Transformational leadership theory in education

Leadership styles refer to the different kinds of behavioral strategies that leaders employ in any field or organization. A leader’s leadership style significantly impacts how strategies and plans are carried out in an organization to accomplish target goals, while keeping in mind the expectations and needs of various stakeholders involved, as well as the health and wellbeing of team members. This is quite tricky as it requires a lot of expert-level skills to lead a team toward individual and organizational success.

A leader’s inability to lead a team properly can severely affect an organization, and result in low motivation, enthusiasm and productivity among employees. Unfortunately, all of these problems eventually lead to the downfall of an institution. It is important to know that there are multiple leadership styles. However, the end goal of all styles is to keep an organization on the road toward success.

What is the role of leadership in education?

The concept of leadership has always been a part of the education industry. The principal is considered the ‘leader’ of the school, according to most teachers. This is very accurate, and a principal significantly impacts the culture of an educational institution, whether it’s a kindergarten, high school, college or university. The goal of effective leadership is to inspire and develop people. The primary goal of a school leader, regardless of the style of leadership used, is the same: to support students and educators in reaching their full potential. It is important to know that a principal is not the only leader in an educational setting but is one of the main leaders. Other leaders in an educational setting include administrators, professors, deans, directors, college presidents, curriculum designers, academic consultants and corporate trainers. To learn more about different educational leadership career paths at Marymount University, click here.

Overview of different types of leadership styles

Autocratic leadership style

A leader who follows an autocratic leadership approach makes all decisions themselves without much input or consultation from their subordinates or group members. Such a leader is fully in charge and accountable. What has to be done is decided by them, and they have complete authority. Prior to making a decision, no employee feedback is requested. After the decision has been taken by the leader, all participants must support it. The crew typically feels a certain amount of dread for the captain. The majority of decisions are generally not made with the workforce’s best interests in mind. Hence, an autocratic style of leadership might be quite outdated among all other styles.

Democratic leadership style

Democratic leadership is a type of participation leadership in which group members have a more active role in making decisions. In order to give everyone an opportunity to participate, employees convene to discuss and make choices on topics. This sort of leadership may be advantageous for all organizations, including businesses, universities and the government. According to studies, this style of leadership is often one of the most effective and increases group morale, productivity and member contributions. There are many possibilities for brainstorming, a high level of employee participation, and a culture that values collaboration as a key characteristic of democratic leadership.

Laissez-faire leadership style

Laissez-faire leadership in its simplest form is: do anything you like as long as the work is done well. A laissez-faire leader is one who takes a hands-off approach and believes that building a strong team and then stepping back are the keys to success. Laissez-faire, which has French roots, approximately translates as ‘leave it be’ or ‘let it alone’. In reality, it signifies that managers give employees discretion and freedom to complete work as they see appropriate without enforcing strict rules or norms. Even while not every firm, sector or circumstance is a good fit for laissez-faire leadership, some workplaces benefit from it.

Transactional leadership style

A ‘give and take’ manner of communication is the best way to describe transactional leadership. There is a transaction that includes payment for the services rendered as a result of the team members’ consent to follow their leader. Employees are paid for the specific task they would have performed. If you meet a predetermined objective, you will only receive the bonus that was promised, especially in jobs that involve sales and marketing. Transactional leadership establishes each team member’s duties and obligations, which encourages the project to be completed on schedule. In some cases, incentive plans may be employed in addition to standard remuneration. Sanctions and incentives are both used to regulate how work should be done.

Transformational leadership style

It would not be wrong to say that the transformational leadership style is the most well-perceived and widely studied style of leadership in the current era, and this is due to a variety of reasons. The basic objective of transformational leadership is to inspire team members to alter an organization or a group of people. This helps the members to set the bar higher and higher each time and enables them to accomplish goals that seemed impossible before. Transformational leaders use skills and techniques that help their group members bring about an overall improvement in their personal, professional and social lives.

Transformative leadership aims to bring about positive change in both the organization and the people who create the organization, and transformational leaders accomplish bringing about such a change by inspiring their team members to step outside of their comfort zones. This helps them to perform above and beyond their expectations and perceived talents. Interpersonal skills, integrity, empathy, a shared vision for the future, and effective communication abilities are among a few of the important skills required to become a successful transformational leader. Leaders who follow such a leadership style are able to achieve strong constant growth, higher productivity and improved innovation.

What makes the transformational leadership style different from others?

