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SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

versão On-line ISSN 2071-0763
versão impressa ISSN 0258-5200

SA j. ind. Psychol. vol.36 no.1 Johannesburg Jan. 2010




Challenging the 'Four Corner Press' as framework for invitational leadership in South African schools



Rita NiemannI; Zendré SwanepoelII; Nalize MaraisIII

IDivision Higher Education Studies and Research, University of the Free State, South Africa
IIDepartment of Psychology of Education, University of the Free State, South Africa
IIICentre for Higher Education Studies and Development, University of the Free State, South Africa

Correspondence to




ORIENTATION: Invitational leadership (IL) is consistent with current leadership trends and, because South African schools are in need of sound leadership, it is necessary to have a framework that can guide principals to act in accordance with the expectations of their educators.
RESEARCH PURPOSE: This study challenges the internationally accepted 'Four Corner Press' of Purkey and Novak (1984) as a framework for IL in the South African school context.
MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY: IL appears to be a comprehensive model for successful school leadership. This necessitated an investigation to determine whether the 'Four Corner Press' reflects the expectations of teachers and, if so, whether it could serve as a valuable leadership tool.
RESEARCH DESIGN, APPROACH AND METHOD: A questionnaire containing 31 Likert-scale items, underpinned by the principles of IL, was disseminated to 600 educators conveniently drawn from the population of 88 828 teachers in Free State and Eastern Cape schools
MAIN FINDINGS: The data obtained from the survey enabled the researchers to perform a factor analysis, which revealed that South African educators' expectations of leadership aligned with the 'Four Corner Press'.
MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS: The 'Four Corner Press' can be used as a plausible framework for IL in South African schools, which has implications for the development and training of principals.
CONTRIBUTION/VALUE-ADD: The 'Four Corner Press' can be regarded as a reliable prototype of IL expectations within the South African context, which contributes to extending the body of knowledge of education leadership in South Africa.

Keywords: educators; factor analysis; leadership expectations; personally inviting; professionally inviting




This study challenges the 'Four Corner Press' of Purkey and Novak (1984) as a framework for creating an invitational environment in South African schools. Although organisational leadership currently focuses on quality performance through the promotion of human dignity and collaboration, there is no such thing as a 'perfect' management and leadership theory (Hellriegel et al., 2008). Rather, invitational leadership (IL) is consistent with most current leadership trends by being less hierarchical and following a more collaborative, human-directed approach to the leading of organisations.

South African schools have a dire need for sound leadership practices. Research by numerous researchers, such as Sergiovanni (1992), Schein (2000) and Yukl (2005), revealed that the educational leader exerts a greater influence on the school than any other factor. This notion is further extended by Bruffee (1999) and Furman (2002), who emphasise good leadership for the successful creation of a wellbalanced and healthy organisation. As effective leaders have a great impact on the attitudes and beliefs of their followers, South Africans are in need of leaders who are able to create an environment in which education will flourish in order to save the South African education system from a crisis (Morrow, 2008).

Grogan (2003) refers to the core of leadership as being 'predicated on caring about those he or she serves'. IL, in essence, exemplifies caring as part of its primary tenet. Caring for oneself and for others forms the basis for establishing solidarity and a positive organisational culture (Niemann & Kotze, 2006; Schein, 2000), which are believed to be some of the best qualities that any educational leader can strive to achieve.

The invitational education theory was chosen as the framework for this study because it has been found to be an effective theory within the educational environment by numerous researchers, such as Asbill (1994), Barth (1991), Eagly (2003) and Steyn (2005, 2006). The IL approach predominantly focuses on the perceptual approach to understanding behaviour. In this context, the perceptual theory, as described by Combs and Snygg (1959), implies that people behave according to how they see themselves and their environment. It is therefore clear that invitational behaviour is supported by a variety of psychological paradigms, such as individual and reality psychology, and by the cognitive behaviour modification theory.

Individual psychology, as propounded by Adler (1956), which emphasises people's personal needs and their need for recognition, has a major impact on leadership, as it implies that a person (a leader) may purposively direct behaviour to gain recognition for success. This self-concept theory was extended by Purkey (1970) and it is in this context that Glasser (1986) supports the principle that people can control their lives and can thus take responsibility for their lives.

Kok, Smith and Swart (1992) connect the reality psychology of Glasser (1975) to the invitational theory in the sense that, if people are regarded as valuable assets, they become self-responsible, which, in turn, leads to the development of their self-concept through the direction and guidance of others. In terms of leadership, this implies that school leaders should guide their staff to reach their potential.

