Benefits of Transformational Leadership in the Context of Education


Following expansive changes in the management of schools and the methods of organizing the teaching as well as the changes in the styles of leadership as the function of management, contemporary approaches to leadership: transactional, charismatic, transformational and interactive become more often the focus of research interest. Each of these theoretical approaches has far-reaching impacts and values not only in time but also in a certain context. However, in this paper we give priority to transformational leadership taking into consideration the claim that transformational leadership style is the most suitable for guiding the students within the school conditions. This type of claim has its stronghold in these three points: 1) the ethical dimension of transformational leadership, that is, the moral basis; 2) the validity of previous researches supported by evidence, and 3) evidences of the leaders’ practice in the field of education.

Keywords: Transformational leadershipeducational context

1. Introduction

Speaking of educational leadership Naylor (Naylor, 1999; Amanchukwu, Stanley & Ololube, 2015)

defines it as a process of influencing employees to achieve organizational goals and organizational

excellence. Leadership in an educational context is the ability of vision, respectively, a leader must

have a clear vision of the institutions including the futuristic dimension of actions, taking into account

the achievement of the desired state in the long run that he/she would divide with all the members at

the institutional level but that would also further reflect and create new programs of teaching and

learning as well as politics, priorities, plans and procedures which daily life of the institution is

consisted of. Therefore, a key element of leadership in education is the ability to predict the future.

Looking at Peretomode's (1991) understanding of the essence of leadership in education it boils down

to the leader's exemplary and verbal inspiration of the system, through effective influence on behavior,

thoughts and feelings of those who work within the education system and thus providing a strategic

vision of creating alignment through the entire system. No matter how effective, every leader of

complex institution such as academic institution is facing numerous obstacles that must be managed

and "moderated" in order to succeed in his/her efforts.

For describing different leadership types in the functioning of educational institutions various

adjectives are used in scientific literature (such as instructional, moral, democratic, participatory,

transactional, transformative, distributed, strategic...). Among the many authors, Leithwood et al

(2004) have pointed out that these designations primarily include various stylistic and methodological

approaches in the implementation of two main goals that are crucial for the effectiveness of any

organization: to help establishing a set of "reasonable" guidelines and thus influencing members to act

according to these guidelines. According to them, the leadership in educational institutions is both

simple and complex process. Of course, the effectiveness of leadership is perceived through the

organization’s success. Without diminishing the importance and benefits of other types of leadership

for the adequate functioning of educational institutions and educational groups in it, in this paper,

special attention is given to the advantages and benefits of transformational leadership in education,

especially when it comes to directing the students within the school conditions.

2. Transformational leadership and ethical component

Burns’ (1978) understanding of transformational leadership has shown that this theory is

fundamentally different from other theories of leadership by its orientation to long-term vision, by its

focus on personal followers' development and thus transformation of the followers into leaders and

moral agents. By observing the literature review related to the leadership outcomes on the performance

of educational institutions, it can be concluded about the high productivity of transformational

leadership, which entails a change in the culture of the organization for the sake of its effectiveness and

efficiency. This multidimensional construct has its theoretical foundation in the relationship theories

that have been known as transformational theories, which focus on the relationship that is established

between the leader and the follower. According to these theories, leadership is seen as a process

through which a person engages with others and is able to connect with others, resulting in enlargement

of morale and motivation of both, leaders and followers.

Unlike the earlier theories of leadership, which did not include the ethical component, Burns (1978)

connecting transformational leadership with higher-order values perceives morality as a crucial

component. According to him, during the mutual interaction between transformational leaders and

followers the level of morale and motivation of both is raised. According to this concept, during the

interaction of leaders and followers their ethical aspirations are improved which is a sign that a true

leadership occurs. By describing the characteristics of transformational leadership using moral

concepts, Burns actually defines this style of leadership as a moral leadership. Yukl (2002) stated that

only those who appeal to the high ideals, moral values and higher-order needs of followers can be

called transformational leaders. Through charisma or idealized influence the leader expresses his/her

beliefs, takes up attitudes and appeals to followers on an emotional level through a clear system of

values that is presented in any action as soon as he/she becomes a model for followers. Trust between

leaders and follower is built in that way that stands on solid moral and ethical grounds. Simola et al.

(2012) define transformational leadership as a type of leadership in which interactions among

interested parties are organized "around a collective purpose" in such a way that "transform, motivate

and enhance the actions and ethical aspirations of followers." It can concluded that our behavior is

directed by the inherent system of moral values so that transformational leadership can be seen as a

leadership style that leads to positive transformations and changes of the followers through the impact

on the structure and strategy of the organization.

