The right approach to leadership is core to bringing organizational change to success and creating a favorable school culture. As stated by DiMartino and Miles (2006), good leaders always strive to empower their subordinates and colleagues, as well as to find and utilize a plethora of ways to engage as many relevant stakeholders in the process of change and advancement as possible. Two of the major tasks of leaders during change management are the creation and communication of motivational messages to all parties involved in order to mobilize resources effectively and inspire needed action. I believe that the transformational leadership (TL) style is the most suitable for performing these activities. Thus, in the present position paper, I will define TL and analyze it in relation to the roles of leaders in the development of positive school cultures and the professional growth of educators.
Preferred Leadership Style: TL
Before defining TL, it is appropriate to note that each employee gets involved in exchange relationships with an organization where they work and usually perceives their leaders’ actions as the actions of the organization itself. In other words, as main school representatives, leaders directly affect teachers’ attitudes that, in their turn, define individual professional behaviors at the workplace. While transactional leaders primarily focus on the improvement of employees’ performance by providing rewards for the accomplishment of specific goals and the fulfillment of certain requirements, transformational leaders aim to inspire others (Hamilton, 2009). According to Chou (2014), transformational leaders serve “as a charismatic role model to followers” and ensure “inspirational motivation that involves articulation of a clear, appealing, and inspiring vision to followers” (p. 50). Other elements of TL are the intellectual stimulation of followers in order to foster greater creativity in them and enhance their ability to challenge the status quo, as well as the consideration of unique personal interests and needs (Chou, 2014). All these characteristics of transformational leaders substantially assist during the promotion and management of change.
Organizational Change Process and Leaders’ Roles
There may be many barriers to any change and improvement initiative in schools. According to Robinson (1970), they include reluctance to admit weaknesses, fears of failure and insecurity, ideological resistance, and absence of necessary resources and time to investigate the need for change and move towards its realization. This list of barriers indicates that when managing changes and stimulating the personal or professional growth of teachers, leaders must necessarily address existing fears and distorted perceptions.
By employing such an element of TL as individualized consideration, school leaders can become able to identify psychological barriers to behavioral change in every teacher. Chandra Das (2012) defines individualized consideration as attention to each subordinate’s interests, capabilities, limitations, and views. It means that a transformational leader understands people with whom he or she works, recognizes and supports their needs for achievement. Thus, it is valid to say that when trying to improve performance in schools and encourage professional growth among teachers, a leader will perform not only as a supervisor but also as a mentor and a coach.
Secondly, it is important to take into account the manner in which the leader communicates a need for change, especially if it relates to individual educators’ behaviors and skills. According to Chou (2014), a transformational leader will always aim to develop a sense of self-efficacy in his or her followers by establishing a mutual, trustful, and constructive dialogue with them. Self-efficacy means “an employee’s belief in his/her capability to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources and the courses of action needed to exercise control over events in their lives” (Chou, 2014, p. 52). Clearly, it can help one to cope with uncertainties and fears associated with change more effectively by gaining more confidence and enhancing willingness to engage in the change process.
Overall, the manner of communication alone can substantially assist leaders in creating and maintaining a positive workplace climate. Nevertheless, when building a culture based on shared mission, vision, and beliefs, the application of such TL elements as inspirational motivation and idealized influence becomes essential. The former concept implies that a transformational leader demonstrates enthusiasm and optimism about a change/goal (Chandra Das, 2012). The latter means that a leader has a clear set of values that become manifested in their every action and, in this way, provide a role model for others (Chandra Das, 2012). Overall, by believing in a school’s mission and vision and acting in accordance with the school’s values, the leader will inspire their followers and stimulate them to act. However, it is pivotal to communicate the vision for change explicitly and clearly as well since the lack of vision and under-communication are two of the primary causes of transformational failures (Hughes, 2016). Together open communication and operation from a personal value system that is in line with the school’s vision and mission are bound to promote greater employee commitment to improvement efforts.
Success in the management of organizational change largely depends on the level of employees’ support and their attitudes. TL allows the development of trustful relationships with all members of the school staff and increases their willingness to improve personal and organizational performance. By acting consistently with the school mission and values, transformational leaders become key figures in the creation and maintenance of a shared culture in the organization. Moreover, the core characteristics of TL, including individualized consideration and inspirational motivation, are linked to positive professional and interpersonal communication methods. Thus, this leadership style can help to build teachers’ confidence and strengthen their self-efficacy needed to cope with adverse emotions that a planned change can cause.
- Chandra Das, C. (2012). Managing and leading change through transformational leadership: Insights into success code.
- Chou, P. (2014). Does Transformational leadership matter during organizational change? European Journal of Sustainable Development, 3(3), 49-62.
- DiMartino, J., & Miles, S. (2006). Leadership at school: How to get the job done. Principal Leadership, 6(4), 47-50.
- Hamilton, M. (2009). The interaction of transactional and transformational leadership. Online Journal of Workforce Education and Development, 3(3).
- Hughes, M. (2016). Leadership of organizational change. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Robinson, R. D. (1970). Toward a conceptualization of leadership for change. Adult Education, 20(3), 131-139.