Staff members will consequently look at themselves through the eyes of their principals: if they are viewed as failures, they will not be able to develop a positive self-concept but, if they are viewed positively, they will also view others and their professional environment positively.

The cognitive behaviour modification theory of Meichenbaum (1977) is clearly aligned with the invitational theory, which assists people to alter their self-destructive and anti-productive thoughts cognitively towards positive behaviour.

Invitational leaders assist their staff members in believing in their untapped potential and that their competencies can be unleashed if they approach this in a positive manner. In this context, questions arise as to how leaders should behave in order to become inviting and, consequently, to alter negative behaviour.

In terms of the dynamic nature of education and, in particular, in terms of the tremendous changes that education in South Africa has undergone, IL appears to be a comprehensive model that could serve as a framework for successful educational leadership (Purkey & Siegel, 2003; Stanley, Juhnke & Purkey, 2004). With the growing number of teachers leaving education, it has become necessary for principals to be able to provide an effective, orderly and nurturing environment in which positive attitudes are cultivated for the school to move towards success.

In order to take the principles of the invitational theory into organisational management, Purkey and Novak (1988) developed the 'Four Corner Press', which can serve as a framework for IL behaviour. This press is based on the various pillars of invitational 'personhood', which enhance sound leadership. These pillars refer to being personally and professionally inviting towards oneself and towards others. Being professionally inviting means inviting success if the behaviour of leaders complies with the leadership expectations of their staff.

The various dimensions of the 'Four Corner Press', as introduced by Purkey and Novak (1988) and substantiated by Brinson (1996), and its particular implications for good leadership in schools form the core of this investigation. The following is a summary of the various quadrants of the 'Four Corner Press', which Purkey (Purkey & Novak, 1988, p. 41) describe as a 'blueprint' for action.


Figure 1


According to Brinson (1996), the 'Four Corner Press' can serve as a long-range plan for the implementation of the invitational approach in schools. Purkey and Novak (1988, p. 26), however, admit that, although these four corners seem to be 'simple to describe, they are not easy to implement and that the goal is to balance the demands of the four corners and to orchestrate ways to blend them together'. The following discussion presents the core of the four corners as intended by Purkey and Novak.

Personally inviting - Self

It has already been mentioned that the way in which people view themselves is directly related to their ability to assist others in realising their potential and in building positive selfconcepts. Being personally inviting towards one's self implies that one has to care for oneself. Purkey and Novak (1988, p. 42) view trust in, and respect for, oneself, as well as optimism and intentionality, as requisites for being inviting towards oneself emotionally, intellectually and physically - something such as 'invitations begin at home'. So teachers learn from the kind of person whose example they choose to follow (Smith, 1995). If school leaders conduct themselves in a manner that reflects, amongst others, their self-care (such as eating well and exercising regularly), personal development, positive attitudes towards life and their environment, and their ability to recharge, chances are good that they awaken the same positive approaches in their followers.

Personally inviting - Others

According to Purkey and Novak (1988), this dimension focuses on developing and maintaining unconditional regard and respect for others. This can be cultivated by being open and willing to give praise but, at the same time, also to accept praise, foster friendship, act politely and share with others. If school leaders cultivate a secure and nurturing environment, their staff members are able to open up and give more of themselves.

Professionally inviting - Self

Invitational behaviour requires the feelings, wishes and aspirations of other people being taken into account. Purkey and Novak (1988, p. 43) write that 'our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of those we love and who love us in return'. Without social affiliation, leaders are not able to develop because such occasions allow for learning from others, and drawing from one's own talents and interests. Being professionally inviting towards oneself implies actions such as updating skills, rekindling professionalism, writing, being creative, joining professional groups, managing time and even dressing professionally.

Professionally inviting - Others

Purkey and Novak (1988) regard being professionally inviting towards others as a consistent process of becoming coresponsible for staff behaviour and for the modification of such behaviour. This applies to leaders themselves, as does embarking on supporting, assessing and guiding others within that professional environment. Becoming professionally inviting towards others also implies leaders taking advantage of the opportunities presented in the previously mentioned corners. Since the success of professionally inviting behaviour towards others is determined by what people share with others, it implies that school leaders should focus on aspects such as forming support groups, having mentors, working cooperatively, sharing decision-making and being honest and trustworthy.

According to the above, it seems as if the 'Four Corner Press' can be regarded as a plausible framework for IL. If teachers and learners are treated in a trustworthy, collaborative, compassionate and respectful manner, as spelt out by Purkey and Collins (1992), they act and react accordingly towards their colleagues. This, in turn, fosters a school climate and culture, which, according to Eagly and Jones (2005), 'invite' everyone to experience success.

