It is perceived that leadership plays a significant role in shaping the “behavioural context” of an organisation through the constructs of trust, psychological contract, and organisation commitment. The relevance of these constructs in the African context as explained by Western literature was investigated. A literature on the related topic was reviewed. Two organisations were identified based on the ethnic composition (race and language) as a less diversified leadership group (assumed to be more Western) and a more diversified leadership group (assumed to be more African).
Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) a private insurance company in the mining industry was selected as the less diversified organisation and the Department of Public Service and Administration, a government institution, as the more diversified organisation. A survey was conducted using validated questionnaires from a western origin, as provided by Unisa. The analysis was qualitative in nature, based on the information gathered.
The constructs namely the psychological contract, perceived importance and the obligation of the organisation towards the employee and vice versa, as well as perceived breach of contract was tested. There was a strong correlation in the results of in both organisations. The diversity as expressed in the ethnic composition of the organisations had a significant impact on the affect based constructs, were the emotional relationship between the employee, groups, leaders and the organisation plays a major role.
This phenomena could be explained in the differences in the Western leadership context, where there is a much more affective relationship (trust and commitment) in the organisation where participation, relative equality of authority and status, teamwork, “empowerment”, high levels of trust and openness, commitment and high morale are highly valued. In the African context power is centred at the top management of the organisation, with bureaucratic controls, authoritarian leadership, pre-occupation with rules and procedures etc.
The social, economical and political environments in Africa also impact on the constructs and the effectiveness of leadership. Good leadership is key to the effectiveness of the organisation. Westernised measurement instruments are used for research of leadership in the “African” context not reflecting the reality of the situation. Little research is done on leadership in the “African” context that is based on validated research instruments developed for the African situation. This is relative unexplored ground for further research.
The purpose of this paper is to determine if the organisational behaviour constructs of trust, psychological contract and commitment as explained by Western literature are applicable in the South African context. This is done by determining the influence of leadership, by using these constructs, on the behaviour within an organisation. Any discussion of organisations and leadership in the South African (SA) context would be incomplete without an understanding of the political background in which these organisations function.
Since 1994 South Africa has experienced dramatic changes both on a political as well as economic front, brought about by globalisation as well as a new political dispensation in SA. Discrimination during the apartheid era excluded Africans, Asians and Coloureds from the economy, resulting in little organisational leadership skills development amongst excluded races. After Democracy in 1994, labour legislation was implemented to redress the inequalities in society; these measures include, amongst others, Affirmative Action.
According to Tinus Burgers, (Burgers, 2003) SA is just beginning to wake up from the post 1994 euphoria where “whites were desperately trying to expand their blackness through toyi-toying and singing Shosoloza while black people erroneously believed that white stuff will simply disappear”. There are still very deep felt differences and distrust between races making leadership in diverse organisations very challenging. After democratic elections in 1994 sanctions against South Africa were lifted. South Africa emerged as a global player that has to adapt to global trends in order to be competitive.
The accelerated rate of technological development necessitates quick adjustment and the need to move away from traditional management practices. The effect of technology (electronic networks, cellular telephones, etc. ), transcends national, geographical, time and organisational boundaries, increase in availability of information, influences employees and organisational behaviour as employees have to face massive and accelerated changes (Weeks, 2003). These rapid changes in the global environment and the SA situation challenged the recreation of society at all levels.
According to Nkomo this recreation ranges from individuals changing identities and roles to the transformation of major social institutions such as education, legal, health care, housing, and government in addition to dealing with the urgency of AIDS, the falling rand, security, brain drain, and many others. In sum, the leadership challenge for South African organisations is: Retiring “old thinking systems” in parallel with creating new ones against the reality of high speed globalization and informationalism (Nkomo, 2004:1).