Shepherd leadership: A managerial leadership theory for the merging of three campuses of the North-West University

Title: Shepherd leadership: A managerial leadership theory for the merging of three campuses of the North-West University
First author: Professor Anna-Marie (AMF) Pelser
Research Professor, North-West University, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences- Entity Director– GIFT, Mafi keng campus
HED (Home Economics, PU for CHE), B Com (UNISA), B Com Hons (PU for CHE), M Com (Industrial Psychol-ogy, NWU), PhD (Education Management, NWU)
Second author: Dr Eben Haeser Swanepoel
Orcid Id: 0000-0003-3205-5244
Postdoctoral Researcher, North-West University, Economic and Management Sciences, GIFT.
PhD: Psychology of Education (UFS), M.Ed Psychology of Education (UFS), Hons Psychology (UNISA), B.Ed FET(UFS)
Ensovoort, volume 42 (2021), number 7: 1


Ongoing changes brought on by globalisation and the fourth industrial era sees universities pressured toadapt to social-justice benchmarks. Furthermore, due to governmental expectations to minimize the number of tertiary institutions, many universities have been required to merge and adopt either a new organisational culture or to adapt accordingly. In 2004, the merging process of three campuses saw the newly constituted North-West University take form, albeit beset by many rumours and concerns about transforma-tion during the process of the merger. This paper provides an overview of the Shepherd leadership theory as depicted by the Shepherd metaphor as a central theme to leadership during the amalgamation of the three campuses of the North-West University (NWU) into one campus. In comparison with the Shepherd leadership theory, the core functions required by management from each of the three campuses are thoseof guidance, responsibility, accountability, fairness, and transparency. Through the conceptual framework of cultural intelligence, this desktop review explores the core functions of the leader during merger processes, with specific reference to the roles and responsibilities of a shepherd as depicted through biblical scripture. Through the components of knowledge, mindfulness, behaviour, and judgment suspension the theory of shepherd leadership is discussed as valuable within contexts necessitating change and cultural adaptation. The importance of cross-cultural communication is emphasised as a core function of shepherd leadership theory.

Keywords: Shepherd leadership theory, guidance, responsibility, fairness, transparency

1. Introduction

The advent of the fourth industrial revolution sees organisational landscapes adapting to the pressures ofautomation and disruptive technologies such as robotics and machine intelligence (Kelly, 2018). The influence of the fourth industrial revolution, or industry 4.0, on Higher Education (HE) platforms, is most visible through new Information and communication technology (ICT) systems which have fundamentally changed how we not only teach but ultimately form relationships and interact with one another (Chung & Kim, 2016;Xu, David & Kim, 2018). These changes necessitate a keen awareness of human value within an everchanging and evolving technological society, placing the importance of person-centred leadership styles at the fore to navigate uncertain ground towards organisational goals. Industry 4.0 however calls for new ways of leadership to navigate the changing landscape of the connected world.

According to Kelly (2018) traditional models of leadership training often reinforce positional power, placing the leader at the fore of decision making which, in present-day organisational democracy, becomes challenging when leaders are expected to be both the corporate heroes as well as servant leaders. With ongoing changes and pressures associated with the 21st century, leaders must be cognizant of their own ongoing learning processes as opposed to reinforcing leader-oriented power structures (Atiku & Anane-simon,2020). One of the challenges that leaders face is the process of merging and consolidating higher intuitions of learning (Seliga, Sulkowski & Wozniak, 2018). Since the year 2000, South African universities have come under scrutiny on the part of the government to become more accountable. The equity and the ability for universities to deliver programmes and services efficiently across many institutions led to the suggestion that universities start merging (Van der Westhuizen, 2011).

Accordingly, mergers have become an increasingly important process within South Africa’s tertiary institution ecosystem, with various reasons motivating universities to participate, either due to internationalisa-tion, aiming for higher accreditation rankings, implementing public policy, or strengthening economic scale(Seliga, & Sułkowski, 2018). The post-apartheid landscape sees the restoration of past inequalities through the adoption of merger models which leverage financial strength and improved efficiency of historically disadvantaged tertiary institutions (Mokhuba & Govender, 2016). Changes brought on through mergers, when goals are met efficiently, have been shown to have a significant impact on employees and can potentially lead to positive outcomes such as enhanced job security amongst employee perceptions (Van der Westhuizen, 2011). Leaders should be increasingly aware of the employee corpus well-being throughout the process of university mergers while showing enhanced cultural awareness of the university ethos, as well as contextual differences amongst the campuses within the wider socio-political landscape of the South African context.

