Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Leadership Teachers Want from Principals: Transformational

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Leadership Teachers Want from Principals: Transformational

Article excerpt


Principal leadership is paramount in developing effective schools and enhancing student achievement (Blase & Kirby, 1992; Edmonds, 1979; Hallinger & Heck, 1996, 1998; Heck & Hallinger, 1999; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2000a; Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005). The current emphasis on school change and efforts to create successful educational leaders demands that professionals master a deeper understanding of how to work within a school milieu (Whitaker, 2003), because doing so is considered critical to the quality of teachers' work and student learning. Available literature vacillates over how to approach the study of principal leadership. Some researchers have used quantitative designs (Hallinger & Heck, 1996, 1998), others have provided data from meta-studies (Deal & Peterson, 1990), and still others have approached the issue by attempting to secure first-hand reports using empirical measures (Blase & Blase, 2000; Blase & Kirby, 1992; Hauserman, 2005; Leithwood & Jantzi, 1990, 1999, 2000a).

Quantitative designs that assess school principal leadership provide one avenue to understand the influence of principals' actions on teachers' attitudes. Qualitative analysis affords the opportunity for a researcher to dig beneath surface responses and better understand the qualities and behaviours of principals who are appreciated, sought, or disliked by teachers. Often, mixed-method designs can provided triangulated data that lead to greater understanding (Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003).

In this study, the quantitative component consisted of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) ratings of principals. The MLQ is an instrument that measures transactional, laissez-faire, and transformational leadership factors. For the purposes of this study, the ratings were used to stratify the principals into categories based on their perceived transformational leadership qualities. This process allowed for clear selection criteria to rank principals for the qualitative interviews.

Bass and Avolio (2000a) hold the view that transactional and transformational leadership are not dichotomous--rather, the relationship between the two leadership styles is one of augmentation. Thus, many of the managerial characteristics of transactional leadership must be present before transformational attributes can emerge. Bass (1985) presents four transformational variables that are measured by the MLQ: idealized influence, individualized concern, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation. These variables lend themselves to studying school settings in conjunction with teacher reports of transformational leadership qualities.

Literature Review

Transformational Leadership Theory

Burns (1978) described transformational leadership as an effort to satisfy followers' needs and to move followers to a higher level of work performance and organizational involvement by displaying respect and encouraging participation. He said the apparent differences between transformational and transactional leadership arose because the former "recognizes and exploits an existing need or demand of a potential follower ... looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower" (p. 4). Transactional leadership reportedly appealed to an individual's self-interest and was mainly an exchange process. Such leadership had limited potential for success, whereas transformational leadership was deemed to predict favourable long-term performance (Geyer & Steyer, 1998; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005; Leithwood, Seashore Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004).

Long-term performance reveals the visionary aspect of transformational leadership (Bennis & Nannus, 1985). In schools, this was evidenced by leaders acting as change agents in facilitating organizational learning (Tichy & Devenna, 1990), a pivotal role for principals. …

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