The effects of leadership traits on transformation: A case study of a South African university

Bethuel S. Ngcamu


This article investigated the effects of leadership traits on transformation in a merged and incorporated higher education institution in South Africa. Few studies have been conducted on leadership traits in universities, with none linking them to transformation. The study was guided by the traits theory, one of the systematic attempts to study the effect of leadership on transformation. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches were used, the former through a structured survey questionnaire and the latter through in-depth interviews. The questionnaire generated a high reliability rate of 0.947, indicating a high degree of internal consistency of the results, which reflected nearly 40% of the research participants who felt that the university creates a platform for open debates. However, 30% of them did not feel that independent thinking and freedom of speech are promoted, a finding partly corroborated by the qualitative findings. It was also found that business processes were inflexible, there was no reward for performance, unproductive change interventions were introduced and decision-making centralised, all seen as contrary to the transformation agenda and reflecting poor leadership traits. It is hoped that the study will assist university decision-makers under the current state of turmoil in the South African higher education landscape to exhibit leadership traits that will bring about transformation. The study also fills a void in the scant literature on the effects of leadership traits on transformation in South African universities, thus contributing to the body of knowledge.


freedom of speech; higher education institutions; skills development; transformation agenda

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Submitted: 18 December 2016
Published: 24 November 2017

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The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa    |    ISSN: 1817-4434 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2415-2005 (ONLINE)