2. Rationale

With the leadership process of a single university already requiring multifaceted leadership, merging in-duces heightened strain on managers and administrators who must blend resources, processes, and per-sonnel (Evans et al., 2016). Leaders should be extra cognizant of employee’s fears and uncertainty to lead as a body corpus through mergers. Furthermore, modern communication patterns break away from traditional top-down leadership approaches (Appelbaum et al., 2017). The utilisation of the correct leadership application in an appropriate situation leads to solutions to often deep-rooted problems. In the case of theNorth-West University campuses, proper merging was needed under the auspice of proficient leadership with the application of an appropriate leadership theory. In the absence of change managing agents, the existing management structure of the campus had to perform the merging action. This paper argues the characteristics needed by the existing management structure for the performing of the merging process in comparison to the characteristics needed by ‘n shepherd to managing its flock.

3. Frameworks: Contingency theory and Cultural intelligence

3.1 Contingency theory

Contingency theory was developed from literature in the mid-1960s and emphasises the importance of organisational structures to optimally navigate organisational change (Mendy, 2020). The premise of contingency theories posits that different organisations have different means of optimising performance management and that the organisation performance management is influenced by situational factors such as organisational initiatives, innovations, size, governmental influences, and technology (Murimi, Wadongo & Olielo, 2021). It is accordingly that leadership effectiveness is mediated through how a specific leadership theory fits a certain situation (Joubert, 2014). Approaches based on contingency theory postulate that the success of an organisational outcome rests on the management’s ability to align organisational structures to mitigate situational factors that occur (Mendy, 2020). Contingency theory provides a lens through which to view internal and external fit (Kengatharan, 2020). Structural contingency theories propose that the structure of an organisation or team, in other words, whether power is centralized or decentralised, bears no valid relationship with its performance (Xie, Feng & Hu, 2020). Rather, this type of contingency theory indicates that the suitability of an organisation’s structure is dependent on environmental demands brought on by specific situations. Research on contingency does however indicate a link between organisational culture, internal business processes and performance management effectiveness, with the performance management systems of countries differing widely due to multi-stakeholder and political influences (Abane &Brenya, 2020).

Contingency theory is also found in decision-making theory. Decision-making theory implies that there is a best solution to a problem, and to accordingly identify the most applicable solution, select and implementit. The decision-making approach however assumes clear goals and complete information. This is problematic as goals are often ambiguous or diffi cult to elucidate clearly. This is especially true given the complex nature of conflicting organisational goals (Tarter & Hoy, 1998).

Another type of contingency theory, termed the path-goal theory, identifies a leader’s leadership style as motivation to initiate employee behaviour to achieve goals (Polston-Murdoch, 2013). Path-goal theory calls on leaders to adapt their leadership style to accommodate the needs of their followers while ensuring that tasks and goals are clearly set (Olowoselu et al., 2019). According to the path-goal theory, a leader needs to be able to exhibit four types of leadership: directive, participative, supportive and achievement-oriented (Malik et al., 2014). Through utilising one of these four styles, the leader influences the knowledge and experiences of employees to effective task completion (Olowoselu et al., 2019). The directive approach is descriptive with a strong controlled reliance on rules and sees the leader providing guidance to accomplishing specific goals. The supportive style sees the creation of a friendly, equal climate for employees with recognition given for achieving certain outcomes. The participatory style sees leaders employ employee input during the decision making. Employees take part in the decision-making process and are motivated toward self-directive behaviour and stronger ownership amongst employees. The achievement-oriented style is significant in situations where tasks are unclear, and employees need a morale boost. Leaders set difficult goals with the belief and expectation that employees will engage with high-performance levels and take responsibility to achieve challenging goals (Olowoselu et al., 2019; Polston-Murdoch, 2013).

Path-goal theory is especially relevant to this study. Shepherd leadership as theory posits the role of the leader in guiding employees towards common goals. As will be discussed, the shepherd leader embodiescharacteristics of human nature which is underpinned by compassion, fairness, and kindness to motivateemployees and inspire self-directed behaviour. During mergers, environmental factors highly infl uence in-ternal organisational dynamics. The use of a conceptual framework such as cultural intelligence provesvaluable to explore cross-cultural behaviour dynamics and motivation amongst employees to engage withina cross-cultural environment, as well as future training on focal areas for practical applications. Cultural in-telligence is accordingly used to elucidate the importance of knowledge and behaviour of the leader andemployees as directed to common goals during the merger process.

