Transformational Leadership A useful tool for teachers in identifying


TransformationalLeadership: A useful tool for teachers in identifying and influencingthe performance of students

Transformationalleadership has become one of the leadership styles that is used byorganizations in enhancing outcome. Transformational leadershipdescribes a leadership approach, which leads to change in socialsystems and individuals. In its ideal form, transformationalleadership generates positive and valuable change in the followerswith an end objective of developing followers into leaders (Elmore,2001). Transformational leadership is critical since it enhances themorale, motivation, and performance of followers through differentmechanisms. Such mechanisms entail linking the followers’ sense ofidentity and self with the mission and collective identity of theentity challenging followers to consider greater ownership for theirwork being a role model to followers which offer inspiration, andunderstanding the weaknesses and strengths of followers so as toalign followers with different tasks, which enhance theirperformance. In this paper, literature concerning transformationalleadership as a useful tool for teachers in identifying andinfluencing the performance of students will be discussed. Besides,the second part of this paper will provide an experimental report ontransformational leadership in influencing the performance ofstudents.


Afundamental principle of transformational leadership is the call formembers in sharing a vision and value collective ambitions along thejourney of change. In an organization, where transformationalleadership exists, the leader is placed in the center of thecommunity, instead of being taking the position of a leader from thetop. Transformational leadership demonstrates respect for allindividuals, power of followers, and value of the leader’s supportfor collective goals. According to Newmann and Wehlage (1995), sharedleadership and decision making usually play a significant role insupporting student learning. This shared leadership and decisionmaking can be achieved through transformational leadership. This kindof leadership thus helps in influencing the performance of studentsbecause shared decision making is critical since it serves anextension of tutors’ active participation in organizations (Newmann&amp Wehlage, 1995). According to Leitherwood et al. (1999),effective leaders usually inspire followers in achieving collectiveor personal mastery of the capacities needed in accomplishingcollective aspirations. Followers need to believe themselves ashaving the ability of accomplishing the ambitions targeted by theschool community. It is these capacity beliefs that equip the staffwith the focus and resiliency and necessary to attain change(Leitherwood et al, 1999). A transformational leader can facilitatean increase in capacity beliefs through ensuring explicit experiencefrom role models, actual performance and individual’s opinions ofsuccess, and verbal persuasion. This is an indication that this typeof leadership influences the performance of followers. Atransformational leader in a school has a valuable role of helpingtutors uncover the meaning in whatever they do and promoting thecapacity of changing practices through transcending them. Leader of agroup is directly involved in influencing what the group will learn.Therefore, when a leader promotes a supportive culture of change, asindicated in transformational leadership, the probability ofindividuals putting their new knowledge into an effective action,increases (Leitherwood et al, 1999).

Accordingto Bass &amp Avolio (1994), transformational leadership improves anorganization through raising the values of its members, encouragingthem to go past self-interest to embrace organizational ambitions,and redefining their necessities so as to align with organizationalpreferences. Transformational leadership is likely to influenceteacher’s professional commitment studies conducted Koh et al.(1995) indicate that transformational leadership accounts forapproximately 17-18% of the variance in organizational commitment.Besides, transformational leadership contributes to organizationalcitizenship, which is the individual’s willingness to proceedbeyond formal requirements of the job so as to engage in productiveroles that promote organizational effectiveness (Koh et al, 1995).Therefore, since transformational leadership makes individuals to gobeyond their formal job requirements, transformational leadership ina school has the impact of enhancing the commitment of teachers andmaking them do their work beyond their job requirement. This has theimpact of influencing the performance of students. Teachers that aremore committed to values of an organization and to the members of theorganization are more likely to assume instructional practices thatare recommended by the organization, help colleagues, and work harderso as to attain organizational goals (Bass &amp Avolio, 1994). Suchcommitments are likely to contribute to higher student performance incase the ambitions of the school are focused towards studentperformance.

Leithwood(1992) argues that transformational leaders in a school settingattempt to pursue three principal goals. These three goals entailhelping staff members in developing and maintaining a professional,collaborative school environment helping tutors solve problems in amore efficient manner and promoting teacher development. All thesethree goals influence the performance of students as it will beindicated in the paragraph that follows.

Helpingstaff members in developing and maintaining a professional,collaborative school environment is critical since in such anenvironment, members of staff can talk, critique, observe, and plantogether (Leithwood, 1992). Continuous improvement and collectiveresponsibility norms encourage staff members to teach one anotherthis makes them learn and know how to teach better. As teachers learnto teach better, they influence the performance of students sincethey tend to help students realize performance goals. Fostering ofteacher development is also critical since it helps in attainingprofessional growth as teachers attain professional development,they are capable of solving school improvement problems. As theseproblems are solved, the performance of students becomes enhanced. Onthe other hand, helping tutors solve problems in an effective manneris also critical in helping school achieve meaningful improvement(Leithwood, 1992). Therefore, transformational leadership has aninfluence on the performance of students.