Presenting transformational approaches as opposed to transactional leadership regarding the ethical

component in school settings was indicated by Millers (Miller & Miller, 2001, p. 182): "Transactional

leadership is leadership in which relationships with teachers are based upon exchange for some valued

resource. To the teacher, interaction between administrators and teachers is usually episodic, short-

lived and limited to the exchange transaction. Transformational leadership is more potent and complex

and occurs when one or more teachers engage with others in such way that administrators and teachers

raise one another to higher levels of commitment and dedication, motivation and morality. Through the

transforming process, the motives of the leader and follower merge."

Although the theories of the relationship are often compared with the charismatic leadership theories

concerning the interaction between certain qualities of leaders and followers (such as trust, extraversion

and accurately set values) and can be seen as the best possibilities to motivate followers, charisma still

makes up only one part of the transformational leadership. Many years earlier Bass pointed it out by

himself (1985) by defining transformational leadership as a way in which a leader influences followers,

in terms of faith, admiration and respect for leaders. Even then, Bass established three possible ways in

which leaders can influence followers: 1. raising awareness of the importance of the task and values; 2.

focusing on team goals and organization rather than on own goals; 3. awakening of higher-order needs.

Four component of transformational leadership are (Bass, 1985): 1) individualized consideration

(leaders knows follower personality including personal goals, strengths and developmental needs, 2)

intellectual stimulation (constant improvement through constant challenge of the assumptions and

values guiding “old” thought process), 3) inspirational motivation (motivating others to act in

accordance with the shared vision by leaders' communication skills, personal charisma, role-modeling

and personal accomplishments) and 4) idealized influence (leaders' behavior that focused on instilling

pride in followers). Through charisma, intellectual stimulation and individual appreciation, the leader

transforms and motivates and encourages followers to find these and other unique ways to overcome

the status quo and the variable environment in order to achieve the expected results. Thus, the

relationship or transformational leaders motivates and inspires people by helping group members to

recognize the importance of greater well-being of the tasks. This type of leaders’ influence is often

referred to in literature as "the generating of feelings" (Bass, 1999), which increases the awareness of

leaders according to what is important and appropriate to the employees which in turn ensures the

importance of what they do and this kind of leadership focuses on the process by which leaders can

affect the performance and achievements of the group members but also to each group member

individually to fulfill their potential. High moral and ethical standards are main characteristics of these

leaders (Charry, 2012).

3. Researches of transformational school leadership

Leithwood (1994) contributed to the conceptualization of transformational leadership in educational

environments. On the basis of seven quantitative studies he has take out following conclusion

(Leithwood, 1994, p. 506): “Transformational leadership practices, considered as a composite

construct, had significant direct and indirect effect on progress with school-restructuring initiatives and

teacher-perceived student outcomes.” Six dimensions to transformational school leadership are: 1)

identifying and articulating a vision, 2) fostering the acceptance of group goals, 3) providing

individualized support, 4) intellectual stimulation, 5) providing an appropriate model, and 6) high

performance expectations (Leithwood, 1994; Geijsel, Sleegers & Van Den Berg, 1999; Jantzi &

Leithwood, 1996; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005).

By studying the effects of transformational leadership Leithwood et al (1999) have identified as

many as 20 studies that provided evidence of the relationship between leadership and the teachers'

outcomes. Many authors have found that transformational leadership consistently predicted the

willingness of teachers to devote extra effort and change their teaching practices or attitudes. The most

consistent findings associate transformational leadership with organizational learning, organizational

effectiveness and organizational culture. Also, by studying the transformational leadership in the

educational context, Leithwood et al (2004) draw attention to the necessity to change the school and

classroom conditions in order to improve learning. Transformational leaders of the school, whether it

comes to teachers or school principals, focus on the restructuring of schools/classrooms and improving

conditions in the school.

In the last more than 20 years transformational leadership style in the school context became the

subject of research interests and empirical examinations. After 1999, studies have been based on the

examination of relationship between transformational leadership and numerous variables and showed

that this style has positive impact on: satisfaction (Griffith, 2004; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2008; Bolger,

2001) motivation (Griffith, 2004; Kruger, Witziers & Sleegers, 2007), commitment (Geijsel, et. al.,

2003; Yu, et. al., 2002; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2002) professional growth (Kruger, et. al., 2007),

organizational conditions (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2000), school learning culture (Barnett, McCorminck

& Conners, 2001; Kruger, et. al., 2007; Silins, Mulford & Zarins, 2002) school culture (Sahin, 2004;

Barnett & McCormick, 2004), school climate (Blatt, 2002), bullying (Cemaloğlu, 2007), organizational

health (Korkmaz, 2007; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2008), bureaucratic school structure (Buluc, 2009),

student achievement (Griffith, 2004; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2008; Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005;

Chin, 2007; Politis, 2001).