According to Steyn (2005), principals who are able to transform their schools into more participative and inviting institutions usually go through a shift in how they think about their staff members (others) and about themselves (personal). School principals who involve their staff and encourage them to buy into their schools' goals and activities create a feeling of empowerment and of being cared for. Steyn expands on this by stressing, amongst others, that the constant control of staff is contrary to their developmental needs and tends to create a disinviting climate. This implies that there should rather be an emphasis on the principles of personhood, which includes aspects such as trust, involvement, respect, facilitation and the creation of a pleasant environment.

Purkey and Siegel (2003, p. 1) describe the invitational approach as 'a theory of practice that addresses the total environment in which leaders function' and that the 'Four Corner Press', as a guide to invitational behaviour, therefore provides a basis for contemplation and exploration. No framework, however, can be applied mutatis mutandis to any environment. Since the 'Four Corner Press' was developed against the American backdrop, the question therefore arises whether this framework could also be useful in the South African educational arena. Because South African schools have such a need for sound leadership, it is of the utmost importance that whichever framework is suggested represents the inherent leadership expectations of the educational corps.

In order to challenge the 'Four Corner Press' as a suitable framework for IL in South African schools, the purpose of this investigation is to test the following research hypothesis:

There are a number of similarities between the various dimensions of IL as expressed in the 'Four Corner Press' and the expectations of South African teachers in the sampled schools.

For testing purposes in view of building a directive theory, a researcher-developed questionnaire (RDQ) based on the dimensions of IL was used to expand the invitational framework to guide the actions of South African school leaders in establishing open and inviting schools.



Research approach

In order to realise the goals of this project, the 'Four Corner Press' had to be challenged as being appropriate for the South African context. It was therefore necessary to determine whether the basic leadership expectations of South African teachers are consistent with the basic invitational principles reflected by the 'Four Corner Press'. An empirical investigation was thus performed by means of a survey, disseminated amongst 600 conveniently selected educators. The survey contained a number of Likert-scale items underpinned by the principles of the 'Four Corner Press'. The primary data obtained from the survey enabled the researchers to perform a factor analysis to determine whether the 'Four Corner Press' model aligns with South African educators' expectations of an inviting leader.

An empirical investigation follows a quantitative, and therefore, positivistic stance of enquiry. The aim here was thus to classify the important features of the 'Four Corner Press' model and to construct a statistical model in an attempt to explain South African teachers' expectations of invitational behaviour. The data obtained from the analysis could then, in turn, be applied to empower South African school leaders to act in an invitational manner.

Research method


For the purpose of this investigation, a quantitative investigation amongst practising teachers from different strata, such as the type of school (primary, secondary or combined), the location of the school (rural, urban or township), race and gender, was conducted. Table 1 illustrates the demographic information of the sample. The sample was conveniently drawn from Free State and Eastern Cape primary and secondary schools. A response rate of 60.67% (364 out of 600 questionnaires) was obtained, which represents 0.40% of the universum of educators in public schools in these regions (N = 88 828).



The sample of teachers in the investigation rightfully represents the gender composition of teachers in South Africa (i.e. 33% men and 67% woman,, which, therefore, enhances the external validity of the study.

Measuring instrument

An RDQ was designed by combining the various characteristics of the invitational theory and the leadership survey instrument by Asbill (1994). The RDQ was designed to fit the South African educational environment and contained 31 closed Likert-type items, 26 items where respondents had to select the rating that best described their leadership expectations and 5 items illustrating the respondents' experiences of school leadership. Owing to the limited scope of an article, it was decided that this article would portray only the results related to the 26 items concerning the respondents' expectations of inviting leadership actions, as illustrated by the 'Four Corner Press'. Each of the pillars of invitational behaviour (personal self, personal others, professional self and professional others) was represented by items that reflect the required leadership practices needed to portray that particular dimension of being invitational. The respondents had to rate their expectations of the particular inviting leadership practice by indicating whether they, (1) strongly agreed, (2) agreed, (3) were not sure, (4) disagreed or (5) strongly disagreed. All total and mean scores were calculated and the statistical analysis was performed through the SPSS data-analysis program.

Although the questionnaire was constructed and adapted by the researchers themselves, the questionnaire can be regarded as reliable, as the Cronbach alpha reliability analysis reveals coefficients of 0.906 for questions 1-26, which are applicable variables in this study. The validity of the questionnaire is enhanced by the fact that Asbill's standardised leadership survey instrument (1994), amongst others, was foundational to the questionnaire's construction. Questions which portray real-life situations were used, as these are positive attributes of content validity (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000; Kouzes & Posner, 1993). The construct validity of the instrument is also enhanced by the fact that the items measured are related to the kind of statements that participants generally make about their own and others' experiences of best practices in leadership (Cooper & Schindler, 2006; Kouzes & Posner, 1993).