Thetransformational leadership framework as proposed by Bass &ampAvolio (1997) argues that transformational leadership can beidentified through certain behaviors such as idealized influence,idealized influence, inspirational motivation, and intellectualstimulation. These are expanded in order to integrate some vitalmanagement dimensions such as instructional support, staffing,monitoring of school activities, and community focus (Leithwood,1992). These behaviors are exceedingly important in ensuring that thegoals of a school as an organization are accomplished. As the goalsof school are accomplished, student performance is influenced sinceschool and student performance emerge as an important goal thatschools look forward to achieving.

Accordingto Leithwood et al. (2001), transformational leadership is criticalin influencing the performance of students and school as a whole.This is because transformational has the capacity of encouragingteachers to identify with the goals of schools. Almost every schoolwill have a goal of enhancing its performance through the use of itsstaffs and students. The moment teachers become motivated to identifywith the goals of a school, it goes without saying that they would beencouraged to improve the performance of the school by ensuring thatthey provide better learning to students, a move that can influencethe performance of students.

Besides,transformational leadership provides a suitable environment forlearners and teachers (Leithwood et al, 2001). Through thetransformational leadership, teachers are capable of discussingproblems that emerge in the learning environment and offer solutionto the problems through relating with the different stakeholders oflearning. This works well with the students, making them attain highsuccesses in learning.

Researchconducted by Barnett and McCormick indicates that the impact ofleadership on student learning outcomes is usually mediated throughschool conditions, organizational culture, and classroom conditions. Transformational leadership ensures that these factors are in thebest possible condition, which translates to enhanced performance.According to Barnett &amp McCormick (2004), resistance to change isone of the principal factors that can lead to organizations notaccomplishing their goals however, since transformational leadershipencourages changes rather than being a resistance to change,organizations that adapt the transformational leadership have highprobabilities of performing exceedingly well. Since in its idealform, transformational leadership generates positive and valuablechange in the followers with an end objective of developing followersinto leaders, schools that have transformational leadership ensurethat significant changes that affect the performance of students areeffected, which translates to high performance amid the studentsbecause students have an immense desire of following the course ofthe leader (Barnett &amp McCormick, 2004). Resistance to culture hasalso been pointed as a major problem affecting the performance oforganizations and students however, when this resistance becomeseliminated, there is a tendency of organizations performingremarkably well. Since transformational leadership ensures that thereis a well developed school culture, then the performance of schooland students is influenced by the developed school culture.

Also,according to Barnett &amp McCormick (2004), transformationalleadership influences the performance of students since it providesstudents with an opportunity to copy their role models.Transformational leadership has been indicated to present leaders asrole models a move that inspires the followers. In a schoolenvironment, transformational leadership presents teachers as rolemodels (Barnett &amp McCormick, 2004). This has the effect ofinfluencing the performance of students because students becomeinspired to learn and achieve high performances in the set targets.On the other hand, transformational leadership in a school ensuresthat there is a shared vision amid all the stakeholders of theschool. Since there is sharing of a vision by all the stakeholders,it implies that students are also likely to identify with the visionof the school. This is an indication that in case the school has avision of enhancing its performance academically, students will alsohave the same vision. This will thus influence the performance ofstudents.

Inaddition, as noted by Elmore (2001), transformational leadershippractices like having collaborative decision making has the impact ofinfluencing students’ performance because it brings aboutcommitments in improving student learning. As a result oftransformational leadership practices, teachers are more than willingto engage in improving the learning process amid students. As thelearning process becomes enhanced through the collaboration ofteachers and the schools, student performance is enhanced (Elmore,2001). Hence, transformational leadership is a useful tool forteachers in identifying and influencing the performance of students.


Weconducted a qualitative research in order to determine whethertransformational leadership is a useful tool for teachers inidentifying and influencing the performance of students. In carryingout the research, 20 schools were involved. The schools came fromdifferent districts in order to have a better comparison from the two(10 schools were selected from each district). From the schools, weinterviewed at least two teachers and the head of the school so as toget a clear picture of the understanding and extent oftransformational leadership in the schools. The organization of theinterviews was such that we divided ourselves into two groups, wherea group comprised five individuals. This was critical in order tofacilitate faster collection of data.


Aqualitative design was to examine the situation of leadership in thecontext of different schools’ improvement plans. Although the plansin the target districts usually vary in their focus, they tend to bestructured in a similar way and conceived by staffs of the schools ina similar manner. In this context, structured qualitative techniquesallowed a thorough exploration of the kinds of leadership practicesinfluencing school improvement. Interviewing was selected as thetechnique of data collection so as to enable a rich source of insightconcerning the way in which leaders approach school improvement.Although interview method is more time intensive, the individualizednature of the structured interview aimed at the existence oftransformational leadership practices in a manner that a survey orquestionnaire could not. According to Best &amp Kahn (2003),interview method tends to yield more detailed information compared toquestionnaires. Besides, certain types of confidential informationcan be obtained through interviews that a person may be unwilling toput into writing (Best &amp Kahn, 2003). Open ended questions tendto be effective in discovering the respondents’ frame of referenceand priorities. They also help in revealing the depth of anindividual’s knowledge. During the interviews, audio recording wasdone in order to facilitate the analysis of the information afterdata collection was over.

