«CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, SAN MARCOS Restructuring Leadership for 21st Century Schools: How Transformational Leadership and Trust Cultivate ...»
idealized influence, a charismatic vision that inspires other to follow; individualized consideration, the ability to recognize the unique gifts of each team member and to find ways to utilize those talents and knowledge; inspirational motivation, connecting followers to the meaningful work they do; and intellectual stimulation, providing opportunities for leaders and followers to propose new ideas in an open, accepting forum (Burns, 1978; Hall et al., 2002; Hay, 2006). The presence of these four main components is considered to be the most optimal combination for yielding significant results within any organization where the additive effect, or building upon one another, paves the way for a performance beyond expectations.
Figure 3: The Additive Effect of Transformational Leadership. (Hall et al, 2002) Using the scoring rubric provided for the MLQ, the researcher determined the superintendent’s initial selection of transformational principals matched the definition of transformational leader according to the criteria provided by Avolio and Bass (2004).
Based on a scale of 0-4, with 0 being not at all and 4 being frequently, if not always, the superintendent ranked all three principals from 3.75-4.0 in all four categories; thus supporting the claim that each selected principal was a practitioner of transformational leadership. Further analysis of the superintendent’s rankings signified high levels of confidence in the leadership of each principal. Based upon questionnaire results, the superintendent perceived these three principals to be leaders who build trust and confidence, assist teachers in finding meaning in their work, encourage innovation and creativity, and recognize the unique talents of the teachers at their sites.
Leadership from the perspective of the principals. Next, the researcher contacted each of the selected principals, asked them to participate in the study, and administered the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire Leader Form (Appendix B). Each agreed to participate in the study and expressed curiosity as to the ways in which their leadership style might ultimately cultivate teacher leadership.
All three principals were asked to take the MLQ leader form that ranked their individual leadership style. Principals’ answers were collectively analyzed according to the rating scale provided by the MLQ scoring key and reported scores within the range of 3.0-3.75. Overall the principals were more conservative than the superintendent when rating their own leadership qualities, yet still recognized their capabilities as transformational leaders. Figure 4 provides a visual comparison of how the each principal’s personal leadership style measured up to the four components of transformational leadership.
Figure 4: Principals’ Results from Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire A collective look at principals’ responses through the lens of the 4Is. Although each principal provided individual responses to the MLQ questionnaire, it became clear how consistent their views of leadership were based upon the high rankings in all four categories. In addition, due to the positionality of the researcher and relationships developed with the principals informal conversations took place between the principal and researcher and are included within the analysis. The following section breaks down each principal’s rankings and informal dialogue based on the 4Is of transformational leadership.
Idealized influence. In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, expert John C. Maxwell says “the true measure of leadership is influence” (2007, p. 11).
Idealized influence encourages transformational leaders to serve as role models for their followers and these principals are no exception. They ranked their ability to lead others as fairly often or higher. Survey responses confirmed this trait and validated how principals feel respected and trusted by the teachers at their site. One principal shared how teachers seek feedback based upon a pre-designed forum where teachers express how parts of lessons went well and how there is always room for growth. The principal went on to share that this can only be done when the principal models this type of feedback with staff and equally seeks feedback further confirming how a strong sense of purpose defines a school willing to redirect its ability to change in order to best meet the needs of students. This type of action, designed to create a level of respect and trust, further epitomized the need for principals and teachers to connect and lead based on a level of mutual respect.
Individual consideration. Individual consideration is based on how principals treat teachers individually and differently based on their unique talents and abilities (Hay, 2007). Principals who place importance on teacher individuality encourage the development of teacher leadership as they seek out the talents of others. Each of the three principals reported the ability to recognize the distinctive gifts in their teaching staff and placed high marks on coaching others. Additionally, each principal saw their interactions with teachers as a unique ability to aspire the creative individuality of that teacher and how it ultimately might affect the whole group. One principal informally shared feelings of gratitude for a teacher that desired feedback designed to develop their own personal strengths. The principal went on to say that the key to being an effective leader is encouraging teachers to use those talents inside and outside the classroom.
Inspirational motivation. Taken as a whole, the principals ranked inspirational motivation the lowest of the four categories. The principals collectively reported the importance of communicating expectations and demonstrating their own commitment toward school-wide goals yet viewed how teachers received the message with caution.
Although the three principals believed they articulated a vision for the future of their school, they expressed a slight concern that some goals might not be achieved. In a time where a principal’s hands are contractually tied, principals report they collectively consider how difficult it is to consider the individual teachers’ needs, abilities, and aspirations yet still encourage each teacher’s unique gifts fully understanding the benefits of teacher individualism.
