Transformational leadership effects on schools: A myth or reality?

Transformational leadership is a productive approach in leading organizations. Generally, schools that had undergone remodeling used such an approach under certain conditions.

However, transformational leadership has turned into a hot topic to be investigated systematically in school contexts. As mentioned, this model to leadership basically targets to engage capability development and improved levels of personal commitment to an organization’s goals on the part of the leaders’ colleagues.

This article will be looking into the findings of Leithwood & Jantzi in their article, Transformational School Leadership Effects: A Replication.

Transformational leadership group dynamics

What are the conditions faced in the context of transformational leadership?

These “conditions” consist of decisions and actions taken outside the classroom but within the school. This aims to enhance the “teaching and learning” environment in the classroom.

However, in spite of Hallinger and Heck’s (1998) purposes and goals of instructional leadership, we had perceived “school planning” as a separate entity as in school condition.

In effect, this does not exclude the approaches used for decisions on mission and objectives, and on the action plans executed for their own success. Besides that, “organizational culture” also plays a role in school-level mediating variable.

For classroom conditions, these refer to the decisions and actions directly linked to the “teaching and learning” environment in the classroom.

This closely resembles Scheerens’ (1997) conception of classroom-level variables. In lieu to that, student participation in schools has both behavioral and affective elements.

The research approach

In this study,  Leithwood & Jantzi obtained the data about all variables aforementioned in the framework through two distinctive surveys in one large school district in central Canada. The district with a population of around 400,000 served elementary and secondary students. Likewise, this ranged from not only urban, but to rural area, made up of approximately 57,000 students in total.

There were two survey instruments used for data collection. One survey gathered data from teachers on school and classroom conditions, and on the practices and integration of transformational leadership.

The second survey collected substantial evidence from students on their engagement with school and their family’s educational cultures.

All teachers in the district took part in the “Organizational Conditions and School Leadership Survey”. The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of transformational leadership practices on school organizational conditions and student engagement with school.

In addition, this took into account the potentially large, moderating effects of family educational culture.

The results: A myth from reality

As a result, transformational leadership approaches have a mediocre but statistically significant effect on the psychological dimension of student engagement.

The size of these effects is approximately the same as those found for the effects of leadership provided specifically by principals in two of the other studies by Leithwood and Jantzi, which also used student engagement as an important factor.

Nevertheless, the best explanation is that principals and transformational leadership practices make a disappointing contribution to student engagement.

In fact, student engagement is a product linked directly to teachers’ classroom practices and not the leadership. Accordingly, this notion of leadership goes back to the term, “romance of leadership” (Meindl, 1995). This argument puts leadership as a convenient, phenomenologically legitimate, social construction. Hence, this disguises a multitude of influences on organizational outcomes including teachers’ practices.

Consequently, people stick to the idea of leadership in part because it provides a simple explanation for organizational effects that otherwise would defy their understanding.

Apart from that, leadership has very small effect on student engagement. Transformational school leadership practices do explain a large proportion of the value-sided variation in school rather than classroom climates. Furthermore,

Furthermore, large proportion of variation in student engagement explained by family educational culture raises the possibility that different student outcomes may range considerably in their sensitivity to family, as compared with school, variables.

Limitation and reflection

For the limitation of the study, further research needs to include a wider set of student outcome variables. These may resemble the general set of academic, social, and psychological outcomes included in the curricula of most schools.

Second, such research would step up its conception and parameters of “student background” variables, focusing on a quite specific sub-set of variables.  These may likely justify other factors influencing students’ accomplishment credited to background variables.

Finally, the premise of this study tries to debunk the myth of a transformational leader that Leithwood himself worked on for years.    This humbling gesture from an established researcher reveals the nature of educational research as a dynamic field.  Although leadership plays only second to teaching, still it is a key factor in any organization.

Leaders must always aspire to be transformational leaders that promote better teaching practices and learning strategies.

Working on educational change through leadership (repost)

Evolution of schools is a process driven by educational change. The state we are in will never be a reality without the prior changes throughout the course of history affecting our individuality.

This is just one of the countless ways to define the abstraction of change.  After all, to say that ‘change’ has a definitive definition undermines the existence of this notion.

Hence, enacting change is such a powerful driving force. Everything in this realm operates under it.

educational change like an orchestra

The concept of change

A general understanding of the notion of change needs to be in place. Before probing deeper, there must be a more contextual appreciation of this concept.

Although the definition of change comes in more than a million ways,  change is an “emotional process” that is transformational and dynamic. Accordingly, there is no improvement without change. Therefore, one should not misconstrue that all changes lead to improvement.

Being a process, change takes time and needs time. Certainly, it is a journey that best explored alongside the varying responses and effects that come with it.