3.2 Cultural intelligence

Cultural intelligence, according to Ang and Van Dyne (2015) is the ability of individuals to adapt to and function within a culturally diverse environment. Through drawing on a certain set of competencies, cultural intelligence facilitates an individual’s effectiveness during cross-cultural interaction (Ang
et al., 2015). Specifically important for modern-day leadership where cultural fissures are prevalent due to globalisation, cultural intelligence has become a critical competency for leaders to successfully navigate a culturally diverse workforce (Rockstuhl et al., 2011). Jonck and Swanepoel (2015) identified 3 components to cultural intelligence. The knowledge component refers to the leader’s knowledge about diff erent cultures and the ability for leaders to adapt personal views during a new encounter. Mindfulness reflects observation during a situation and to first withhold behaviour. Mindfulness can be defined as the state of paying attention in a specific manner that is present-oriented, purposeful, and non-judgmental (Rupprecht et al.,
2019). Behaviour follows mindful reflection, exhibiting precise behaviour which is executed according to the cultural requirements for effective communication to take place. Mindfulness has been further shown to relate positively to interpersonal relationships and employee well-being (Stedham & Skaar, 2019). The ability to suspend judgment, according to Triandis (2006), is one of the most important aspects of cultural intelligence, necessitating that leaders withhold behaviour until enough information is available before acting.

Cultural intelligence is especially relevant to effectively lead employees through mergers. The merging process sees different organisational cultures combine and integrate in a manner that necessitates cross-cultural communication skillsets. Cultural diversity can have synergetic effects on productivity, as diversity increases competitiveness with an advantage to innovation through a variety of enriching perspectives(Gumbo, 2017). However, this requires a heightened knowledge of different cultures, with negative emotions needing to be mindfully approached, especially when social-justice-oriented goals require sensitive leadership. Mindfulness leads to better due diligence and a clear, open mind to approaching cross-cultural challenges which occur during a merger (Rebner & Yeganeh, 2019). Mindfulness training has further been shown to be a valuable tool for leaders’ ongoing self-development. Rupprecht et al. (2019) draw on mindfulness training as holding significant value to decision making and information processing amongst leaders, while further being valuable in aiding leaders to better manage both their own emotions and that of their employees.

4. The Shepherd metaphor

The Shepherd leadership metaphor is strongly informed through Christian leadership principles with a strong emphasis on the ethics and the emotional well-being of employees (Wessels, 2014). The shepherd theory of leadership responds to the machine-oriented task-based models of leadership brought on by the industrial area. Instead, the focus of shepherd leadership takes on an employee-oriented approach to leadership as informed through the biblical metaphors exemplifying leadership qualities which is human-centred (McCormick & Davenport, 2020). Shepherd leadership is most often drawn upon in relation to church leadership (Averin, 2020), while the value thereof is underscored within the wider organisational context as well as in leading a multicultural workforce as a shepherd would lead their flock. This leadership method places human value at the centre of successful leadership, more specifically the value and human nature of the followers.

Shepherd leadership theory approaches the holistic nature of the people involved in a workforce to promote the conditions needed for growth and development through guiding and protecting those under the leader’s care (Ijorjaah, 2014). The leader, who is akin to a Shepherd, is tasked with navigating the flock, protecting the flock, and as will be discussed, becomes accountable to the flock. The metaphor of the shepherd is widespread within biblical scripture and one of the biblical models of spiritual leadership, appearing more than 500 times across the Old and New Testament (Swalm, 2010). Shepherd leadership provides a biblical lens from which to approach leading and taking care of people through exercising justice and righteousness (Wessels, 2014). Retsane (2020) reflects on Shepherd leadership as prioritising the needs of others, with leaders’ qualities and action which affirm the development of their followers.

5. The merging process of the North-West University

The merging process of the North-West University has been documented as having been one of the more successful mergers of higher education institutions in the country (Curaj et al., 2015). The merging process came from governmental pressure to restore past imbalances and to better utilize resources in a fair and equitable manner (Monchonyane, 2010; Prinsloo, 2016). Accordingly, on 1 January 2004, the North-West University came to fruition constituting the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education and its Vanderbijl campus, as well as the former University of Bophuthatswana. Furthermore, students and staff from the Vista campus were incorporated with the NWU campus (Kamsteeg, 2008). Interesting is that while the merging process has been noted to have constituted a ‘resilient, adaptable and successful university’,this in itself was often brought about by the underlying conversations about transformation (Prinsloo,2016:14).

