An investigation into aspects of transformational leadership in South African small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Visser, Dirk Jacobus (2004-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2004

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: To the world community at large globalisation has been a gradual process, whereas its impact in South Africa was more intensive and concentrated over a shorter period of time - in particular since South Africa's return to the international community in the early to middle 1990s, its economy, inter alia, has had to adjust to this phenomenon. It is within this environment that all enterprises constituting the South African economy also had to adapt and adjust to a new world environment. From the middle 1980s a new discourse in the literature on the effect of a "new" style of leadership (based on continuous learning, renewal, innovation and entrepreneurship) was reported on in which these leaders brought about significant change in organisations. These leaders recognise the need for change in their organisations. They create a new vision. They bring about change in their organisations to meet the challenges from the changing environment and have been accordingly recognised as transformational leaders. This leadership style has been extensively reported on in large organisations, in both the private and the public sectors. For example, literature and research abound on the impact of transformational leaders in large business enterprises (e.g. Lee lacocca of Chrysler, Jack Welch of General Electric) and government institutions, such as education, the military and health (e.g. Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Mahatma Ghandi of India). A review of the literature on the impact of transformational leadership in large organisations, without fail, reports significant manifestations of success in those organisations' growth, cohesion and development into' more successful and competitive units. Concomitantly, it is generally acknowledged by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the Asian Development Bank and other organisations of similar position, that small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) shape the very foundation of the majority of successful economies. The impact of transformational leadership in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has not been measured and reported on in an empirical appraisal and surprisingly little has been forthcoming on the role and impact of transformational leadership in SMEs globally. However, from an entrepreneurial perspective, much has been researched and written on the qualities that support risk-taking, innovation and competition in SMEs. It is within this context that it was decided to investigate the concept of transformational leadership in entrepreneurs, i.e. that group of people who are generally referred to as the drivers of the economy. This dissertation reviews the literature on leadership practices and styles in organisations as a basis to specifically identify the co-producers of leadership in entrepreneurs in SMEs. It is within this context that an empirical study on aspects of transformational leadership in SMEs in a South African context was conducted. This empirical survey verifies the relationship between characteristics of these entrepreneurs and characteristics typically associated with transformational leaders, as manifested in large organisations. Therefore, given the above empirical evidence, the model developed for this study defines the qualities of a transformational leader which will enable those leaders/entrepreneurs (in SMEs with growth potential) to take their organisations from average performance levels to levels comparable to world-class leadership and competitiveness.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Vir die wêreldgemeenskap in sy geheel was globalisering 'n geleidelike proses, terwyl die impak daarvan op Suid-Afrika meer intensief en gekonsentreerd oor 'n korter tydperk plaasgevind het - meer spesifiek sedert Suid-Afrika se terugkeer gedurende die vroeë tot middel 1990s tot die internasionale gemeenskap waartydens die ekonomie, onder andere, tot hierdie verskynsel moes aanpas. Dit is binne hierdie omgewing waarbinne alle ondernemings wat die basis van die ekonomie vorm, tot die nuwe wêreldomgewing moes aanpas. Vanaf die middel 1980s is daar redevoering in die literatuur oor die invloed van 'n "nuwe" leierskapstyl (met die uitgangspunte van verandering, innovering en entrepreneurskap) waarvolgens hierdie leiers aansienlike verandering in hul organisasies teweegbring. Hierdie leiers begryp die noodsaaklikheid van verandering en skep sodoende 'n nuwe visie binne hulorganisasies. Hulle bring verandering binne hierdie organisasies teweeg en aanvaar die uitdagings vanuit die omgewing - hierdie leiers word as transformasieleiers uitgeken. Vanuit die oogpunt van beide groot, privaat- en openbare organisasies, word hierdie leierskapstyl omvattend vermeld; byvoorbeeld, in navorsing en literatuur is voldoende verwysings oor die invloed van transformasieleierskap in groot ondernemings (bv. Lee lacocca van Chrysler, Jack Welch van General Electric) en in staatorganisasies, soos in opvoeding, die militêre asook gesondheid (bv. Nelson Mandela van Suid-Afrika, Mahatma Ghandi van Indië). 'n Literatuuroorsig oor die invloed van transformasieleierskap op groot organisasies dui sonder uitsondering op 'n beduidende invloed van sukses in die groei van hierdie ondernemings aan, asook beter spanwerk en die ontplooiing van meer suksesvolle en mededingengde eenhede binne hierdie organisasies. Insgelyks, word dit algemeen deur die Wêreldbank, die Internasionale Monetêre Fonds, die Europese Gemeenskap, die Asiese Ontwikkelingsbank en ander soortgelyke organisasies aanvaar dat klein tot middelgroot-ondernemings (KMOs) die onderbou van die meerderheid van susksesvolle ekonomië vorm. Vanuit 'n entrepreneuriese perspektief is 'n aansienlike hoeveelheid navorsing en publikasies reeds oor die faktore gedoen wat entrepreneurskap in KMOs ondersteun, naamlik risikoneming, innovering en mededining. Dog, vanuit 'n empiriese benadering, is daar nog nie navorsing oor die invloed van transformasieleierskap in KMOs gelewer nie. Dit is binne hierdie konteks dat die besluit geneem is om die konsep van transformasieleierskap in entrepreneurs te ondersoek, m.a.w. daardie groep mense waarna oor die algemeen as die dryfkrag van die ekonomie verwys word. As vertrekpunt ondersoek hierdie verhandeling die literatuur met betrekking tot leierskapgebruike en -style in organisasies, om sodoende meer spesifiek die medeprodusente van leierskap in entrepreneurs in KMOs te bepaal. Vanaf hierdie vertrekpunt word die empiriese ondersoek geloods en voltooi om die teenwoordigheid van transformasieleierskap in KMOs in Suid-Afrika te bepaal. Die empiriese navorsing bevestig die verwantskap tussen die eienskappe van hierdie entrepreneurs en die eienskappe wat tipies aan transformasieleiers in groot organisasies toegeskryf word. Gegewe die bogenoemde empiriese bevindinge omskryf die model (wat gevolglik vir hierdie studie ontwikkel is) die eienskappe van transformasieleiers wat vir leiers/entrepreneurs (in KMOs met groeimoontlikhede) van nut sal wees om sodoende hulondernemings tot prestasievlakke te neem wat met wêreldleierskap en mededingingheid vergelyk kan word.

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