Original Research

Leadership effectiveness in Higher Education: Managerial self-perceptions versus perceptions of others

Tessie H.H. Herbst, Pieter D.P. Conradie
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 37, No 1 | a867 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v37i1.867 | © 2011 Tessie H.H. Herbst, Pieter D.P. Conradie | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 October 2009 | Published: 01 March 2011

About the author(s)

Tessie H.H. Herbst, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Pieter D.P. Conradie, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa


Orientation: The study reported here explores the relationship between managerial selfperceptions and perceptions of others (the manager’s direct supervisor, peers and subordinates) with regard to leadership effectiveness (LE) in a group of managers in the context of a South African university undergoing a merging process.

Research purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of selfperception accuracy amongst the managers and to explore the patterns of interaction between self-perception accuracy (regarding their leadership behaviour) and perceived transformational leadership behaviour (as measured by composite ‘other’-ratings).

Motivation of the study: Research has shown that managers in various work environments typically overestimate their own level of competence and that this could impact on the effectiveness of their leadership behaviour. This phenomenon has however not yet been researched in the context of South African higher education institutions.

Research design, approach and method: A quantitative cross-sectional study of the relationship between self-perception accuracy and leadership effectiveness was conducted amongst the total population (N = 204) of staff members in management positions. The response rate was 67% and the realised sample consisted of 137 managers. Leadership behaviour was measured by means of behavioural ratings on the following five dimensions of the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI): ‘Challenging the process’, ‘Inspiring a shared vision’, ‘Enabling others to act’, ‘Modelling the way’ and ‘Encouraging the heart’.

Main findings: Statistically significant discrepancies were found between self- and observer ratings on all five leadership dimensions, indicating a probable overestimation of their own capabilities. Results further provide evidence that perceived leadership effectiveness on three of the five transformational leadership practices varied as a function of the self-perceptions of managers.

Practical/managerial implications: Managerial development practices should sensitise managers to what is essentially introspective and provide opportunities for them to reflect upon and question their leadership practices.

Contribution/value-add: A challenge for higher education is to embark on feedback intensive leadership development processes that provide participants with comprehensive feedback in a supportive environment.


self-perception accuracy, self-awareness, peer-ratings, leadership effectiveness, management development, transformational leadership, higher educatio


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