Shepherd leadership behaviour appears to be valuable within a multicultural organisational structure (Aver-ine, 2020). Due to organisational changes which occur as part of the transformation process, there will be achange in the cultural identity and context of the entities involved as well (Sulkowski
et al., 2020). One of the main reasons mergers fail, according to Sulkowski et al., (2020), is the underestimation of soft-management areas, specifically culture and organisational identity. It is therefore imperative for leaders to reflect high levels of cultural intelligence to uphold and promote internal organisational dynamics and smooth cross-cultural communication, but also to successfully navigate the changing landscape of the overall cultural changes which occur when staff and students integrate into a new context.

This holds especially true for the Mafikeng-based campus of the North West Universities, termed Mahikeng.The Mahikeng campus is a predominantly black identity space, with the influences of social justice and transformation being clearly visible through actions to resource and add additional staff through the merger. To successfully navigate the amalgamation process, leaders needed to exhibit a strong motivation to learn and broaden knowledge of new cultural nuances which influence communication during the merging process. Furthermore, another challenge arises for entities to retain cultural integrity, whilst facilitating change within the larger entity. Of the three campuses of NWU, the Mafikeng campus is the most noticeably influenced campus due to post-apartheid ramifications. While the merging process holds value to re-address past inequalities and distributing resources, the distinct cultural organisation of the campus itself needed to adjust in many ways to the larger campus’s cultural organisation and identity. The shepherd leader reflects the skillsets to mindfully navigate these cross-cultural fissures, to suspend judgment and facilitate smooth cross-cultural communication, and to exercise caution to protect the flock from pressures that occur, or which may give rise to, uncertainty and subsequently resistance to change.

6. Core functions of Shepherd leadership during the merging of campuses

According to Ijorjaah (2014) Shepherd leadership is a model which approaches the holistic nature of the people involved in a workforce to promote the conditions needed for growth and development throughguiding and protecting those under the leader’s care. Behaviours amongst leaders that evoke positive fellowship include support, recognition, leading by example and envisioning change (Joubert, 2014). The ongoing changes brought on to the traditional workforce structure calls on leaders to not only be highly skilled in adaptability skillsets but necessitates that leaders go against the grain to inspire employees to initiate similar positive behaviour within a multicultural context. Leaders are increasingly called upon to exhibit behaviours that are trustworthy, selfless, and caring. These are, according to Burmansah (2020), the exceptional qualities that leaders are called upon to exhibit through consistent behaviour. The following core functions informing shepherd leadership behaviour, as found in biblical scripture, can be applied to the management functions necessitated by mergers: guidance and communication, responsibility and accountability, as well as fairness and transparency.

6.1 Guidance and Communication

Influencing employee behaviour is central to leadership, with a leader’s ideas and vision dependent on the actions of others (Yvonne & Skaar, 2019). While management entails the organisation of various systems and structures, the process of successful management is built on leadership qualities whereby groups and individuals are inspired and motivated toward a common goal (Bornman & Puth, 2017). It is accordingly that leaders who inspire and motivate through their conduct have been shown to be more effective in goal attainment, with a higher connectedness of positive relationships on the part of followers (Pillay, Viviers & Mayer, 2013). Shepherd leaders protect followers from inaccurate dogma and direct the flock in their ownconduct and actions (Resane, 2020). This is especially the case with the NWU as the successes of the merger were often replaced by news about transformation. Due to the socio-political nature of mergers, leaders need to mindfully share knowledge and information which is appropriate and understood across employ-ees’ cultural fi ssures, while protecting employees from unwarranted news and untrustworthy information.

Leaders are academic stewards of institutions, possess skillsets, knowledge and abilities that are central to optimizing communication across emotional fissures which followers encounter (Murugan, 2019). Communication is of central importance throughout the merging process, especially when considering employees’ resistance to change. The shepherd in this instance knows that the flock may be resistant to change. Especially in adding new sheep to the flock itself should the shepherd model strong guidance skillsets towards a common goal which is clearly elucidated, while showing a heightened level of cultural awareness due to the merger adding new followers. Effective leadership establishes pre-merger communication patterns to reduce uncertainty among employees. Pre-merger communication which is left unaltered can potentially lead to rumour mills, calling on leaders to ensure a smooth fl ow of communication throughout the merger process to reflect transparency amongst themselves and followers (Appelbaum
et al., 2017; Resane, 2020).

