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Application of Leadership Models to Headteacher Role

In order to critique different models of leadership and management we must first put forward a definition to evaluate against. Influence is a prominent factor in leadership. Yukl states “Most definitions of leadership reflect the assumption that it involves a social influence process whereby intentional influence is exerted by one person [or group] over other people [or groups] to structure the activities and relationships in a group or organisation.” (Yukl, 1998, p3). This essay will look at three models of leadership; participative, transformational and instructional and ask the following questions; How well do each of these models allow individuals or groups to influence the leadership of a school? What factors would lead to successful implementation of each model? What could be the hindrances to their success?

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We will begin by looking at the participative model of leadership which has been defined by Koopman & Wierdsma as “joint decision making or at least shared influence in decision making by a superior and his or her employees” (Koopman & Wierdsma, 1998). We can say from this that team work is a key factor in the success of this model. This is backed up by Leithwood when he says that there is an assumption ‘…that the decision-making process of the group ought to be the central focus of the group” (Leithwood et al 1999, p12).

This approach can create positive staff relationships, giving all involved a sense of ownership (of a school’s vision and aims). “Teachers in participative environments can increase the pool of ideas, materials, and methods, which will lead to a higher quality of instruction.” (Somech, 2005). Teachers’ ideas can then influence the direction in which the school moves forward.

This model can also take pressure off the headteacher (Sergiovanni, 1984). Strong staff relationships and a feeling of togetherness will ease pressure on the headteacher. Sergiovanni (1984, p13) states “The burdens of leadership will be less if leadership functions and roles are shared and if the concept of leadership density were to emerge as a viable replacement for principal leadership”. Using the wide range of expertise within a teaching team and utilising those with key skills will spread the responsibility of leadership, increase the effectiveness of the school, and, potentially, allow any staff member to become a leader. (Leithwood et al 1999).

How then would a headteacher successfully implement such a model in their school? They would need to allow teachers the opportunity to be involved in and have some influence on the decision-making processes in the school. If implemented successfully, “their participation [the teachers] is believed to promote commitment to the decisions that are made and to increase willingness to carry them out in their work with students.” (Somech, 2005)

However, numerous leaders can lead to numerous ideas which in turn may lead to different team members pushing towards different goals. Coleman and Glover in their book ‘Educational leadership and management’, discuss the micro-politics that take place in this style of leadership. They state that “…where opposing views are held by groups/individuals, micro-politics may typify the management style” (Coleman & Glover, 2010, p59) and that ‘the decision making will be difficult to follow or understand’ (Coleman & Glover, 2010, p59) due to deals being made between various groups. Decision making may become ineffective as teachers with leadership responsibilities fail to fulfil their roles leading to other staff members bypassing them to find clarity in decisive matters (Gold & Evans 1998). In other words, the ‘leaders’ fail to influence the decision-making process within the school.

The transformational leadership model has eight dimensions as put forward by Leithwood (1994). These are;

• building school vision

• establishing school goals

• providing intellectual stimulation

• offering individualised support

• modelling best practices and important organisational values

• demonstrating high performance expectations

• creating a productive school culture

• developing structures to foster participation in school decisions

(Bush & Glover, 2003, p8)

Transformational leadership engages teachers in leading the school and “aims to foster capacity development and higher levels of personal commitment to organizational goals on the part of leaders” (Leithwood 1999, p4). In addition, this model “…assumes that the central focus of leadership ought to be the commitments and capacities of organisational members. Higher levels of personal commitment to organisational goals and greater capacities for accomplishing those goals are assumed to result in extra effort and greater productivity” (Leithwood et al., 1999, p9). In order to gain these ‘high levels of personal commitment’ there needs to be interaction between the leaders and followers that enhances creativity and motivation of both parties (Burns, 1978). Those who lead in a transformational manner aim to get followers to act as they desire by transforming or changing the followers (Yukl, 1998). This can be achieved by the leader “serving as a coach, teacher and mentor” (Yukl, 1998). This fits well with the eight dimensions elucidated earlier.

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The transformational model allows headteachers to share the leadership responsibilities with their teachers (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2000) leading to teachers and leaders “raise[ing] one another to higher levels of commitment and dedication, motivation and morality…the motives of leader and follower merge” (Miller & Miller, 2001, p182). Hallinger, in his article ‘Leading Educational Change: reflections on the practice of instructional and transformational leadership’ puts forward the idea that transformational leadership is considered a type of distributed leadership and that “Rather than a single individual—the principal— coordinating and controlling from above, transformational leadership focuses on stimulating change through bottom-up participation” (Hallinger, 2003, p338). In terms of influence, this model then allows teachers and leaders to both influence the direction the school moves forward in.

