Transformational Leadership and South Africa

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The underground hard rock mining sector in South Africa is finding it difficult to balance the delivery of both safety and productivity excellence, resulting in many fatalities and serious injuries being sustained annually in the quest to produce metals (Frankel, 2011). The application of transformational leadership in the South African context is reviewed. Safety and productivity leadership is explored to gain understanding of these areas of leadership. Several empirical studies on safety and productivity leadership are documented and discussed. The gap in the body of knowledge is established as no empirical studies could be found where the relationship between transformational leadership and the simultaneous delivery of both safety and productivity was investigated. The literature was examined to identify the methodologies that have been used to study the effect of leadership, and motivation is provided for the choice of a mixed method case study.

Transformational Leadership and South Africa

South Africa is a very diverse society consisting of many ethnic groups. All these ethnic groups come together in the melting pot of the workplace. Denton and Vloeberghs (2002) point out that affirmative action has considerably changed the demography of the South African workplace, with a resultant emphasis on diversity management. Avolio and Bass (2004) argue that a transformational leadership style will be effective in such a diverse workplace. Avolio and Bass (2004) suggest that transformational leaders are better at valuing and adapting to diversity among their subordinates. Transformational leaders are expected to envisage a culturally adapted organisation, to inspire its achievement, use intellectual stimulation to promote new ways of handling diversity, and to exercise empathy with followers differing needs (Avolio and Bass, 2004).
Den Hartog, House, Hanges and Ruiz-Quintanilla (1999) in a study of 62 national cultures as part of the Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) study, concluded that specific aspects of transformational leadership are universally and strongly endorsed across cultures. These include characteristics such as being dynamic, positive, motivational, having foresight, encouraging, being trustworthy, and communicative. Beukman (2005) conducted a study on the South African Department of Defence (DOD) to determine if the effectiveness of leadership behaviour is culture specific. He recommended that transformational leadership be employed in South Africa’s diverse organisations as the preferred leadership style for competitive advantage in the future. Avolio and Bass (2004: 20) support this view stating that for South Africa “there are perhaps few other places in the world where transformational leadership is so much required, and the benefits are so enormous and visible”. Handford and Coetzee (2003) states, that South African leaders should use three essential transformational skills. These are creating a shared vision, aligning people towards the vision, and creating a motivating climate to mobilise subordinates.



Heinrich (1936) conducted empirical research and concluded that 88% of accidents were caused by the unsafe acts of the injured. The DuPont organisation suggests that as high as 96% of accidents are caused by the unsafe acts of the injured (Broadbent, 2007). Heinrich (1936), viewed events leading up to the accident as a “domino effect” in which a sequence of human failures led to the eventual accident taking place.
Reason (1990) came up with a different way of looking at how an accident takes place in “The Swiss Cheese” model of human error accident causation. In this model it is postulated that failures in four different areas contribute to incidents including unsafe acts, preconditions for unsafe acts, unsafe supervision, and organisational influences. When a combination of latent and active failures in these four layers aligns, a hazard can result in an incident. The system as a whole fails when individual system failures in each layer align, so that a hazard passes through all the holes in the integrated system, leading to an incident.
Hermanus (2007) argues that incidents may have many causes including ergonomics, the work environment, work organisation, process safety, abnormal working situations, and the employer’s responsibilities to ensure that safe working environments and safe systems are provided. Hermanus (2007: 537) further states that internationally, interest has shifted to using systems theory for accident causation investigation, where accidents are seen as, “flawed processes involving interactions among system components including people, societal and organisational structures, engineering activities, and physical system components”.