Resane (2020) draw on the shepherd metaphor through Psalm 23:1 (Bible, 1995) as the shepherd leading the flock to pastures and water. The leader as Shepherd is tasked with a flock needing to be led through times of uncertainty. The flock, in turn, places faith in the Shepherd to be led toward the goal safely and securely. Specifically drawing on the amalgamation of the three North-West University campuses, managers are faced with merging three different contexts which encapsulates a different cultural structure and dynamic within the broader context and umbrella identity of the NWU itself. The shepherd in this context is called upon to guide the flock through the valley of the shadow, as God speaks in Psalm 23 (Bible, 1995), of leading the lost through the valley of shadow based on the shepherd’s trust and faith in God’s guidance. Recent research points to leaders needing to be understanding and to relate to others. Subsequently, individuals only choose to follow when they trust the person influencing them (Stedham & Skaar, 2019).

Managing the flock, during the NWU merger, called on the shepherd leader to have a goal that was commonly shared amongst employees in navigating the merging of three different cultural contexts. In this instance, the over-all ethos and foundation of the NWU’s mission and public branding provided a policy-based map towards navigating the merging process, while allowing for a valuable descriptive boundary that informed the culminating organisational culture to strive toward.

Van der Westhuizen, in his study on the influence of a merger of a South African university on employees, found that negative responses to management on the part of respondents included management exhibiting a top-down management approach and employees not having clear duties distributed. Positive responses were provided when clear communication channels were followed with employees being participants within the strategizing process (Van der Westhuizen, 2011). The Shepherd leader promotes the autonomy of decision making and participation amongst followers, nurturing their talent and allowing them to take the lead in areas where their abilities or talents are strongest. However, the Shepherd leader in turn should take the lead in mapping the way forward and protect the flock against challenges and uncertainty which arise akin to the Shepherd protecting the sheep from wild animals in 1 Samuel 17:34-45 (Resane, 2020; Bible, 1995). This emphasises the important role of guidance on the part of the Shepherd leading the flock, with a direct emphasis on the qualities of guiding the flock during uncertain times and pressures to adapt to a new dynamic, while promoting the strengths and autonomy of followers through drawing on their own leadership qualities.

6.2 Responsibility and accountability

The shepherd does not only tend to and protect the lock but when failing to do so stands the chance to lose sheep. The shepherd leader is accountable to the flock and has a responsibility to keep and count the flock. The shepherd leader has a responsibility to keep the flock close, reflecting the leadership quality to ensure that employees are up to date and in close contact with the leader during the merging process. Nielsen
et al., (2016) refer to the importance of being cognizant of others, especially within a leadership role. To engage positively with diversity, members of an organisation also need to be aware of the differences of others. Awareness of others, according to the authors, is an important part of humility. The component of knowledge, especially knowledge of differences and employee needs, plays a fundamental role in approaching the employee corpus in a humble manner. Furthermore, the shepherd leader, reflecting cultural intelligence, has a duty to inform the employees, as well as train employees accordingly, within the changing landscape of an organisational culture which necessitates employee knowledge and skillsets to successfully navigate change. This role of the shepherd is indicated through Jeremiah 3:15: (Bible, 1995) “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding”.

Luke 15:3-7 and Matthew 18:12–14 (Bible, 1995) speak to the importance that each individual employee brings to the organisational dynamic. In these verses, the parable of a shepherd who loses a sheep is told, showing the shepherd leaving the flock to find the one which was lost. Upon finding the sheep, the shepherd exults in happiness. It is accordingly that the shepherd leader ensures that each employee embodies both knowledge and understanding of the merging process and their respective duties. The body corpus must be able to perform autonomously when the leader is not present. The shepherd leader does not leave any employee behind, understanding that each employee has value and a place, and is, in turn, accountable for each of the employees. Much like a shepherd, the shepherd leader is conscious of employees who resist change, or who struggle to adjust and adapt to cultural changes, whether at an organisational level or on a communicative individual level.

6.3 Fairness and transparency

The equal distribution of workload and trust amongst managers and employees have been shown to prompt positive employee feedback after a merger is complete (Van der Westhuizen, 2011). The fairness of a leader is important to establish trust and loyalty amongst followers. Being well grounded in values that drive behaviour, the shepherd leader instructs through a voice that motivates the followers toward a common goal. The value of trust to lead is reflected through John 10:27 (Bible, 1995) – “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

The sheep, as deduced, listen to the shepherd’s voice because they are accustomed to and carries the knowledge of the shepherd. Trust is fundamental in bridging the known and the unknown (Stedham & Skaar, 2019). The followers, through habit and trust, learn that they will be led to water, security and safety. However, the shepherd is knowledgeable of the sheep in turn and carries their collective concerns of food and safety as central to their motives. This will often call on a sacrifice from the shepherd. Nielsen et al., (2016) underscore self-sacrifice as an antecedent to leading with humility, calling on leaders to place the objective of the group ahead of personal gain.

