5 Types of leadership
So far in this course we have considered types of learning and the ways in which what leaders do impacts on learning. It should be reiterated at this point that aspects of leadership are not tied solely to those who are defined as leaders – all those in teaching, training, youth work, for example, will demonstrate some of them as they lead learners, trainees and young people. Whatever the context, however, leadership aims to maximise the contribution of others; and in this context that contribution is to learning. In this course we consider types of leadership and how these impact on learning and outcomes.
Many typologies of types of leadership exist. Robinson et al. (2008) report on the effects of leadership on student outcomes. Their research considered 27 studies, from a range of countries and contexts. These were analysed for types of leadership, leadership activity and effects on student outcomes. The two types of leadership referred to by Robinson et al. are transformational leadership and instructional leadership. The authors have chosen these two types as ‘they dominate empirical research on educational leadership and their research programs are mature enough to have yielded sufficient evidence for analysis’ (p. 638). The second part of this quote is significant, as their study was in the form of a meta-analysis of 27 pieces of research. To do this, they needed to identify key instruments for the analysis – one of these being leadership type. Further, they identify five dimensions of leadership activity, which may be summarised as:
- establishing goals and expectations
- planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching
- participating in staff learning and development
- ensuring a supportive environment.
To an extent, the dimensions, which are actually activities, are determined (or predicted) by the context in which the leadership is taking place. Thus, some leaders will be given particular responsibilities for resourcing, whereas others have less control over this. This is independent of the leadership style.
The appropriateness of a leadership style varies with the context in which it is set. At some times it may be more appropriate to emphasise instructional aspects rather than transformational ones, for example. This is not always easy, as the type of leadership may be enshrined in the culture of an organisation or system, or in the expectations and job description of a post.
Robinson et al. use only transformational and instructional leadership in their typology for the meta-analysis. This is because these were the predominant types found in the underlying studies they considered.
Other types of leadership found in the literature include distributed leadership, positional leadership – in which the leader is defined by the role or position they have been appointed to or have adopted – and transactional leadership. Transactional leadership is primarily about management of staff as they carry out tasks and activities with rewards, promotion, and so on, based on how well these tasks are performed. Unlike transformational leadership it does not seek to change the existing culture of an organisation.
Other writers (e.g. Hersey, 1985) refer to situational leadership. While this would appear to be a ‘type’ of leadership, it is more an approach that can be layered onto the other types to take account of the situation, context or activity in which the leadership is being enacted.
Thinking about your own practice, or the practice of leaders with whom you have worked, consider whether a particular type of leadership leads to particular outcomes (as represented in the dimensions).