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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


VAN JAARSVELD, Leentjie; MENTZ, Kobus  and  ELLIS, Suria. The Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a lens to study school principal leadership styles. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.3, pp.799-813. ISSN 2224-7912.

Followers' perceptions are the best evaluation of leadership styles. How followers observe a leadership style may differ from how the leader sees it. In order to understand the entire reality, one should accept and respect the different perspectives and its contribution towards the understanding of a phenomenon. The purpose of any educational institution is to provide successful teaching and learning to all learners. However, one of the main problems contributing towards poor results could be the leadership style of principals. Individuals have a particular perception of a leader they are about to meet, and they expect that leader to act according to those perceptions. Implicit leadership might guide a person to understand and interpret the credibility of such leadership behaviour. The transformational, transactional and passive avoidant leadership styles are researched in different contexts to understand them better. The transformational leadership style distinguishes between idealised influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration. This style is characterised by the transformation that a leader initiates by motivation, inspiration and clear communication of a mission, vision and goals. Furthermore, the transformational leader tries to develop his or her followers to their fullest. The transactional leadership style is characterised by an exchange between people, which may be economical, political or psychological. The transactional leadership style focuses on mistakes and lowers performance expectations; followers are not empowered by this style. Rewards are exchanged for submission, efforts, productivity and loyalty. Typical of the transactional leadership style is "management for results". A characteristic of this style is the leader's responsibility, especially with regard to important issues. Other characteristics are avoidance, indifference, absence and hesitance when his or her response is required in urgent issues. A leader who follows the passive avoidant style acts when a problem arises, but waits until the problem becomes serious before he or she will intervene. Followers have the freedom to make their own decisions. In this study the researcher looks at the Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a lens to study school principal leadership styles. CHAT has its origin in the work of Lev Vygotsky. The unit of analysis is an activity system, and in this study two activity systems are used to illustrate the use of CHAT. Furthermore, the study focuses on the interpersonal plane, where the interaction between the principal leadership style and teachers is studied. A quantitative study was conducted in KwaZulu-Natal. The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire was distributed among 72 schools (principals and teachers). Data were analysed and interpreted according to various statistics. The investigation revealed that the conventional distinction between principal leadership styles might be maintained, even with regard to underperforming schools that do not have all the necessary tools. It also showed that principals should take teachers' perceptions into consideration whenever they choose an appropriate leadership style. However, principals should not apply any style rigidly, but should rather combine a variety of configurations in order to manage the challenges in their respective schools effectively.

Keywords : Cultural-Historical Activity Theory; leadership style; passive avoidant; perceptions; transactional; transformational.

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