Contribution of the research in relation to existing body of knowledge

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This research was designed to establish qualitatively how different life experiences under the system of apartheid may have had different influences on the leadership styles of current South African political leaders. The research methodology used in this research combines a study of existing theory, as embodied in relevant literature, with various relations of practical life experiences of South African political leaders under the system of apartheid, as are related in autobiographies, articles and from personal interviews with a sample of such leaders. Such an approach assists in building a general body of knowledge from individual examples and life-stories. Although all personal experiences are unique to the particular individuals in some way, it is possible to group them in broadly homogeneous groups

Research methodology and design

The research design process sets out the process of data collection, data analysis and interpretation. This design process includes defining the population and sampling frame for the research. Once the sampling frame has been established the methods of engaging the subjects was determined, where after the most appropriate way of analysing and interpreting the collected data was determined. In this research the relevant population was composed of all political leaders in the South African environment, whether they are Members of Parliament or not. From this population a sampling frame was drawn in terms of all South African Members of Parliament. Annexure A sets out the composition of the South African Parliament and Cabinet in respect of race, sex and party political affiliation. It was unfortunately not achievable in respect of time, resource and other constraints to engage all South African Members of Parliament for purposes of this research. It was therefore necessary to draw a representative sample of the Members of Parliament from the sampling frame to determine those South African Members of Parliament with who in depth personal interviews would be conducted. Annexure B sets out the composition of the selected sample, to reflect its representivity, if compared to the total sampling frame constituting all Members of the South African Parliament, as reflected in Annexure A. The selected sample consists of 18 Members of Parliament. The selection of the 18 members interviewed was firstly done on the basis of party political representation in the South African Parliament, which is composed in turn on the basis of popular support in the last general election. A good argument is therefore to be made out for the representivity of the sample of the entire population. The sample was further selected to include both male and female members, as well as, as far as possible, members from all races represented in the South African Parliament. A proper analysis of Annexure B. shows the composition of the sample in relation to the total composition of the South African Parliament, and reflects its representivity thereof. The selection of the sample in this way contributes to the validity of the data obtained from the interviewees.

How life experiences changed future outlooks

Having identified the different life experiences of interviewees during their development years and their respective experiences in awakening to the realization of the impact of apartheid on their lives, and how this influences their individual attitudes and perceptions, it became necessary to consider how these experiences influenced the future outlook of these members.
A post 1994 united vision for a better future for all South Africans All of the interviewees agreed that their individual life experiences during the apartheid years had profound influences on their development over the time and that, although those influences were quite different, that they all had a future perspective rather than a historic perspective. There was general agreement that the most significant influence these individual experiences had, was to unite people in their attempts to secure a better future for South Africans of this generation, and especially those generations to come. The unified future view of all members interviewed is however only a feature of their respective outlooks which emanated after the CODESA negotiations and peaceful transition to a free democracy in 1994. These two experiences, and the remarkable transformation process in South Africa since 1994, under the inspirational leadership of Nelson Mandela, have filled all interviewees with hope for the future, and a conviction that the injustices of the past will not be repeated. There is and optimism about the prospects of the future South African generations to live together in disregard of racial or colour differences, but rather to build on a unique South African culture, in which the rich diversities of the country could find comfortable space and association.


It was mentioned above that there are probably as many definitions of the concept of leadership as there are authors who attempt to define it. This statement could probably be extended, after consideration of the interviewees’ answers to a direct question as to what they understand under the concept of leadership, to say that there are probably as many conceptualisations or understandings of the concept of leadership as there are people around thinking or talking about it.Leadership was defined for purposes of this study as “… the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish the shared objectives”.
It was important to consider the different conceptualisations of the concept of leadership amongst the members interviewed, to determine whether there are any commonalities as a result of certain similar experiences. It was equally important to consider what led the interviewees to think of themselves as leaders for the first time, and how their conceptualisation of leadership and their practice as leaders developed over time.


Leadership lends itself to a qualitative research approach in that it provides a better understanding of how leaders engage with change, how they manipulate means to achieve desired outcomes, how context is important for leader behaviour, and the importance of communication in leadership. In addition thereto a life history methodology provides the best understanding of the complex processes leaders use to make meaning from their experiences in a subjective way. Although a life history methodology often generates volumes of data, as it did in this research, an appropriate content analysis method thereof adds the benefits of being unobtrusive, unstructured, context sensitive, and having an ability to cope effectively with large volumes of data. As suggested by Shamir and Eilam (2005), the interviews confirmed that a leader’s leadership style is derived from the subjective meaning the leader attaches to his or her life experiences. The combination of the experiences itself and the interpretations thereof by the leader found expression in the life stories of the political leaders interviewed, and formed the interpretive basis from which the leaders act and justify their respective actions. A life history methodology succeeded best in extracting data in respect of both the leaders’ unique life experiences as well as their individual and subjective interpretations of those experiences.


South Africa is often described as a rainbow nation, constituted of citizens of different races, cultures, sexes, backgrounds and social orientations. The system of apartheid, which was probably one of the most defining crucibles in the history of the country, had profound influences on all South Africans, whether they were advantaged or disadvantaged under it. The problem is however to determine to what extent the life experiences of different people under apartheid shaped and influenced their leadership styles. This research project specifically investigated how the leadership styles of current South African political leaders were shaped and influenced due to their different life experiences under the system of apartheid. The main objective of this research was to determine the ways in which different life experiences under the system of apartheid shaped or influenced the leadership styles of South African political leaders, by considering the following aspects.

1.1 Problem statement
1.2 Research objectives
1.3 Importance / Benefits of the research
1.4 Contribution of the research in relation to existing body of knowledge
1.5 Limitations of the research
1.6 Definitions of key terms
1.7 Assumptions
1.8 Nature and form of results
2.1 Data sources
2.2 Literature review
2.3 Conclusion
3.1 First Proposition
3.2 Second Proposition
3.3 Third Proposition
3.4 Fourth Proposition
3.5 Fifth Proposition
4.1 Research methodology and design
4.2 Data collection and preparation methods
4.3 Justification for using these methods
4.4 Proposed preliminary research instrument
4.5 Method for testing propositions

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Different life experiences
5.3 Leadership
5.4 Apartheid
5.5 Leadership styles of South African political leaders
5.6 Conclusion
6.1 Conclusions
5.2 Implications

The effects of life experiences under Apartheid on shaping leadership styles of South African political leaders

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