4 Major Types of Educational Leadership

This blog comes from writer of the @AdvocateforEd, activist and former Dean of the School of Education, Psychology, & Interdisciplinary Studies at Virginia Union University, Dr. Matthew Lynch.

There are four major styles of leadership which apply well in the educational setting.

While each of these styles has its good points, there is a wide berth of variation, and in fact, transformational leadership is truly an amalgamation of the best attributes of the other three. So let’s explore how servant leadership, transactional leadership, and emotional leadership compare to transformational leadership…

1.   Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership takes the focus from the end goal to the people who are being led. There is no sense of self-interest on the part of the leader, who steps back and supports only the interests of the followers. Guidance, empowerment and a culture of trust are hallmarks of this style of leadership. A servant leader puts complete trust in the process and in his or her followers, assuming that those within the organisation will align with its goal.

The primary issue with servant leadership is that it’s not viable on an organisational level, in large part because it does not keep its eye on the prize. With the focus being so entirely upon the needs of the people within the organisation, the goal of the organisation is nearly completely lost and therefore not attained.

Education happens in the real world, where unfortunately people have shortcomings and quite often need guidance in order to get things going in the right direction. Transformational Leadership offers that same focus on the individual, while building an investment in the end goal of the organisation and thereby creating a momentum to achieve it. Transformational Leadership takes Service Leadership to the next level.

2. Transactional Leadership

Give and take is the hallmark of transactional leadership – it is indeed modelled just like a business transaction. Of course the employer/employee relationship is largely transactional as is.

Employers need work done and employees do that work in exchange for money. That “quid pro quo” (“something for something”) is the heart of the workplace, and everyone is generally happy with this arrangement, but it only works if everyone involved sees it that way.

In education, there is often more at stake for employees who quite often understand their jobs to be more than just a simple exchange of services for money, but rather see their higher purpose. Money is therefore not the motivating factor.

This is where transformational leadership can step in to compliment transactional leadership, taking the whole process as step further by building upon other forms of motivation outside of simply the exchange of goods and services for money.

However transformational leadership only really works of the leader is able to keep up the charisma and interpersonal relationships which are required for it to work. When transformational leadership fails, the last resort is quite often transactional leadership, which is easy and straightforward, if less than effective in the long term.

Perhaps the biggest contrast between transformational and transactional leadership is that the latter is laissez faire, in which the leader allows employees to do as they like, whereas the former is completely hands on and intrusive in its nature.

3. Emotional Leadership

Where transactional leadership was concerned primarily with the exchange of goods and services, emotional leadership is concerned with the feelings and motivations of followers. It takes the focus completely to the other side of the spectrum – demanding that leaders be emotionally intelligent themselves and then to motivate through the use of that emotional intelligence.

Emotional leadership and transformational leadership have a great deal in common with each other. With emotional leadership, the leader taps into their emotional centre in order to find the path to guiding their followers. People sometimes argue that transformational leadership requires that same level of influence over emotions, however there is a fundamental difference in the two in that transformational leadership is by necessity a rational process rather than an emotional one.

4. Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership takes from each of the other kinds of leadership its best qualities and then uses those, along with a deep sense of shared purpose, to motivate subordinates.

While the other forms of leadership focus on one singular aspect or another, transformational leadership takes a broad view of the issues surrounding leadership and then uses those as a driving force for meeting the overall goals of the organisation. For education in particular, transformational leadership offers the best of everything – from tapping into the emotions of workers to offering the compensatory core that is the case for all forms of business, to guiding from a place of support.

However since transformational leadership is informed by all of these various types of leadership, it’s always a good idea for leaders to learn more about these other styles so as to offer a deeper understanding of these forms so as to offer those in whose service they are the best support and guidance possible.

To read blogs and other insights from Dr Matthew Lynch (@lynch39083), please visit the Edadvocate website.

The Coaching Leadership Style – the Pros and Cons

As a School Leader you will no doubt, have a vast array of knowledge about leadership styles and how and when to deploy them.

We all know context is everything and there is no point adopting a democratic leadership style, when the school fire alarm has gone off and the building needs to be evacuated immediately!

However, I never cease to be amazed when working with School Leaders, that out of the various leadership styles, the coaching leadership is the one that most leaders appear to find the hardest to develop.

Having reflected on this, I believe there are a number of reasons as to why this is so…

Find out More


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