The scholarship of leadership

Professor Noel Pearse
Professor Noel Pearse

By Lindeka Namba, School of Journalism and Media Studies student


As is the tradition, Rhodes University presented the inaugural lecture of Professor Noel Pearse titled, The Scholarship of Leadership: An illustration of the Integration of Research, Teaching & Learning and Community Engagement. The event took place on the 21st of August at the Eden Grove Blue lecture theatre and was presented to an audience of academics, peers, colleagues, students, family and members of the public.

In his opening address, Vice Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela said: “An inaugural lecture is an occasion in which we celebrate the intellectual, scholarly achievements and contribution of one of our own.”

In his introduction, Prof Noel Pearse spoke of how the practice and development of leaders and leadership is of interest to both the academic community and practitioners in various sectors of the economy. Prof Pearse highlighted interest in the topic as reflected in the large number of popular books that have been published in the field of leadership, the wide range of leadership-related courses on offer, as well the attention that leadership has received in scholarly and applied research.

Prof Pearse described the integration of his research, teaching & learning, and community engagement practices in relation to the scholarship of leadership practice and its development. He explored three interrelated leadership themes and shared some of the work he has done in relation to them.

The first of these was effective and ethical leadership, which show the importance of sustainable and responsible leadership. Some of the concepts and theories he had researched presented leadership theories that focused on certain value sets, presenting a normative position of leadership. “It is about responsible, values-based leadership approaches,” he said.

The second is the identification and development of appropriate leadership competencies in organisations, which highlighted the service of followers as a leadership competency as recognised by servant leadership and other leadership approaches. “There are very few theories that say that the leader is there to also serve the employees. So there is a power dynamic that comes to play,” he explained. Prof Pearse identified the components of leadership competency as: individualised consideration; compassion; motivation to serve; humility; and integrative thinking.

Lastly, he touched on the formation of leadership identity. This looks at the role identity of leaders; service-learning as a transformative experience; exploring inner role conflict in a women in leadership certificate; and exploring the applicability of role identity to the career choices of entrepreneurs.

As the occasion drew to a close, Prof Pearse thanked all who were present and expressed his appreciation to everyone had taken time out of their busy schedules to attend the event.