Research procedure

Data were collected by means of a survey disseminated amongst 600 conveniently selected teachers from the Free State and Eastern Cape provinces, 364 teachers returning the questionnaires (response rate = 60.67%). The data were captured on an electronic file and analysed with the SPSS 16.0 dataanalysis program. The statistical-analysis methods applied in this investigation are explained below.

Statistical analysis

Principal-factor extractions were performed, followed by a varimax rotation, after which the factor structure was determined. The eigenvalues were studied to determine the number of factors that underlies the RDQ.



In order to challenge the validity of the 'Four Corner Press' as a viable framework to guide school leaders towards following an invitational approach, a factor analysis of teachers' expectations of their principals' leadership practices was conducted. The items that measure the independent variables of the study's scale were accordingly subjected to the factor analysis through the SPSS Version 16. A principal component analysis (PCA) formed part of the factor analysis to reduce the data to a few significant clusters, after which a varimax rotation assigned eigenvalues to the significant clusters, enabling the researchers to determine that the South African teachers' expectations of IL in their schools are similar to those reflected in the 'Four Corner Press'.

The factor analysis commenced with the Kaiser Meyer Olkin (KMO) analysis and Bartlett's test of sphericity (Table 2). The KMO indicates the sampling adequacy (0.831), which should be greater than 0.5 for a satisfactory factor analysis to proceed (Garson, 2009). The Bartlett's test results (Table 2), with a determinant significance value of 0.001 (df = 325), implies that there is more than one dependent value in a linear function to another. They reveal that the relationships amongst variables are appropriate to conduct a factor analysis, as the value is significant at the 99% level (p < 0.01) (



The PCA extraction method was used to search for variables that depend strongly on a single factor. A factor analysis was run to separate appropriate variables into seven components (Table 3), providing eigenvalues larger than 1 (the sum of the variances of the factor values), which transform the set of variables into new sets of composite variables. Although seven factors emerged from the PCA, only the four factors that revealed eigenvalues higher than 1.500 were used for the purpose of this investigation. These factors reflect most of the variance amongst variables.

Cooper and Schindler (2006) argue that the interpretation of factor loadings does not necessarily portray the meaning of factor loadings. Factor loadings are used largely for exploration, as they illustrate what one sees in them, and they can accordingly be interpreted by detecting patterns, discovering new concepts or reducing data (Cooper & Schindler, 2006). This explains why the researchers valued cross-loaded variables. Cross-loadings indicated that some of the variables, such as principals evaluating their own actions, enjoying refreshments with staff members, portraying sensitivity towards the needs of others, qualifying themselves through further study and reading educational journals, measured multiple constructs and that they were therefore not homogeneous (Table 4). This study was regarded as an exploratory investigation and the factor loadings were therefore used largely for exploration and for the detection of patterns (Cooper & Schindler, 2006). Crossloaded variables could be resolved by looking at the 'Four Corner Press' model. In some cross-loaded cases, the lower factor loading was used, as it reflected the theoretical principles underpinning the 'Four Corner Press' model.

These sets of variables were refined by the varimax rotation resulting from the PCA, which provided a rotated component matrix with four extracted components (Table 4). (Extraction method: PCA. Rotation method: Varimax with Kaiser normalisation. A rotation converged in 13 iterations.)

According to the results of the rotated component matrix (Table 4), each of the four extracted components is related to a number of factors. These factors are clustered around the components by means of the eigenvalue, which indicates the relative strength of each factor to the total variance of the study. The highest total variances are accounted for by components 1-4.

Table 5 indicates the four factors that emerged from the analysis with their factor loadings. These factor loadings can be interpreted like correlation coefficients (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007), as they indicated the correlation between the teachers' expectations of their leaders' invitational practices and the factors that surfaced from the analysis.



By challenging the 'Four Corner Press' of Purkey and Novak (1984) as a framework for creating an invitational environment in South African schools, teachers' expectations of their principals' leadership practices emerged. The various leadership components identified according to the factor loadings (eigenvalues) were largely subjective in nature but it was easy to detect patterns in this exploration, as the identified components (Table 5) largely replicate the dimensions of IL as reflected by the 'Four Corner Press' (Table 6).

The first component that emerged from the data analysis includes most of the items related to professionalism in the workplace, such as principals:

• fostering unity and collaboration in the workplace

• listening attentively when staff members speak to them

• promoting teacher confidence

• using polite language when speaking to staff members

• demonstrating enthusiasm for their jobs

• providing opportunities for teamwork

• evaluating their own actions.

