Leadership from two cultural perspectives—a tune or discord: Botswana's experience

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Abstract:

This article provides traditional and teachers' academic views on school leadership in Botswana. The traditional view is based on the practice used in the kgotla's system. This is a traditional way of engaging all people in a discussion, which has a community or national focus. The system emanates from the pre-colonial leadership approach based mainly on the Setswana proverb that 'kgosi ke kgosi ka batho'. This literally means a leader (king/kgosi) can lead with the support and active participation of those led in the decision-making processes. The academic view is drawn from teachers' understanding of school leadership in their context. The problem is that headteachers are generally seen to be the only school leaders and they too seem not to be actively involving teachers in the school decision-making processes. Their approach is centred in the modern construct of school leadership, which tends to emphasise the importance of a leader. This is in contrast to the Setswana indigenous view, which focuses on group consensus and effort in leading. The study indicates that the two views could be combined to produce a blend of a nationally rich cultural and modern approach to school leadership. The methodology of the study is based on the interpretive paradigm using the interview and the case study as methods. The research suggests that leadership is a concerted effort and effective leadership is possible if the headteacher is de-centred and the focus is on combining the traditional and modern approaches to develop a 'tune' in leadership. Finally it is argued that preparation for school leaders in Botswana should take cognisance of the Setswana culture so that headteachers do not find themselves isolated as a result of their positions but should cooperate with teachers.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02601370802051397

Affiliations: 1: University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana 2: Customary Court of Appeal, Gaborone, Botswana

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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