Principals’ servant leadership practices and teacher motivation: Perspectives from South African rural schools’ context

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.38140/pie.v41i4.7196

Keywords:

debriefing, collaboration, contextual factors, principals, servant leadership, teacher motivation, the hierarchy of needs

Abstract

This study explored the relationship between principals' servant leadership practices and teacher motivation in selected rural schools in South Africa. It adopted a qualitative research design, collecting data through semi-structured interviews with six principals and six teachers from rural schools in South Africa. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis, which identified themes related to principals' servant leadership practices and teacher motivation.

This study is underpinned by the theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which explains the five levels of human needs that motivate individuals.   The findings revealed that principals' servant leadership practices were positively associated with teacher motivation in South African rural schools’ context. Specifically, the study found that principals who exhibited servant leadership practices such as listening to teachers' needs, providing support and guidance, promoting teamwork and collaboration, and showing appreciation and recognition, had motivated teachers.

The study identified that principals who engage in servant leadership strategies can succeed in motivating their teachers to commit to their teaching profession and quality education. However, secondary data shows that servant leadership strategies are not drivers of success but contributing factors to keeping their teachers motivated and not losing them to urban areas.

The study further argued that not all schools practicing servant leadership are able to motivate or keep their best teachers. Thus, there are other factors that motivate teachers to stay in rural schools such as high salaries, teaching schools located in their home villages, or the ability of principals to appoint teachers who view the profession as their calling and not just an employment opportunity. Teachers who already view their profession as a calling are easy to remain motivated and stay committed to schools in rural areas. Similarly, teachers working in their rural villages have a higher chance to resist relocating to urban schools since they are comfortable being close to their families and relatives.

In sum, servant leadership strategies alone are not enough unless the teachers are already committed to the school project for subjective reasons. This study contributes to the growing body of research on leadership and motivation in education and highlights the critical role that principals can play in promoting positive teacher attitudes and behaviors in South African rural schools’ contexts.

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Published

2023-12-13

How to Cite

Shula, M. (2023). Principals’ servant leadership practices and teacher motivation: Perspectives from South African rural schools’ context. Perspectives in Education, 41(4). https://doi.org/10.38140/pie.v41i4.7196

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Section

Research articles