The second component reflects items representing principals caring for themselves, such as being serious about religion, appearing to enjoy life, having someone to confide in when experiencing problems and engaging in pleasurable activities. The third component includes dimensions indicating expectations concerning principals' caring attitudes towards their staff members, underpinned by their efforts in getting to know their staff, by enjoying refreshments with their staff during break and by showing sensitivity towards the needs of their staff. The fourth component portrays the teachers' expectations regarding opportunities for development and was therefore termed personal professional development, illustrated by principals being members of a teachers' union, qualifying themselves through further study and reading educational journals.

The above-mentioned components portray only 17 of the 26 variables that were applied during this investigation. The other nine variables contain small factor loadings, which are not considered significant for the exploratory purpose of this study because of their small influence to variance amongst variables (Cooper & Schindler, 2006).

As mentioned earlier, there is no uncontested management and leadership approach. However, it is evident from this investigation that teachers have particular expectations of their principals' leadership behaviour, which implies that leaders clearly have a great impact on the attitudes and beliefs of their followers. In order to make a valuable contribution to South African education, a plausible framework for the training of school principals in establishing a conducive environment remains a challenge to researchers. The fact that teachers seem to have more or less the same expectations of IL as those expressed in the 'Four Corner Press' model in itself provides sufficient evidence for the acceptance of the hypothesis. This implies that the 'Four Corner Press' can be regarded as a reliable prototype of the expectations of IL and could therefore be a useful model within the South African context.

This research further reveals the need for the training of school leaders towards an invitational approach to leading and managing schools. The dimensions of IL include principals taking care of themselves to ensure that they possess the wellbeing to function optimally and principals' responsibility towards personal professional empowerment through various actions (such as improving their qualifications, reading and attending conferences) in order to become life-long learners and, as such, enabling themselves to keep abreast of all developments in education.

Being an invitational leader further implies leaders being expected to have their staff members' personal and professional well-being and development at heart. School leaders are consequently expected to, amongst others, act politely, care for their staff members, facilitate continuous communication, foster collaboration and provide constant recognition and reward. All these dimensions of IL need to be included in training programmes in view of fostering staff attitudes that steer schools towards success.

Limitations of the study

Certain limitations could have influenced the results of the study. Firstly, the population of the study was not homogeneous, which means that a larger variety of factors could have influenced the results and, secondly, the respondents were from only two provinces in South Africa. The fact that the sample does not constitute a homogeneous group, however, does have the advantage of the results possibly including a wider range of views and, as such, overcoming the limiting effect of the inclusion of respondents from only two provinces. The relatively large sample - 364 respondents - also contributes to the enhancement of the validity and reliability of the findings.


In view of the above findings and the theory underpinning IL, the following recommendations for practice are made:

• The 'Four Corner Press' can serve as a framework to be followed by principals towards creating an invitational environment in which teaching and learning can flourish.

• The development and training of principals in IL will enable them to apply this knowledge within their work environment in terms of becoming personally inviting towards themselves and towards others, as well as acting in a professionally inviting manner towards themselves and towards others. It is particularly in this context that the 'Four Corner Press' could make a valuable contribution.

• IL practices should form part of management training in South Africa, as they resemble the expectations of teachers of what is necessary for good leadership. The invitational approach should therefore form part of any training initiative that has the transformation of leadership in South African schools as its aim.



In conclusion, it is valuable to note that people seem to behave according to how they experience their environment. This is based on principles resembling the perceptual theory by Combs and Snygg (1959) and on the pillars of personhood by Purkey and Novak (1988). It is particularly in the latter context that school leaders should be guided towards an inviting approach because, if staff members are treated in a trustworthy, collaborative, compassionate and respectful manner, they, in turn, will act and react accordingly towards their colleagues. Whatever framework is suggested for school leaders to follow, it should resemble the expectations of their followers.

Practitioners and managers are therefore compelled to become involved in future research. This could include an extended project targeting respondents from all the provinces in the country and therefore provide a more complete overview of teachers' expectations of their principals' leadership.

In the context of the indicated leadership expectations, IL has the potential to make a difference in the lives of leaders and in the lives of those with whom they work, which, in turn, could foster a school climate and culture that invite schools to flourish and become more successful. If the actions suggested by the 'Four Corner Press' could become an integral part of school leaders' personal and professional profile, it could consequently serve as a framework for leadership and could be used to train South African school leaders to address the educational challenges in South Africa.



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Correspondence to:
Rita Niemann
Division Higher Education Studies and Research
PO Box 339, Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa

Received: 11 Dec. 2008
Accepted: 20 Jan. 2010
Published: 07 June 2010



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