Key Safety Success Factors

Stewart (1995) in analysing the role of legislation and regulation in safety and health in mines concluded that some of the key factors in achieving safety in mines include; the use of the safest mining methods, employment of technology that are reasonably practicable, implementation of good work practices, and creating an attitude and approach in the mine manager and his staff that encourage safety. Zohar (2000) further states that evidence for the existence of a relationship between managerial practices and injury rate suggests, that this may be the missing link to further reduce injury rates beyond levels achieved by improved engineering and site monitoring. Jones (2006) supports these arguments stating that world class safety performance is achieved by reducing risk exposure in the workplace by a combination of culture, leadership, equipment, and systems to control the work processes. Krause (2005: 11) further states that organisations that are successful at managing safety give attention to “designing and influencing systems that reduce and eliminate exposure”. Krause (2005) proposes an organisational safety model involving leadership influencing the organisational culture, safety enabling systems, and organisational sustaining systems to reduce exposure to hazards in the working interface (comprising of workers, equipment, facilities, and procedures). Table 3.1 lists the elements of safety enabling and organisational sustaining systems.
O’Dea and Flin (2003: 26) list some of safety policies and procedures that have been linked to better safety performance:
Work planning and organisation.
Accident investigation and record keeping.
Selection, promotion, and training.
Housekeeping, environment, and plant design.
Reduced turnover and absenteeism.
Use of praise, rewards, and avoidance of blame.
Safety program development.
Safety rules and procedures.
These measures work, as the workforce see evidence that management is openly and consistently supporting safety (O’Dea and Flin, 2003).

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Safety Culture

One of the challenges of safety leadership is to create the right culture in the organisation that encourages workers to circumvent the conditions necessary for an accident to take place. Krause (2005: 13) states that “an injury-free culture is one that doesn’t tolerate exposure to hazards”. Schien (1990: 111)
describes culture as:
A pattern of basic assumptions invented, discovered, or developed by a given group, as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore is to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.
Some aspects of culture can be seen as being for a group, what defence mechanisms are for the individual (Schein, 1990). Carrillo (2010) acknowledges that changing culture is extremely difficult, and suggests that findings from major incident investigations resulting in increased rules and procedures will not achieve the desired culture change. Instead it would be more fruitful that a discussion takes place with the workforce to find a solution based on divergent views. This will allow them to make sense of the problem and consequently form new beliefs and transform the culture that led to the incident.
Krause and Weekley (2005) identify nine cultural characteristics shown to be predictive of excellent safety:
Teamwork – The effectiveness of workgroups in meeting targets and deadlines.
Workgroup relations – The degree to which coworkers respect each other.
Procedural justice – The level at which workers rate the fairness of first-level supervisors.
Perceived organisational support – The level at which employees’ feel the organisation is concerned for their overall well-being.
Leader-member exchange – The strength of the relationship that workers feel they have with their supervisors.
Management credibility – The perception of consistency and fairness of management in dealing with workers.
Organisation value for safety – The perceived level of the organisation’s commitment to safety.
Upward communication – The adequacy of upward messages about safety.
Approaching others – Probability that workers will speak to each other about performance issues.
Organisations with high levels of these characteristics tend to have better performance in critical business areas than companies who score low in these factors (Krause and Weekley, 2005).
Erickson (1997) did a study to examine the relationship between corporate culture and safety excellence. The study results indicated that higher safety performance is achieved by continual visible management support for the safety and health effort, and management concern and support for the employees. Management shows its support for safety by (Erickson, 1997):
Being committed to the safety and health effort.
Managing safety and health in the same manner that productivity and quality are managed.
Integrating safety and health into all organisational functions, including strategic planning.
Becoming personally involved in the safety and health effort.
Assuming accountability for safety.
Visibly supporting the safety and health effort.

