4 Types of leadership

Leadership and Primary School Improvement includes evidence taken from a number of primary schools. It is always important to objectively consider evidence when reflecting on effective leadership. There are a number of detailed case studies included within the report, and these reflect different levels of success that can, in turn, be related to aspects of leadership.

From an academic perspective, there are distinct ways of thinking about leadership that include:

  • positional
  • distributional
  • transactional
  • transformational.

This is generally a contentious field: the vast amount of available literature has competing and contradictory references to multiple leadership types, theories, styles and models. This is because leadership incorporates a considerable range of actions and activities, all of which are underpinned by distinct values and beliefs.

Everyone working in an educational context could be involved in some form of leadership activity – however small – that involves influence in the knowledge, views, behaviours or practices of others. Theories continue to emerge about leadership and agreement on a preferred style remains elusive! One contested example of this is termed ‘shared leaderhip’ (or ‘distributed leadership’), which recognises that good ideas can come from and be developed by anyone within an organisation. This can be viewed as positive, because it can help to build capacity and allows for the development of intellectual and professional capital; however, there is a need to consider and plan for how sharing and developing ideas can take place.

Leadership still retains positional status and leaders choose to conduct themselves in different ways and in different circumstances. Transactional and transformational leadership are two well established models referred to in academic literature:

  • In transactional leadership, there is influence on behaviour with ‘rewards’ or ‘disciplines’, depending on the level of performance from followers. This approach to leadership has two main factors: contingent reward balanced by management by expectation. Contingent reward requires subordinates to reach prescribed levels of performance; management by expectation allows for intervention if standards are not met. This is a variation on the ‘carrot and stick’ approach to leadership. Some people might feel uncomfortable to imagine a transactional approach to managing professional teachers, many of whom feel a deep sense of commitment to working with pupils.
  • Transformational leadership might intuitively feel a more a more appropriate model. In many ways, it is very similar to democratic leadership: both involve a deep respect for the dignity of individuals and their cultural traditions – a proactive facilitation, open inquiry and active critique. The transformational leader inspires and motivates followers, demonstrating the importance of (and fostering a desire to) improve and achieve. They are often optimistic and excited about achieving goals, and are able to generate a shared belief and a strategic vision. They mentor followers and attend to individual needs.

If the transactional leader appears to lead with the head, the transformational leader leads with the heart. Where transactional leadership can be described as efficient, transformational leadership would be called effective. But there is a need for caution: both of these leadership approaches are artificial constructs. In reality, all leadership models are stereotypes, and much of what passes for leadership within schools is usually an amalgam of styles. It is likely that leadership will also often be a compromise, with external factors seeming to influence both timelines and accountability.

Creating a culture within a school that enables change to be successfully planned for and implemented is a challenge for leaders. Each school and scenario will have its own set of factors and variables that need to be carefully considered.

Activity 5: Using creative leadership

Timing: Allow approximately 45 minutes

Please now read the article ‘Creative leadership: a challenge of our times’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] by Louise Stoll and Julie Temperley (2009).

It draws on findings from research into the need for leaders to be creative in order to develop a flexible workforce that can adapt to the challenges of the twenty-first century.

As you read the article, you will probably read comments that you find yourself agreeing with and others that you do not. The comments in the article have an authenticity that should help you to reflect on your own school and staff perceptions.

You are encouraged to keep a record of any factors from the article that you feel could be replicated or amended to enable your school to develop a more confident and creative approach to your own set of circumstances and priorities.

Record your thoughts in a blog on the course website.

Activity 6: Using creative leadership – test your knowledge (part 1)

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Having read ‘Creative leadership: a challenge of our times’, now try the following questions.

Which of the following conditions from the article would help create a new safeguarding procedure?

a. 

Model creativity and risk-taking


b. 

Stimulate a sense of urgency – if necessary, generate a ‘crisis’


c. 

Expose colleagues to new thinking and experiences


d. 

Self-consciously relinquish control


The correct answer is b.

Which of the following conditions from the article would help to develop links with parents and the community?

a. 

Set high expectations about the degree of creativity


b. 

Use failure as a learning opportunity


c. 

Model creativity and risk-taking


d. 

Provide time and space and facilitate the practicalities


The correct answer is d.

Which of the following conditions from the article would help to develop digital competency skills amongst staff?

a. 

Use failure as a learning opportunity


b. 

Keep referring back to core values


c. 

Stimulate a sense of urgency – if necessary, generate a ‘crisis’


d. 

Expose colleagues to new thinking and experiences


The correct answer is d.

Which of the following conditions from the article would help to develop a whole school approach to external policy change with respect to the curriculum?

a. 

Promote individual and collaborative creative thinking and design


b. 

Set high expectations about the degree of creativity


c. 

Use failure as a learning opportunity


d. 

Model creativity and risk-taking


The correct answer is a.

Activity 7: Using creative leadership – test your knowledge (part 2)

Timing: Allow approximately 30 minutes

You should now consider how these conditions work when considering a real-life example.

Carefully read and analyse the Deighton Primary School case study and answer the following questions, which are related to actual examples from the case study. For each question you will need to choose two conditions that would help to facilitate each school development.

Which of the following conditions from the article sought to address raising standards of reading for pupils eligible for free school meals?

a. 

Keep referring back to core values


b. 

Set high expectations about the degree of creativity


c. 

Expose colleagues to new thinking and experiences


d. 

Model creativity and risk-taking


e. 

Provide time and space and facilitate the practicalities


The correct answers are c and e.

Which of the following conditions from the article have provided staff the autonomy and trust to lead on areas of responsibility?

a. 

Model creativity and risk-taking


b. 

Stimulate a sense of urgency – if necessary, generate a ‘crisis’


c. 

Expose colleagues to new thinking and experiences


d. 

Self-consciously relinquish control


e. 

Provide time and space and facilitate the practicalities


The correct answers are d and e.

Which of the following conditions from the article initially helped to develop the role of governors?

a. 

Set high expectations about the degree of creativity


b. 

Use failure as a learning opportunity


c. 

Model creativity and risk-taking


d. 

Expose colleagues to new thinking and experiences


e. 

Keep referring back to core values


The correct answers are b and d.

Which of the following conditions from the article has involved parents and the community in the development of the school?

a. 

Provide time and space and facilitate the practicalities


b. 

Model creativity and risk-taking


c. 

Stimulate a sense of urgency – if necessary, generate a ‘crisis’


d. 

Keep referring back to core values


e. 

Promote individual and collaborative creative thinking and design


The correct answers are a and e.

3 Leadership and school improvement

5 Leading professional learning development (PLD)