women to leadership positions would have a beneficial effect.


Thesis (M.Ed.) - University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2005.