A Comparison Of Transformational Leadership, Transactional Leadership And Ubuntu Leadership In An African Context.
Published: September 19, 2018

Blog by David Chingwaru

Most African education systems need transformation that will take them from colonial systems by regaining their culture that has been lost during colonisation and at the same time be competitive globally. This means there is little room for transactional education which seeks uphold the status quo at the expense of creativity and innovation.

Transformational leadership which is characterised by intrinsic motivation, the ability to make tough decisions and risks and adaptability is needed to transform African education. Transformational leaders understand what actions to take to promote change, innovation and growth. On the other transactional leadership is useful in achieving a lower order of improvement in organizational change but higher order improvement calls for transformational leadership. (Bass, 1985)

Msila (2002) argues that Ubuntu has nearness to the humanist tradition of caring from Western thought must stand  alongside other approaches and be judged on the value it can add to better human relations. While transformational leadership style seeks to motivate and inspire workers, transactional leadership does the opposite through “telling style” as opposed to “selling style “.On the contrary, Ubuntu seeks to “ involve” as it acknowledges human differences.

Ubuntu leadership therefore fits well in changing African education as it promotes a culture of achievement and embodies the concept of mutual understanding, active appreciation of the value of human difference, diligence and culture of achievement. (Msila, 2002)


There is increasing recognition that schools require effective leaders and managers if they are to provide the best possible education There is a widespread belief that the quality of leadership makes a significant difference to school and student outcomes. (Bush, 2007).

In the face of the present cultural and moral collapse in Africa due to colonisation and modernisation, there is a need to strive for a rebirth. This calls for transformational leadership which assumes that the central focus of leadership ought to be the commitments and capacities of organisational members. Higher levels of personal commitment to organisational goals and greater capacities for accomplishing those goals are assumed to result in extra effort and greater productivity (Leithwood et al., 1999:9).

The principle of Ubuntu has to be transmitted into the management practice to magnify group solidarity based on values that emphasize interdependence of group members.( Msila-20140).Transactional leadership then becomes essential in supervision, organization, performance and  compliance by followers through both rewards and punishments.( Miller and Miller’s ,2001). From a social justice perspective, this transformative leadership will lead to the creation schools that are equitable and inclusive, as well as provide learning experiences that teach students about, and prepare them for life in the wider global community. (Bogotch & Shields, 2014).


Balyer, A. 2012. Transformational Leadership Behaviors of School Principals: A Qualitative Research Based on Teachers’ Perceptions. International Online Journal of Educational Sciences. 4(3) 581-591.

Bogotch, I., & Shields, C.M., (Eds) 2017. International Handbook of Education Leadership and Social (In) Justice. Vol 1 New York: Springer Publishers.

Bush, T. 2007. Educational leadership and management: theory, policy and practice. South African Journal of Education. 27(3) 391-4-6.

Bush, T & Glover, D. 2016. School Leadership in West Africa: Findings from a Systematic Literature Review. Africa Education Review, 13:3-4,80-103, DOI: 10.1080/18146627.2016.1229572

Caldwell, B & Spinks, J 1992. Leading the Self-Managing School. London: The Falmer Press.

Fox, W. 2010. A guide to Public Ethics. Cape Town: Juta

Hogg, B. 2015. 10 Characteristics of Transformational Leaders.

Leithwood, K.,  Jantzi,D. (2000) “The effects of transformational leadership on organizational conditions and student engagement with school”, Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 38 Issue: 2, pp.112-129, https://doi.org/10.1108/09578230010320064

Khan, Z.A., Nawaz, A., & Khan, I. 2016. Leadership Theories and Styles: A Literature Review. Journal of Resources Development and Management. 16. ISSN 2

Miller TW & Miller JM 2001. Educational leadership in the new millennium: a vision for 2020. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 4:181-189.422-8397.

Msila, V. 2014. Challenges to the Introduction of an Alternative Leadership Style: A School Principal’s Journey in the Introduction of an “Ubuntu Leadership Model. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 5 (20) 1738-1747

Nzimakwe, T.I. 2014.Practising Ubuntu and leadership for good governance-The South African and continental dialogue— African Journal of Public Affairs,  7: 4



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