To better understand this idea, Kritsonis (2005) compared five theories of change in claiming that “change is a real phenomenon.”  Clearly then, all theories generally revolve around factors leading to outcomes in explaining the phenomenon of change.

For an instance, it is Lewin’s three-step change theory that captures the core of change.  Lewin defines change as a rational process breaking the status-quo, allowing further development, and managing sustainability (Lewin, 1951 in Kritsonis, 2005).

Whether one sees it from a rational or emotional perspective, change comes in different forms shaped by time and the drive to go beyond the norms.

Educational change and transforming societies


Considering that change covers a broad spectrum, it is imperative to narrow it down in the context of education.

From a sociological point of view, education can be seen as a primary institution in the formation of societies. Social theorist Karl Marx believes that education [and propaganda] should be established first to provide guidance and improve the lives of the people (Kellner, 2006).

In effect, the focus of this educational change leads to the educators who will always be the people behind this institution of change.

Due to obvious reasons, they share baseline perspectives that initially spark ideas, passion, and the need for changes whether it is a small scale or a bigger scale (Keane, 2015).

Henceforth, further research needs to focus on developing and harnessing the potential of educators to be catalysts of change.  Even though this is an obvious matter in some societies, it is still highly debatable that most countries throughout the world have low regards of the power that educators could bring forth in social development.

Despite the social changes and promising development it could bring, it is disheartening that education seems to be the lowest priorities in less economically developed countries (LEDC’s) and the bottom range of more economically developed countries (MEDC) like my home country.

Perhaps, the quality and quantity of change lead to a deficiency of initiative in educational change in LEDC’s and some MEDC’s.

Here comes the idea of having a strong LEADER, which is not just a mere manager or an administrator.

educational change leadership challenge

Educational change and leadership

The emerging theoretical framework governs different notions and styles of leaderships.  One has to wonder whether LEDC’s propagate, address, and evaluate these modern and continuously developed styles of leadership.

It is easy to define an ideal form of leadership or to list 20 or so ways of effective leadership, but to put theory into practice is another part of the discussion.

Having all these leadership dogmas in place, why is it difficult to replicate the success of educational change and leadership? Although it sounds so good to be true, why can’t these governing bodies translate these ideal perspectives into reality?

One might be asking for heavens to materialize on earth.  However, if instructional leadership turn into reality, then we all would be enjoying the euphoria of utopia.

Alma Harris, a celebrated guru in educational leadership, noted, “Every person [in this room] has influence more than formal leaders.”

Titles do not equate to leadership. Titles without vision or action are meaningless in the field of education where genuine reforms are in need.

The problem with leaders these days is that they end up so engulfed by their ego.  Eventually, they forget the basics of humanity: compassion.

Numerous key performance indices drive educational leaders that they fail to make people or even themselves understand change.

We are missing the point when we rationalize change with numbers and letters.  In reality, social change is an “emotional process” dealing with human actions and attitudes.

Final thoughts

Beyond the call of positions or titles, a clear vision could help shape the future of our students.  This could then lead to the transformation of the school system. With a strong desire to inspire students to be the best they could be, every educator could transform this system.  Needless to say, a bureaucrat who clings on to his or her title only do so little.

We have to fully grasp the idea of educational change as a process. One needs an intense immersion in reality to scrutinize the ideal prospects for change and leadership.

The education system is continuously evolving dating back even before the conception of history. It is a journey of learning to look back at the changes in the past.  From here, we could see how we could modify the future of education through sound leadership.


Keane, Lorna. (2015, April 20). Why Educators are the Driving Force of Change in Education. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from


Kellner, D. (2006). Marxian Perspectives on Educational Philosophy: From Classical Marxism to Critical Pedagogy.


Kritsonis, A. (2005). Comparison of change theories. International journal of scholarly academic intellectual diversity, 8(1), 1-7.

Turning the tales of turnaround schools to reality

The case of turnaround schools is like a fairy tale of schools.  However, in this Cinderella story, the miracle happens in the reality of schools all over the world.

Transforming a school from low to high performing is not an impossible feat. It is an undertaking of sheer will power and impressive organizational skills.

the case of turnaround schools

The case of low-performing schools

Describing the performance of a school requires certain standards. Obviously, these standards are set by certain boards.  On the other hand, these could be as simple as logical discretion.

To be more objective, student achievement usually quantifies a school’s performance.  Based on grades attained by students, these could be from internal or external examination.  Any school can simply claim high performance according to internally assessed work.  However, through standardized exams, schools get to establish themselves as high-performing schools due to impressive results.

For example, schools from Shanghai and Singapore have established themselves as top schools based on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results in reading, maths, and science.

