ERIC Identifier: ED347636
Publication Date: 1992-08-00
Author: Liontos, Lynn Balster
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Educational Management Eugene OR.
Transformational Leadership. ERIC Digest, Number 72.
Views of school leadership are changing largely because of current
restructuring initiatives and the demands of the 90s. Advocates for school
reform also usually advocate altering power relationships.
The problem, explain Douglas Mitchell and Sharon Tucker (1992), is that we
have tended to think of leadership as the capacity to take charge and get things
done. This view keeps us from focusing on the importance of teamwork and
comprehensive school improvement. Perhaps it is time, they say, to stop thinking
of leadership as aggressive action and more as a way of thinking--about
ourselves, our jobs, and the nature of the educational process. Thus,
"instructional leadership" is "out" and "transformational leadership" is "in."
HOW HAS THE TERM "TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP" EVOLVED AND
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The idea of transformational leadership was first
developed by James McGregor Burns in 1978 and later extended by Bernard Bass as
well as others. Neither Burns nor Bass studied schools but rather based their
work on political leaders, Army officers, or business executives.
For example, there has been a shift in businesses away from Type A to Type Z
organizations. Type Z organizations reduce differences in status between workers
and managers, emphasize participative decision-making, and are based on a form
of "consensual" or "facilitative" power that is manifested through other people
instead of over other people (Kenneth Leithwood 1992).
Although there have been few studies of such leadership in schools and the
definition of transformational leadership is still vague, evidence shows that
there are similarities in transformational leadership whether it is in a school
setting or a business environment (Nancy Hoover and others 1991, Kenneth
Leithwood and Doris Jantzi 1990, Leithwood).
"The issue is more than simply who makes which decisions," says Richard Sagor
(1992). "Rather it is finding a way to be successful in collaboratively defining
the essential purpose of teaching and learning and then empowering the entire
school community to become energized and focused. In schools where such a focus
has been achieved, we found that teaching and learning became transformative for
HOW DOES THIS DIFFER FROM OTHER SCHOOL LEADERSHIP
Instructional leadership encompasses hierarchies and top-down
leadership, where the leader is supposed to know the best form of instruction
and closely monitors teachers' and students' work. One of the problems with
this, says Mary Poplin (1992), is that great administrators aren't always great
classroom leaders and vice versa. Another difficulty is that this form of
leadership concentrates on the growth of students but rarely looks at the growth
of teachers. Since she believes that education now calls on administrators to be "the servants of collective vision," as well as "editors, cheerleaders, problem
solvers, and resource finders," instructional leadership, she declares, has
outlived its usefulness.
Transactional leadership is sometimes called bartering. It is based on an
exchange of services (from a teacher, for instance) for various kinds of rewards
(such as a salary) that the leader controls, at least in part.
Transactional leadership is often viewed as being complementary with
transformational leadership. Thomas Sergiovanni (1990) considers
transformational leadership a first stage and central to getting day-to-day
routines carried out. However, Leithwood says it doesn't stimulate improvement.
Mitchell and Tucker add that transactional leadership works only when both
leaders and followers understand and are in agreement about which tasks are
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF TRANSFORMATIONAL
Leithwood finds that transformational leaders pursue three
1. Helping staff develop and maintain a collaborative, professional school
culture. This means staff members often talk, observe, critique, and plan
together. Norms of collective responsibility and continuous improvement
encourage them to teach each other how to teach better. Transformational leaders
involve staff in collaborative goal setting, reduce teacher isolation, use
bureaucratic mechanisms to support cultural changes, share leadership with
others by delegating power, and actively communicate the school's norms and
2. Fostering teacher development. One of Leithwood's studies suggests that
teachers' motivation for development is enhanced when they internalize goals for
professional growth. This process, Leithwood found, is facilitated when they are
strongly committed to a school mission. When leaders give staff a role in
solving nonroutine school improvement problems, they should make sure goals are
explicit and ambitious but not unrealistic.
3. Helping teachers solve problems more effectively. Transformational
leadership is valued by some, says Leithwood, because it stimulates teachers to
engage in new activities and put forth that "extra effort" (see also Hoover and
others, Sergiovanni, Sagor). Leithwood found that transformational leaders use
practices primarily to help staff members work smarter, not harder. "These
leaders shared a genuine belief that their staff members as a group could
develop better solutions than the principal could alone," concludes Leithwood.
