The Papua New Guinea senior education officers' views on leadership : a cross-cultural perspective

  • Paul Koro

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This study examines senior education officers’ (SEOs) perceptions of the meanings and characteristics of the term ‘leadership’ both from their traditional PNG and Western perspectives. Data were drawn from questionnaires returned by 20 SEOs, 2 recorded interviews and a focus-group methodology. The purposes of the study are to: (i) define the meaning of leadership from the senior education officers’ perspectives and through the review of the literature; and (ii) identify key characteristics and skills of the leadership role of senior education officers in PNG today, as a basis for improving practice and informing knowledge about leadership. Respondents were asked to define the meaning of the term leadership, and to describe their most memorable leadership experiences which may have helped to shape their understanding of leadership. They were also asked to identify and to list the key leadership functions, qualities and skills/ abilities which they perceive to be most important in their roles today, and for the foreseeable future. Literature on leadership is complex and wide ranging. Those which provided data of particular significance in specific areas directly related to this study include: Rost (1991) on the definitions of leadership; Kouzes and Posner (1993 and 1987) in relation to characteristics of leadership; on educational leadership (Sergiovanni et al 1987, Turney et al 1992, and Fullan 1991 and 1992) in relation to the functions, qualities and related skills/abilities of educational leaders; on culture and cross-cultural studies (Hallinger and Leithwood 1996, Heck 1996, Bates 1992); and various ethnographic sources on PNG and Melanesian traditional and contemporary leadership. A number of significant findings have emerged through this research study. The first, relates to a firm view of traditional PNG/Melanesian leadership as a ‘shared leadership’, defined in this study as a shared influence relationship among members of a social unit through a mutual quest for their existence. The notion of shared leadership emphasises the importance of reciprocal generosity, cooperation and competition for Melanesians in their daily quest for their needs and aspirations based on mutual concern, care and devotion for one another. The great diversity of people and cultures of Melanesians also enriches the view of ‘leadership as cultural practice’ (Gerstner and O’Day 1995, Heck 1996, Bates 1992) and the interplay of ‘education as cultural construction’. These inseparable concepts provide logical and promising framework both towards transcending knowledge, cultures and poeple, and an interest to engage in more cross-cultural research. This study identifies among the most pressing problems of contemporary leadership in PNG relates to the inability of leaders to transcend traditional knowledge and customary practices with the new Western knowledge and practices. In other words, the problems of transcending the notion of ‘shared leadership’ with Western leadership characterised by public accountability, credibility and integrity normally associated with leadership in public office cannot easily be matched and transferred. This study suggests a ‘transcendent leadership model’ as a potential solution toward achieving this end. Extending beyond one’s own limits, to do something extraordinary and admirable for the common good is what transcendent leadership model suggests every leader must be able to do. The foundations of transcendent behaviour the literature suggests include: moral and ethical living (Starratt .1996); ambition, competence, and integrity (Bennis and Goldsmith 1994); and honesty, forward-outlook and inspiration (Kouzes and Posner 1993). The literature indicates that these qualities and skills require proper ‘intellectual conditioning’ (Ramoi 1987, Narakobi 1991), to produce ‘educated persons’ (Starratt 1996) who are able to understand, appreciate, critique, and participate in their cultures, traditions, and history. This study therefore investigates and defines the meanings, roles and functions of the concepts of leadership, culture and education in relation to the cross-cultural conditions of the work of SEOs in PNG.
Date of Award1998
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra

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