Having an organisational approach to leadership as opposed to one leader, i.e. the headteacher is one of the key factors in the success of the transformational model. Hallinger states “transformational leadership models may explicitly conceptualise leadership as an organisational entity rather than the property of a single individual, accounting for multiple sources of leadership.” (Hallinger, 2003). Engaging staff members as experts therefore may create a positive environment for teachers to feel an integral part of the ‘machine’. Motivation to succeed improves and the school moves forward as one unit.

Careful handling by the headteacher to ensure all involved are being effective in their leadership role is a requirement of this model. As Caldwell and Spinks (1992, p49-50) stated, “Transformational leaders succeed in gaining the commitment of followers to such a degree that … higher levels of accomplishment become virtually a moral imperative”. Thought would need to be put in to how the staff team interact and how well leaders’ ideas are accepted. In a school where there is openness to ideas and a staff team that genuinely listens, this model could be very successful and could lead to schools that could, theoretically, deal with a change in headteacher with little impact on the visions of the school. Caldwell and Spinks (1992, p49-50) state that in their view “a powerful capacity for transformational leadership is required for the successful transition to a system of self-managing schools.”

However, there are clear criticisms of this model, one of which is put forward by Alma Harris, in her essay ‘Distributed leadership: Evidence and Implications’ in which she sums up the views of Hatcher, Fitzgerald & Gunter, and Hargreaves & Fink by saying that distributed leadership (which, as previously referred to, is the type of leadership that the transformational  model falls under) is “…little more than a palatable way of encouraging teachers to do more work”. (The principles of leadership and management – p55). Class based teachers’ workloads can be at such a level that any extra work beyond that of her classroom is just not achievable. A DES report in 1983 stated that there was “little margin for teacher time for purposes other than the teaching of a class” (DES 1983a, para 8.13 cited in Campbell’s essay ‘Towards the collegial primary school’ 1989). Time therefore is a critical factor in the successful implementation of this style of leadership, as there would need to be time for teachers to carry out research, to reflect upon ideas and trials of new approaches, to discuss these ideas with others, and monitor the fulfillment of new strategies. Without time being given for these activities, the ability for ‘leaders’ to influence outcomes is limited.

A different model of leadership and management is the instructional model. This model can be broadly defined as a focus ‘… on teaching and learning and on the behaviour of teachers in working with students. Leaders’ influence is targeted at student learning via teachers. The emphasis is on the direction and impact of influence rather than the influence process itself.’ (Bush, Glover 2003, p12). Leithwood agrees with this by stating that it ‘… typically assumes that the critical focus for attention by leaders is the behaviour of teachers as they engage in activities directly affecting the growth of students,” (Leithwood et al 1999, p.8). Leithwood goes further to say that there are two variants of this model; the broad and the narrow. He says, “the narrow, which restricts its focus to teacher behaviours which enhance pupil learning and the broader type which focuses additionally on other organisational variables such as school culture which the leadership believes influences teacher behaviour.” (Southworth, 2002, p2).

We will begin by looking at Southworth’s 2002 paper, ‘Instructional Leadership in Schools: Reflections and empirical evidence’, in which he said that there were three main principles for the model to be effective; talking with teachers, promoting teacher’s professional growth and fostering teacher reflection (Southworth, 2002). How effective are these principles when looked at from a broad and then a narrow viewpoint?

Blase and Blase’s 1999 study entitled ‘Effective instructional leadership: Teachers’ perspectives on how principals promote teaching and learning in schools’ found that when leaders had a discussion with teachers about their work that it ‘encouraged teachers to critically reflect on their learning and professional practice.’ (Blase and Blase 1999, p133). From a narrow perspective, this relies on an individual leader, usually the headteacher, imparting their views on the teacher’s skills. This heavily relies on this person (the headteacher) being up to date with current educational trends and how this can affect the learning taking place in the classroom (Southworth, 2002). From this, can we not surmise that the headteacher would have to regularly be on the chalk face in order to be confident in the advice they are giving. Headteacher’s workloads and responsibilities can mean they are unavailable to teach on a regular basis which may lead to ineffectual advice being given. As Southworth states, “Too often, headteachers have to rely on out-of-date or assumed knowledge of teaching and learning, while the training offered to them has been on other management tasks (budget, human resources, marketing, etc.).” (Southworth, 2002, p4)

However, from a broader viewpoint, one in which the burden of leadership falls on more than just one person, this model may be more effective. The expertise would be more widely spread therefore allowing teachers to seek help and advice from a variety of leaders, giving them a variety of perspectives on the development points that have been highlighted. There is also a greater likeliness of those leaders being on the chalk face and have the time available to them to conduct research on current trends on education.

Once again however, time will have an impact on the efficacy of this model. Teachers need time to reflect on their feedback, leaders need it for a variety of reasons, from studying to modelling lessons for their colleagues. Regardless of whether we look at this from a narrow or broad viewpoint, time is an issue.


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