WHAT STRATEGIES DO TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS USE?
specific ideas, culled from several sources on transformational leadership
(Sagor, Leithwood, Leithwood and Jantzi, Poplin):
* Visit each classroom every day; assist in classrooms; encourage teachers to
visit one another's classes.
* Involve the whole staff in deliberating on school goals, beliefs, and
visions at the beginning of the year.
* Help teachers work smarter by actively seeking different interpretations
and checking out assumptions; place individual problems in the larger
perspective of the whole school; avoid commitment to preconceived solutions;
clarify and summarize at key points during meetings; and keep the group on task
but do not impose your own perspective.
* Use action research teams or school improvement teams as a way of sharing
power. Give everyone responsibilities and involve staff in governance functions.
For those not participating, ask them to be in charge of a committee.
* Find the good things that are happening and publicly recognize the work of
staff and students who have contributed to school improvement. Write private
notes to teachers expressing appreciation for special efforts.
* Survey the staff often about their wants and needs. Be receptive to
teachers' attitudes and philosophies. Use active listening and show people you
truly care about them.
* Let teachers experiment with new ideas. Share and discuss research with
them. Propose questions for people to think about.
* Bring workshops to your school where it's comfortable for staff to
participate. Get teachers to share their talents with one another. Give a
workshop yourself and share information with staff on conferences that you
* When hiring new staff, let them know you want them actively involved in
school decision-making; hire teachers with a commitment to collaboration. Give
teachers the option to transfer if they can't wholly commit themselves to the
* Have high expectations for teachers and students, but don't expect 100
percent if you aren't also willing to give the same. Tell teachers you want them
to be the best teachers they possibly can be.
* Use bureaucratic mechanisms to support teachers, such as finding money for
a project or providing time for collaborative planning during the workday.
Protect teachers from the problems of limited time, excessive paperwork, and
demands from other agencies.
* Let teachers know they are responsible for all students, not just their own
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF THIS KIND OF LEADERSHIP?
of the effects of transformational leadership, according to Leithwood, is "uniformly positive." He cites two findings from his own studies: (1)
transformational leadership practices have a sizable influence on teacher
collaboration, and (2) significant relationships exist between aspects of
transformational leadership and teachers' own reports of changes in both
attitudes toward school improvement and altered instructional behavior.
Sergiovanni suggests that student achievement can be "remarkably improved" by
such leadership. Finally, Sagor found that schools where teachers and students
reported a culture conducive to school success had a transformational leader as
However, Mitchell and Tucker conclude that transformational leadership should
be seen as only one part of a balanced approach to creating high performance in
schools. Leithwood agrees: "While most schools rely on both top-down and
facilitative forms of power, finding the right balance is the problem. For
schools that are restructuring, moving closer to the facilitative end of the
power continuum will usually solve the problem."
Hoover, Nancy R., and others. "Transformational
and Transactional Leadership: An Empirical Test of a Theory." Paper presented at
annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago,
Illinois, April 1991). 36 pages. ED 331 117.
Leithwood, Kenneth A. "The Move Toward Transformational Leadership."
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 49, 5 (February 1992): 8-12. EJ 439 275.
Leithwood, Kenneth, and Doris Jantzi. "Transformational Leadership: How
Principals Can Help School Cultures." Paper presented at annual meeting of the
Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies (Victoria, British Columbia, June
1990). 49 pages. ED 323 622.
Mitchell, Douglas E., and Sharon Tucker. "Leadership as a Way of Thinking."
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 49, 5 (February 1992): 30-35. EJ 439 281.
Poplin, Mary S. "The Leader's New Role: Looking to the Growth f Teachers."
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 49, 5 (February 1992): 10-11. EJ 439 276.
Sagor, Richard D. "Three Principals Who Make a Difference." EDUCATIONAL
LEADERSHIP 49, 5 (February 1992): 13-18. EJ 439 277.
Sergiovanni, Thomas J. "Adding Value to Leadership Gets Extraordinary
Results." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 47, 8 (May 1990): 23-27. EJ 410 204.