There are just a small number of research about leadership of teacher who "act" in the classroom as

an educational group but there is a plenty of research on school leadership but mostly focused on

formal positions of leaders, specifically the effects of principal and managers leadership on school

climate (Crowther, et. al., 2002; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2000; Pounder, 2006; Treslan, 2006). Snell and

Swanson (2000) argue that in literature about educational leadership there is a lack of "teachers' voice".

In a world of growing complexity, the progress of schools must include the experience of teachers who

are leaders in their classrooms but also the experience of the students.

Patterns of transformational leadership are harmonized with the organizational culture and structure

of school and their impact on the meaning which people connect with their job and their volition and

readiness to take risks of change. Teachers who practice transformational leadership style convince,

inspire and motivate students towards the achievement of excellent results and that will not happen

with the transactions, ie, with the rewarding and punishing but influencing on internal values and

motivation of students and their modeling in accordance with the mission, vision and values of the

school. Bartlett (Bartlett, 1990) and Senge (1990) pointed out that the learning process is change, and

therefore learning is transformations. Finally, it seems appropriate to cite Sergiovani's (2007, p. 72)

statement that transformational leadership in schools works "because it fits better the way in which

schools are organized and work because of its ability to tap higher levels of human potential."

4. Conclusion

It can be concluded that the question of transformational leadership in education, exactly in school,

is the question of great importance. Transformational leadership will improve schools, change teachers'

classroom practicies, enhances quality of teaching, student learning and achievement and student

engagement as learning outcome. According to many authors, transformational approach proved to be

very useful for educational organization. Studies in the area of school leadership point to the benefits of

transformational leadership.

In specific terms, speaking of school principals, transformational principal leadership style is an

important factor that relates to the teacher acceptance, better performance and increased job satisfaction

at school. In other words, this leadership style of principals increases job satisfaction, creates positive

school climate, enhances performance at school, involves in problem solving and decision making,

develops quality at all levels, increases school members' commitment, capacity and engagement in

meeting goals and improves teachers' acceptance, motivation, commitment and professional growth.

Transformational leadership of teachers affects positively the learning outcomes of students, and

primarily relates to the development of high-quality learning and teaching in schools. It focuses at its

core on improving learning and representing a mode of leadership based on the principles of

professional cooperation, development and growth. Teachers and leaders govern the classroom and

beyond, identifying and contributing to the community of teachers and influencing others in order to

improve educational practice.

Speaking about teachers, their transformational leadership style is an important factor that impact

student satisfaction, motivation, empowerment and learning and it is style where students' active

engagement in developing knowledge and skills, critical thinking, higher-order skills, and

communication are facilitated by the teacher. It includes greater teacher commitment to school, higher

satisfaction, higher collective efficacy, effectiveness of teaching, student engagement in teaching

activities, participation in decision making, self-efficacy, self-confidence, academic self-concept, and

aspects of self-esteem. The benefits of transformational leadership style of teachers comprises in

empowering and increasing student motivation, enhance learning and engagement of students,

experiencing success, improving students' performance and achievement, developing quality of

relations in classroom etc. It can be said that the essence of transformational leadership consists in

looking up at encouraging growth and development of members of the education group (of

teachers/students) and strengthening their commitment by highlighting their goals. In comparison to all

other theoretical frameworks (such as instructional) transformational leadership provides a powerful

theoretical framework for the interpretation of the behavior of principals/teachers because thinking

about principals/teachers as transformational leaders directs researchers to study workplace conditions.

It also refers to the professionalism of teachers in decision-making at the level of school organization

and the level of educational groups. This approach recognizes that the funding and operation objectives

of the teacher cannot be determined with certainty in advance.

The focus should be on creating a positive school climate for all participants in educational process

which would make the school a “better place for living and learning” and that can be achieved by the

practice of transformational leadership style. Transformational leadership is very substantial for

schools to move forward.


This study is a part of the project No 179002 which is financed by Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, the Republic of Serbia.


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Communication, communication studies, social interaction, moral purpose of education, social purpose of education

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Jovanovic, D., & Ciric, M. (2016). Benefits of Transformational Leadership in the Context of Education. In A. Sandu, T. Ciulei, & A. Frunza (Eds.), Logos Universality Mentality Education Novelty, vol 15. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 496-503). Future Academy.