Safety Leadership

O’Dea and Flin (2003: 2) state that the outcome of inquiries into a number of major disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the Clapham Junction rail crash, the sinking of the Hearld of Free Enterprise, Piper Alpha, the Kings Cross fire, and the Esso Longford gas plant explosion found that managerial failures “were at least as important as technical failure and human error, in causing the accidents”. O’Dea and Flin (2003) in a review of the literature on the role of managerial leadership on organisational safety outcomes found that organisational cultural artefacts such as mission statements have a powerful impact on the priorities of senior management. Senior management’s priorities in turn have a direct impact on middle management’s behaviours and attitudes. This includes the priority of safety versus productivity, commitment to safety, and the relationship they develop with supervisors and workers.
Carrillo (2002) proposes that achieving safety excellence is chiefly about building relationships, where followers believe that the leader is sincere and cares about their welfare. Carrillo (2002: 41) claims that “safety is 90 percent about people”, and proposes a safety leadership model comprising the following elements:
Trust as a way of doing business.
Fundamental belief that people do not want to get hurt.
Shared leadership as opposed to command and control.
Everyone holding themselves and each other accountable.
Safety as an ongoing process.
Loubser (2009) supports the argument that management should promote caring relationships with employees. This will help gain the trust and respect of the workforce which he believes is the secret of achieving safety excellence. Hermanus (2007) suggests that the quality of interactions between managers, supervisors, and workers is one of the key constraints to improving occupational health and safety in the South African mining sector.
Krause and Weekley (2005) suggest that there are four elements of effective leadership that achieve balance between the task and people aspects of leadership to deliver excellent safety. These are personality and values, best practices, influence style, and organisational culture. The “big five” characteristics of personality namely; emotional resilience, learning orientation, conscientiousness, collegiality, and extroversion when combined with the leaders values, defines the leader and are difficult to change. Krause and Weekley (2005) describe a set of best practices that successful safety leaders use daily:
Convey a vision of safety excellence.
Are credible.
Collaborate with others.
Give feedback and recognition.
Are accountable for safety performance in their section.
Are good communicators.
Are proactive in addressing safety issues.
These best practices by the leader strongly influence safety culture. The influence style describes the leader’s leadership style. There is empirical evidence to suggest that a transformational leadership style is effective in achieving superior safety results. Supervisors with a transformational leadership style talk and listen to their subordinates and take action on safety issues, which results in lower injury rates (Krause and Weekley, 2005).
Grubbs (1999) states that transformational safety leadership is effective and suggests four basic strategies:
Have a safety vision.
Communicate that vision to everyone in the organisation.
Build trust by remaining consistent, persistent, and dependable in relation to safety management.
Demand a proactive rather than reactive approach to meeting organisational goals.
Broadbent (2004) advocates that frontline supervisors use the transformational leadership style to improve safety performance. Broadbent (2007) has taken the nine full range leadership factors and given them descriptive names to better explain their meaning in relation to safety. The comparison is as follows:
Laissez-faire: The invisible man – a person that never gets involved.
Management-by-exception-passive: The fireman – a person that only gets involved after a safety incident has occurred.
Management-by-exception-active: The policeman – a person who is always looking for breaches of the law and standards.
Contingent reward: The dealer – a person who is seeking rewards for vsafety performance.
Individual consideration: The carer – a person who is considerate and genuinely interested for the individual safety needs of subordinates.
Intellectual stimulation: The innovator – a person who actively encourages and promotes a culture of learning amongst followers.
Inspirational motivation: The motivator – a person who is very positive about safety issues, and inspires his/her follower’s commitment to safety.
Influence behaviour: The missionary – a person who encourages a team approach to safety and convinces followers that safety goals are achievable.
Influence attributed: The knight – a person who is ethical, leads by example, and practices what he/she preaches.

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Empirical Studies: Transformational Leadership and Safety

This section reviews several empirical studies which examine the relationship between transformational leadership and safety, including the effect of mediating and moderating variables on the relationship. Various empirical studies have been undertaken around the world where the effect of transformational leadership on safety has been investigated in different contexts. Only a few studies have dealt with the relationship between transformational leadership and safety in unpredictable environments. No empirical studies could be found where the relationship between transformational leadership style and objectively measured injury rate was investigated in the context of underground conventional hard rock mining. The empirical leadership studies discussed in this section are grouped geographically and listed chronologically.

Table of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
Definition of Operational Terms
1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 Research Objectives
1.4 Model and Hypotheses
1.5 Delineations of the Study
1.6 Limitations of the Study
1.7 Assumptions of the Study
1.8 Significance of the Study
1.9 Plan of the Thesis
1.10 Conclusion
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Organisations and Bureaucracy
2.3 Power and Influence
2.4 Modern History of Leadership Theory Development
2.5 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Transformational Leadership and South Africa
3.3 Safety
3.4 Productivity
3.5 Safety and Productivity
3.6 Leadership Study Methods
3.7 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Research Design
4.3 Research Methodology
4.4 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Pilot Test Findings
5.3 Quantitative Results
5.4 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Findings
6.3 Conclusion
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Research Hypotheses
7.3 Conclusion
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Conclusions
8.3 Recommendations
8.4 Suggestions for Future Research

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