Intellectual stimulation. A principal who is cognizant of intellectual stimulation encourages followers, or teachers, to explore new creative ways of tending to the school’s vision. Overall, the three principals ranked their ability to empower teachers as a significant factor in job satisfaction. Each principal felt that their ability to seek differing perspectives as a strength in their ability to lead. For example, one principal shared about a time when a teacher desired to have gender-specific math classes. The teacher approached the principal with research supportive of the benefits of gender-specific learning as well as daily specifics such as attendance, parental notification and grading procedures. When presented with data on how the benefits far outweighed the risks the principal was encouraged to look at student learning from a different perspective and to trust the teacher’s judgment.
Establishment of baseline for principals as transformational leaders. The use of the MLQ provided the researcher with a foundation to substantiate the practice of transformational leadership by the three selected principals. In addition, the data signified that the selected principals were transformational leaders according to their own view and correlated with the superintendent’s initial observation of how transformational leadership is practiced at the selected sites.
Leadership from the perspective of teacher leaders. As a qualitative research methodology, phenomenology is framed around the personal knowledge shared by each participant (Moustakas, 1994). To best capture the voice of the teacher leader, the researcher conducted one-on-one interviews with nine teacher leaders. Each teacher leader was recommended by one of the three principals identified as being a transformational leader. In order to ensure the authenticity of responses, each interviewee was asked the same questions (Appendix C). Responses were transcribed and
analyzed following the three steps of phenomenological research:
1. Bracketing: Preconceived notions about the topic of study are recognized and separated from collected data.
2. Horizontalization: Listing and preliminary grouping of significant statements.
3. Cluster of meanings: Emergence of common themes.
From this data analysis process the following four themes materialized from the interviews: systems of support, opportunities to lead, collaboration and communication, and trust building.
Theme 1: Systems of support. Three of the best-known Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, famously demonstrated the importance of influencing the next generation. To mentor someone refers to the relationship between two people where one is typically the teacher and the other the student. Today's leaders are more in tune with the benefits of mentorship and supportive relationships and encourage teachers to invest in not only their own practice but in the practice of their colleagues as well. As the researcher analyzed the teacher leader's responses, the themes of mentoring and supportive relationships emerged most frequently and took on two forms: principal-toteacher and teacher-to-teacher.
Overall, teacher leaders reported feeling supported by their principals. For example, one teacher leader stated, “I’ve been really lucky to have the mentorship of my principal. He’s been a really amazing support for me and building me as a leader.” Another example of the supportive relationship between principals and teacher leaders was expressed when another teacher said, “He’s there like a guide or a mentor. If he sees us going off into a direction, he’ll kind of pull us back and give us some ideas.” The teacher goes on to say, “Together we make decisions. We decide how our grading policy is. We decide how every little aspect of the school is going to be. There’s very few decisions that he makes on his own.” This exemplified the need for principals to create schools where teachers have opportunities to develop their leadership skills in a supportive environment.
Mentoring relationships often happen between teachers. Teacher leaders nurture this reciprocal relationship as they find ways to encourage their peers. Throughout the interviews teacher leaders spoke of their desire to lead others and the added benefit it brought to their own practice. As one teacher leader articulated, A teacher leader is someone who is willing to work with other people and increase collaboration so that everyone is able to contribute to the team and someone who is willing to spearhead that and kind of get everybody to work together and make sure that everybody is on pace, too.
Teacher leaders also expressed a desire to help new teachers grow as educators.
When asked about serving in a leadership capacity at their school, one teacher leader shared,
Theme 2: Opportunities to lead. Teachers overwhelming feel they are leaders in their classrooms. However, in order to build leadership capacity at a school site, teachers must rise up and become teacher leaders on their campuses as well. The empowerment of teachers starts with providing opportunities for teachers to develop their leadership skills. As one teacher leader articulated, I think [principal] empowers the leadership team, either by giving us professional development or ideas, his vision, and having us discuss it and take our own perspectives on it to develop something even deeper, and then go back to the teams and share those ideas with our individual teams and just have the ideas be implemented in each classroom and deepened that way.
When asked about professional development opportunities, teacher leaders overwhelmingly stated that involvement was the best way to include teachers in the school vision. According to the following teacher leader, Getting us involved in staff development. When we present to each other, to our colleagues. Then that’s enabling other teachers to see that other teachers on campus have stepped up and that they’re being involved in where the school is headed, content-wise and otherwise. Just giving us time to talk about that kind of stuff.
Conversely, many teachers felt that in order to better support leadership in general, principals needed to practice delegating leadership opportunities more equitably.