Atotal of 9 questions were developed for the purpose of collectingdata during the interviews. The questions were intended to uncoverunderstandings and attitudes concerning the themes of teacherleadership, shared vision, collaborative decision making, highperformance expectations, school culture, and building capacity.These questions related to the different aspects of leadershipdepicted in schools. During the conduction of the interviews, everygroup participated in the districts where the participants knew themwell. This was critical so as to make participants more willing tovolunteer information. In the group that I was in, I was able tocommence with a clear explanation of the purpose of the study and thecontext for the questions, whenever we entered into a school. Thequestions that were designed for the interview were unbiased and werenot implied to have a particular response. Besides, duringinterviews, neutral prompts were also used in order to gain morespecific responses when required. Omission of certain practices orconcepts was recognized with significance since some practices andconcepts were termed as critical in understanding the role oftransformational leadership in the schools.


Afterthe information was collected through the different interviewquestions and recorded, it was later analyzed in order to determinethe role of transformational leadership for teachers in identifyingand influencing the performance of students. The perceptions ofteachers concerning the strategies that positively impactedimprovement outcomes were analyzed for trends and commonalities.Coding categories were determined and different comments by theteachers were evaluated based on how explicitly every theme wasaddressed.


Thefindings were usually based on the transformational themes statedearlier. Based on the theme of a shared vision, 14 of the 20interviews showed, in varied degrees, that a vision had been createdwithin the schools and there were some alignment amid the schoolgoals and the visions. Although the responses were positive, theyseemed to be vague the explanations rarely went into depth andlengthy responses addressed other needs of the schools that were noteven related to the vision. Most of the principals indicated thatthey had a vision of doing the best in ensuring that students performto the best of their ability no matter the learning style that seemsbest. Although shared vision was something that was indicated by mostschools, it was not always reflected in the community common values.In some schools, the staffs had re-defined the vision more than onetime in order to align the vision with the goals of the schools.Concerning teacher leadership, it was found that there wasdistribution of power in the schools. Leadership roles that weregiven to teachers ranged from informal to formal. Relationships werewell developed amid teachers in order ensure that the communicationwas open. It emerged that in all the schools, every teacher had avoice and challenges made different teachers step in as leaders. Inthree schools, mentor teachers were indicated to exist and theseserved the role of planning for the schools’ performance.

Collaborativedecision making was evident from the responses obtained from all theschools. Teachers were involved in different situations as decisionmakers in order to influence the outcomes of the situations thatemerged. Formal leaders were indicated to be approachable and valuedthe opinions of others during the making of critical decisions. Thevalue of decisions made in influence student performance, byteachers, was indicated in 18 interviews. On the other hand, schoolculture was indicated to be an important theme in determining schoolperformance. Most teachers indicated that a negative culture inschool made performance of students to go down, while a positive onepromotes the performance of students. All the interviews indicatedthat the schools had developed positive cultures. High performanceexpectation was not well explained by the interviews conducted sincemost participants avoided explaining how performance expectationswere shared with the staff. In addition, explanation of the buildingcapacity in the schools was also not well explained because mostteachers seemed to confuse the term with commitment.


Accordingto Leithwood (1992), transformational leaders in a school settingattempt to pursue three principal goals. These three goals entailhelping staff members in developing and maintaining a professional,collaborative school environment helping tutors solve problems in amore efficient manner and promoting teacher development. It isthrough having a shared vision and a developed school culture, thattransformational leadership can influence the performance ofstudents. From the interviews, it is apparent that shared vision,school culture, teacher leadership, and capacity building amongothers are critical aspects of transformational leadership thatinfluence student performance.


Barnett,K. and McCormick, J. (2004). ‘Leadership and IndividualPrincipal-Teacher Relationships in Schools’, EducationalAdministration Quarterly,40(3): 406-434.

Bass,B. &amp Avolio, B. (1997). Thefull range leadership development manual for the multifactorleadership questionnaire.Redwood City, CA:Mindgarden Inc.

Bass,B. M., &amp Avolio, B. J. (Eds.). (1994). Improvingorganizational effectiveness through transformational leadership.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Best,J.W. &amp Kahn, J.V. (2003). Researchin education (9 ed.).Boston: Pearson Education.

Elmore,R. (2000). Buildinga new structure for school leadership.Washington, DC: The Albert Shanker Institute.

Koh,W. L., Steers, R. M., &amp Terborg, J. R. (1995). Theeffects of transformational leadership on teacher attitudes andstudent performance in Singapore.Journal of Organizational Behavior, 16(4), 319‐333.

Leithwood,K. A.&nbsp (1992).&nbsp The Move Toward TransformationalLeadership.&nbsp&nbspEducationalLeadership,vol. 49, no.5, pp. 8-12.

Leithwood,K. A., Aitken, R., &amp Jantzi, D. (2001). Makingschools smarter: A system for monitoring school and districtprogress.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Newmann,F. M., &amp Wehlage, G. G. (1995). Successfulschool restructuring: A report to the public and educators.Madison, WI: Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.

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