Towards inclusivity and sustainability in the leadership of an academic department in a South African university: A distributed perspective

Keywords: Head of Department, Higher Education, Distributed leadership, University academic department, Inclusion, sustainability


Historically, the concept of Head of Department within a university context has been understood as a one-person role. Despite the increasing complexity of the role, the position remains exclusive and, for many academics, undesirable. Reliant only on a single individual, the position, located at the centre of complex relational interfaces, is known to generate tension and role conflict between the scholarly project and management and administrative matters. Against this backdrop, this paper argues for the conceptualisation of the leadership of an academic department through a distributed lens. It argues that, by so doing, the possibility exists for inclusion and sustainability in the practice of departmental leadership. In making this argument, the paper draws on the case of the leadership of an academic department in a South African university. Participants included the academic and administrative staff within the department and data were generated through document analysis as well as individual and focus group interviews.


Author Biographies

Kenneth D. Haufiku, Rhodes University

School Principal


Farhana Amod Kajee, Rhodes University

Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Rhodes University


Highest qualification, PHD

Research Articles