Original Research

Influential factors impacting leadership effectiveness: A case study at a public university

Carel D. Jansen van Vuuren, Kobus Visser, Marieta du Plessis
Acta Commercii | Vol 22, No 1 | a978 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v22i1.978 | © 2022 Carel D. Jansen van Vuuren, Kobus Visser, Marieta du Plessis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 September 2021 | Published: 26 April 2022

About the author(s)

Carel D. Jansen van Vuuren, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Kobus Visser, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Marieta du Plessis, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: As a result of increased globalisation and rapid changes in the technological, social, economic and political spheres, the environment in which businesses and organisations function has become increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). This has created a unique set of challenges for the leaders of these organisations, including higher education (HE) in South Africa.

Research purpose: This study aimed to identify potential influential factors that have impact on leader effectiveness in a HE VUCA environment.

Motivation for the study: Leadership effectiveness under VUCA conditions within the South African higher education sector no longer only depends on professional leadership training. A thorough understanding of crucial influential factors moderating leader effectiveness and a sober strategy to overcome potential negative impact is pivotal. This study seeks to contribute to this understanding and to leadership theory and practice.

Research design, approach and method: A qualitative research approach was adopted to test research participants’ perceptions regarding the significance of influential factors impacting leadership effectiveness. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 employees in leadership positions at a single public university. A rigorous 16-stepwise method was used to analyse the qualitative data that employed a directed qualitative content analysis.

Main findings: The major findings of the study include theoretical and empirical support for four influential factors impacting leadership effectiveness, that is, organisational culture, the role of women in leadership, and the role of millennials in leadership and diversity.

Practical/managerial implications: Recommendations for university leaders to create an enabling environment for effective leadership to navigate VUCA are provided.

Contribution/value-add: The significance of this study lies in the potential contribution to leadership theory and insights for leaders in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to be effective in the face of VUCA.


Keywords

influential factors; leader effectiveness; higher education; volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity (VUCA); contemporary leadership styles

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