Transformation through the lens of leadership capabilities in South African universities


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The university leaders of the 21st century have failed to expose the transformation needs and demands of their institutions and have only implemented transformational strategies and measures that suit their career endeavors. This has been compounded by their lack of personal, interpersonal, and cognitive capabilities, which are essential in driving, shaping, and achieving the transformation agenda of their respective institutions. Against this backdrop, this article ascertains university leaders’ knowledgeability of factors and their understanding of change initiatives that could drive and achieve universities’ transformation agenda. The leadership traits, cognitive abilities, and qualities that can also influence transforming universities are assessed in this empirical study. A quantitative research approach was adopted in this comparative study, where a structured questionnaire was distributed to 191 respondents. A 70% response rate was obtained at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), while 59% was achieved at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 12 was used to capture and analyze the data. This study has the potential to influence university leaders in totality in their nomenclature on transformation and the traits needed for effective transformation. The current research study revealed fascinating results that leaders from both the universities believed that transformation refers to restructuring rather than the widely shared narrative of addressing the racial imbalances of the apartheid era. Furthermore, the results suggest that the university leaders understand their institutional transformation agendas although the freedom of speech and open debates are not promoted and that leaders are not good listeners.

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    • Table 1. Reliability analysis
    • Table 2. Knowledgeability of transformation
    • Table 3. The understanding of change in a university
    • Table 4. Leaders’ traits influencing transformation
    • Table 5. Cognitive capabilities of leadership
    • Table 6. Leadership qualities achieving the transformation agenda
    • Table 7. Correlations among dimensions