The shepherd leader reflects high moral fibre, impeccable integrity and is willing to undergo self-sacrifice. Gunter (2018), drawing on John 10 (Bible, 1995), reflects that “Jesus frequently references to his selfsacrifi ce… makes this the focal point of characterization of the ‘good shepherd”. Suffering, according to the author, is a needed companion to righteousness. The shepherd in this context is not seen as good due to suffering and death, but that his goodness is seen through a willingness to endure and suffer for the safety of the sheep. According to Baugher (2016), it is through being able to cultivate and bear witness to suffering during uncertain times that leaders can better shape social spaces to become supportive, especially through the unavoidable changing cultural landscape.

1 Peter 5:2- 4 (Bible, 1995) provides the moral behaviour expected of the shepherd:

“…shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge,but proving to be examples to the flock”.

Suspending judgment is evident from the use of ‘not under compulsion’, especially during mergers which bring to the fore challenges related to social justice and transformation. The shepherd leader participates and is present, with no intention of self-gain. Of importance is that the shepherd leader behaves according to the conduct expected on the part of the employees, specifically during the process of mergers where cross-cultural communication skillsets are necessary. Shepherd leaders should be knowledgeable of the cultural fissures that obscure cross-cultural interaction and be mindful of employees’ cultural differences and emotions elicited during the process of cross-cultural adaptation. The shepherd, eager to be amongst employees as an equal, motivates employee behaviour through example and a human-centred style emphasising compassion and fairness as opposed to authoritarian styles of leadership.

Psalm 23: 2 – 3 (Bible, 1995) provides us with the behaviour expected on the part of shepherd leaders. God,as the good shepherd, is described as providing rest and peace for His sheep whilst being guided toward a common goal:

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness.”

Shepherd leaders in turn exhibit behaviour and conduct themselves in ways that are fair and models moral behaviour toward the well-being of the employees to reach goals. To evade gossip and negative feedback, the actions, as well as the guidelines of behaviour, of shepherd leaders are clear, transparent, and understood amongst employees. Perceptions of trust towards a leader have been shown to be dependent on the perception of the leader’s competence, integrity, and being benevolent (Stedham & Skaar, 2019). The competency of judgment suspension is a cornerstone to behaviour and conduct which is fair. Shepherd leaders are accordingly mindful of their own bias and promote behaviour that is non-discriminatory.

7. Implications for practice

With the importance of cross-cultural communication being a fundamental skillset necessary for mergers, the cultural-intelligence framework provides a strategy for leadership training in the realms of mindfulness and knowledge. The overall knowledge and awareness of cultural influences during merger processes will prove invaluable in exhibiting a people-oriented and supportive approach to shepherding followers through changes that occur within the organisational culture. Pre-merger training about different cultures to increase cultural knowledge can underscore stronger awareness and more culturally aware behaviour. Furthermore, leaders who exhibit a heightened knowledge and understanding of their employee corpus and cultural composition can potentially aid in better navigating changes that occur and steering employees in a unified manner toward a common goal.

8. Conclusion

Tertiary institution mergers are on the rise due to pressures on the part of government to adapt to shared ideals of social justice and equal access and participation. The South African history of apartheid is still visible on campuses that are under-resourced or ill-equipped to achieve global standards, with a further divide when placed within the digital machine-oriented fourth industrial revolution’s landscape. In turn, mergers call on leaders to exhibit a heightened awareness of cultural fissures which prohibit the merging process. At an internal level, the holistic approach to employee development within new environments is best aligned with the core functions of a shepherd leader. The amalgamation of the North-West University required that leaders be equipped with skillsets associated with knowledge of cultural behaviour, awareness of the needs of the followers, and the emotions elicited through the process itself amongst employees. This desktop re-view spoke to the merging process through exploring shepherd leadership theory as a contingent style of leadership during contextual change, specifically in adapting to cultural factors. By drawing on the knowledge and understanding of shepherd leaders about their flock, the leader will be better equipped to manage changes that occur due to cultural influences at both internal and external levels.

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