Transformational Teacher Leadership: A Global Perspective

Transformational Teacher Leadership: A Global Perspective

David Richard Litz
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3476-2.ch031
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Transformational leadership along with change theory have become increasingly popular concepts within the field of educational leadership and administration during the last 20 years. This chapter examines the growth and popularity of transformational leadership, its relationship to organizational change, and the practical and theoretical justifications for its use as a relevant form of teacher leadership from a global and cross-cultural perspective. Emphasis is placed on discussing transformational teacher leadership practices as core strategies for modern educators in the process of overseeing teaching and learning objectives, contributing to school improvement and students' educational attainment, and managing essential change processes within globalized educational environments.
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Transformational leadership was initially conceived as a process whereby leaders strategically transform the system or organization by increasing their followers’ achievement and motivation. In this way, transformational leadership is often defined as a leadership style in which a leader works with teams to identify needed change, creates a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executes change with committed group members (Hoch, Bommer, Dulebohn, & Wu, 2016). Researchers have noted that four characteristics—idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation—differentiate transformational leadership from other leadership styles (Bass, 2000; Ghasabeh, Soosay, & Reaiche, 2015). Related to transformational leadership is change theory, which involves systematically examining patterns in how organizational processes occur, determining how to remove barriers to make those processes more efficient and effective, and creating a culture of continual improvement (Burke, 2017).

Within the educational environment, it has been argued that how teachers perceive their work environments significantly impacts their engagement in instructional activities (Allen, Grisby, & Peters, 2015). In this regard, transformational leadership can be well suited to education as it empowers individuals and provides them with hope, optimism, and energy as it defines a vision of productivity as they accomplish goals. Additionally, transformational leadership is often considered instrumental in establishing shared beliefs and values that help create comprehensive levels of change and innovation, and it nurtures a school culture that is oriented towards a learning ethos whereby individuals seek to enhance their capacities, ways of thinking, and individual ambition. Learning and growth become a shared responsibility, and teachers feel empowered to be a part of the change process. Consequently, empowered teachers may focus more on actions and behaviors that will improve learning and students’ educational outcomes (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005; McCarley, Peters, & Decman, 2016; Mulford, Silins, & Leithwood, 2004). The question that must be asked, however, is how transformational leadership might be applied in actual pedagogic practices and educational contexts.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Educational Leadership: A process of influence leading to the achievement of desired purposes. Educational leaders develop a vision for schools based on personal and professional values. They articulate this vision and influence others (e.g., stakeholders) to share the vision. The school’s philosophy, structures, management, and teaching/non-teaching activities are all focused towards achieving this shared vision.

Transactional Leadership: Originally defined as a hierarchical type of leadership wherein through an exchange relationship between leader and followers, followers are expected to receive rewards for their loyalty from the leader. More recent descriptions of transactional leadership roles within an organization have been expanded to include actions including attending to operations efficiency, evaluating proposals, facilitating conflicts, attending to day-to-day performance, focusing on results, problem-solving, and influencing lower-level decisions.

Leadership: A process whereby an individual influences others towards the realization of group or organizational goals. Leadership is a process of social influence as it cannot exist without a leader and one or more followers. Leadership is also viewed as eliciting voluntary action on the part of followers, and this voluntary nature of compliance separates leadership from other types of influence based on formal authority and/or power relationships. Lastly, leadership results in followers’ behavior that is purposeful and goal-directed in an organized setting like a workplace.

Change Theory: A comprehensive methodology, description, and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a context. Theories of change typically define long-term goals (i.e., outcomes), then map backward to identify necessary preconditions.

Culture: A collective phenomenon defined as the set of underlying assumptions, norms, behaviors, and beliefs that are shared by members of a group.

Teacher Leadership: A process involving teachers’ leadership of development work and knowledge-building, as well as teachers’ voice. It is also characterized by formal and informal groupings and is seen as a key contribution to school improvement (e.g., the spreading of good practice and effective pedagogy, teacher initiatives) via teachers’ empowerment.

Transformational Leadership: The ability to affect positive change in people and in an organization is one of the core qualities of transformational leadership. A transformational leader accomplishes this through enhancing follower motivation, morale, and performance through a variety of means. These include being a visionary; connecting the followers’ sense of individuality and self to a larger purpose and an organization’s collective identity; being a role model for and inspiring followers; positively challenging followers to take greater accountability of their work; providing individualized support to employees and knowing their strengths and weaknesses to align them with tasks that enhance their overall effectiveness; undertaking participatory management; and promoting a work culture that strives towards meeting and surpassing goals.

Learning by Doing: An educational theory that theorizes learning should be relevant and practical, not just passive and theoretical. In this way, the acquisition of knowledge and/or skills is attained through direct experience of task completion.

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