While other leadership styles are more leader-oriented, transformational leadership focuses on transforming employees for the better by setting an example through the behavior and conduct of the leader. This method of leadership fosters good changes in those it leads because it cares about the success of every individual involved in the process. It is a leadership approach that relies on group support to be successful overall. It is possible to boost a team’s morale and trust in order to help it better align with a bigger objective or vision.

A failed or ineffective team can be dramatically transformed into a successful and energetic group of individuals when transformational leadership is employed properly. The very first step in achieving this is determining the difficulties and abilities of each group member. The team’s leader must then set a new common goal and drive the team members in that direction. This sort of leadership is frequently seen in executive offices, the entertainment industry, hospitals, and the world of education.

Transformational leadership in education

The last couple of years have been challenging, and the significance of education has never been so uncertain – amid the global epidemic, school closings, global online learning, racial justice marches, and a developing crisis in Eastern Europe. Although the COVID-19 epidemic has been going on for more than two years now, the educational landscape is still undergoing rapid change. This situation has increased the need for strong and well-planned leadership in the field of education so that students can continue their studies.

Over the past several decades, transformation leadership has emerged as one of the most significant leadership paradigms in the field of education. This leadership paradigm was initially developed for political and corporate leaders before it was acknowledged as a model for educational leaders. Because those who employ it want to influence, inspire and engage their followers, the transformational style of leadership is often regarded as the most popular. According to the philosophy of transformative leadership, influencer power is more important than positional power. Transformational leaders are motivated by the possibility of developing their followers into leaders.

The principles of motivating and encouraging people to work toward a common vision to meet objectives at a better level are the foundation of transformational leadership. A transformational leader consciously creates cooperation structures within a school that are accommodating to all students and culturally relevant to promote teaching and learning. Deans, administrators, professors and teachers may all use the transformational leadership strategy in the classroom to provide a good example for kids. Building community bonds is given top priority, motivating students and instructors to work harder.

In a classroom, a transformative leader makes it possible for pupils to voice their opinions. This open dialogue then enhances student comprehension. For instance, a teacher could be afraid that discussing the events related to a particular social issue in class might be too volatile. The instructor might get in touch with the parents and families to get their opinions on how the subject should be taught. Transformational leaders in education achieve fruitful outcomes, such as enhanced student participation with their study material as well as other academic pursuits.

Importance of transformational leadership in education

The benefits of transformational leadership aren’t always as obvious as they are when compared to instructional leadership. Innovating new methods for teaching math or science, for instance, is not usually a component of transformational leadership. On the other hand, transformative leadership focuses on bringing about a wider cultural shift in favor of the institution’s objectives and the academic achievement of all students. The following are some benefits of transformative leadership in education:

  • Equality in education: Schools that effectively handled the pandemic’s issues might be identified as having transformational leadership. While the research confirmed that most children learn the most in a conventional classroom environment in which they are taught by a teacher, surrounded by peers, and motivated by co-curricular activities, it also highlighted that distant or off-campus learning is an excellent option because it suits the requirements of a variety of pupils. Learning possibilities that did not previously exist were generated by the transformative leadership that sparked the acceptance of online instruction. For instance, distant learning was seen as more inclusive by teens who are employed, have particular medical concerns, or simply want to study remotely.
  • Higher teacher motivation and morale: According to research, transformational leadership has a fruitful impact on teachers’ dedication to their schools, productivity, job happiness, and other factors that support overall school success. Increased morale and motivation result from doing more than what is required of them by law and the standard course syllabus to give students more engaging and dynamic learning opportunities.
  • Improved educational outcomes: When formulating strategic action plans, student voices, particularly those of at-risk kids, are susceptible to being overlooked. These include students who belong to ethnic minorities, low socioeconomic backgrounds, and broken families, and those who suffer from learning disabilities. A transactional leadership approach by teachers and educators helps in achieving improved educational outcomes.
  • Improving school culture: Transformational leaders may sculpt their school’s common culture and values through planning, deliberate action and reflection. Such leaders improve the school culture through multiple steps, including defining a healthy culture and instilling it in the staff, having a clear vision, and wisely selecting the staff because teachers who are high achievers produce students who are also high achievers. 
  • Innovation: Transformational leadership is what is required to keep an educational system viable for generations to come. As future leaders who assure the acceptance and implementation of these innovations inside their schools, transformational leaders are ready to try new innovative technology, instructional techniques or procedures.

Paul Watson