Landscapes of leadership in South African schools: mapping the changes

Pam Christie

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Citations (Scopus)


    This article argues that the work of school principals in South Africa is shaped by two major sets of constructs or ‘landscapes’: the literature on leadership and management which provides particular constructions of the field and its changes; and the terrain of new policy frameworks adopted after apartheid to transform the education system. In terms of the former, the influence of international debates may be seen in South Africa, but these are situated adaptations rather than simple reflections. In terms of the latter, the new policies are underpinned by a tangled network of regulations on governance, labour relations and performance management, which bring complexity to the task of running schools. In addition, the enormous inequalities that continue to exist between schools mean that the work of principals is very different in different contexts. The article argues that a mismatch between the ideal and the actual may impede, rather than assist, attempts to improve schools. In particular, constructions of principals’ work in discourses that conflate leadership and management, that over-generalize, and that do not engage seriously with local conditions and the day-to-day experiences of principals, are likely to provide distorted depictions of principals’ work. In this context, a better understanding of the landscapes of leadership is a necessary starting point for change.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)694-711
    Number of pages18
    JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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