The influence of school principals' leadership styles on the effectiveness of schools
The poor matriculation results of the past number of years, as well the changing role of principals as school leaders raise concerns for the future of education in South Africa. One of the contributory factors is that principals who were trained under the apartheid school system often lack the skills and knowledge to lead democratically or strategically. This has major implications for the effectiveness of schools of learning. Although there is a wide range of theories on leadership styles, the area remains complex. The nature of what exactly makes some leaders and organisations successful and others unsuccessful is uncertain. There is a shortage of evidence about what precisely constitutes effective leadership, particularly in the area of disadvantaged schooling. The question that follows is: How do the different leadership styles of school principals influence the effectiveness of schools in low-income communities, and what other factors promote school effectiveness? If there is a particular style of leadership which could help to make schools more effective in such communities, it is the purpose of, and justification for, this study: to identify it, or its application, in such schools. The purpose of this research was to identify and characterise principals’ leadership styles and their influence on the effectiveness of four schools in low-income areas on the Cape Flats. This investigation identified the factors that contribute to a school being effective. Principals’ leadership styles were investigated in relation to factors such as availability or lack of resources, parental and community involvement, an environment conducive to learning, and learners’ academic performance on school effectiveness. Research was located largely in a qualitative paradigm, with limited use of quantitative data. It sought to achieve an in-depth and holistic understanding of interaction among principals’ leadership styles and other factors contributing to school effectiveness. Data was collected from four principals and four HODs from four schools in Mitchell’s Plain and Steenberg in the Cape Flats area of the City of Cape Town. The four schools were selected on the basis of their location in low-income communities. Methods of data collection included audio-recorded, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. The results revealed that schools, at which principals adopted a participatory or contingency leadership style, where all stakeholders within the school community shared responsibility and decision-making, were more successful in terms of academic performance and overall school effectiveness.