In the United States, proficiency tests enable assessors to determine the performance of a school and even a district.

Aside from grades, school performance based on student achievement also includes graduation rates and the ability of the students to go to colleges or universities.

On top of these quantitative factors, the quality of infrastructure and instructional practices come into play.

Logically, low performing schools usually score below the acceptable standards in all or most of these factors.

The case of turnaround schools

The study of Klugman et al. (2015) on turnaround schools in Illinois brings this ugly duckling tale into reality.  In 2013, the University of Chicago conducted a statewide survey involving school stakeholders.  The data from this research lead to findings on turning low to high performing schools.

learning in turnaround schools

Firstly, socio-economically disadvantaged communities and rural schools lack the support system they need.  In effect, these schools are at risk of lower student outcomes.

Now, what should be done to these schools?

Due to this inadequacy, providing the essential support system could provide a chance for these schools to transform.  More importantly, the following essential support factors should be considered:

  1. Effective leadership
  2. Collaborative teachers
  3. Involved families
  4. Supportive environment
  5. Ambitious instruction

If schools could look into these factors, then change may take place.  Perhaps, a strong support system could lead to better student outcomes.  Therefore, school leaders and district supervisors must meet these essential supports to improve the system.

Finally, current studies on school improvement and leadership establish the correlation between the two.  Hence, school transformation would require supportive leadership that fosters strong, effective instructional principles and practices.


Klugman, J., Gordon, M. F., Sebring, P. B., & Sporte, S. E. (2015). A first look at the 5Essentials in Illinois schools. RESEARCH SUMMARY.

Trump’s Twitter Leadership versus the Leaders’ Rulebooks

In just two weeks into his presidency, Trump has started to rewrite the rulebooks of leadership. Well, this new paradigm revolves around this new concept of Twitter Leadership with Trump at its helm.

Pundits and commoners have been very vocal about Trump’s leadership style. Obviously, there are always two sides to a coin.

Evaluating Trump’s leadership as the 45th US president needs a non-political context.

Feasibly, this might sound absurd. But, as Trump’s words and actions have been highly political in nature, we can’t be too redundant in our analysis.

Twitter Leadership in action

 Trump’s ‘Twitter Leadership’

First, we need to define what this ‘Twitter Leadership’ is. No rulebook on leadership has ever coined this term, so let REEDEL be the first. There is no need to complicate the obvious. Through Twitter, Trump built the momentum of his campaign. Eventually, through Twitter, Trump has stamped his mark as the US president in the past two weeks.

Definitely, @realDonaldTrump has made waves not just in the US but also as far as Twitter’s reach. From his Great Wall and Muslim Ban tweets, Trump has moved the political arena from the Lincoln Memorial to the Twitter-sphere.

Pun aside; he’s got 23.8M followers. That’s more than enough to define a ‘leader’.

On a more serious note, is that enough to define him as a ‘real leader’ according to the rulebooks of leadership?

Trait Leadership and Trump

Proponents of trait leadership believe that a leader is born not made. One of them is Stephen Zaccaro (2007), who believes in leadership skills as inherent attitudes and behaviors.

Zaccaro’s model includes the following attributes:

  1. Personality
  2. Cognitive Abilities
  3. Motives and Values
  4. Social Appraisal Skills
  5. Problem Solving Skills
  6. Expertise/Tacit Knowledge

More importantly, Zaccaro (2007) noted that leadership effectiveness comes from the combination of these traits rather than ‘independent contribution of multiple traits.’

Now, if we are to juxtapose these with Trump, we can say that he has all these, but the quality remains to be in question.

Let’s just take three of the six attributes by asking these questions:

  1. If he has a ‘good personality’, would he openly use crude expressions?
  2. Well, if he has high cognitive abilities, would he refuse to accept the facts especially the numbers during his inauguration?
  3. If he has such ‘values’, could he think of other policies aside from banning Muslims?

Henceforth, this closes Trump’s chances of falling under a ‘Trait Leader’.

Transactional Leadership and Trump

Perhaps, Trump has high chances of falling under this category. Besides, transactional leadership is the closely relevant to management—a top-down approach for easy maintenance.

For this reason, basic assumption dictates how Trump fits in this category as a business mogul.

However, let’s take a closer look at one of the models as proposed by Bernard Bass (1981), which can be summarized in three points:

  1. Laissez-faire: abdicates responsibilities/delegates/assigns
  2. Management by exception: corrections and punishment
  3. Contingent reward: promises rewards for good performance

Again, it’s the combination of these three that makes a good transactional leader, which brings positive impact to an organization. Does Trump make the cut?

Well, he has abdicated responsibilities to his family, son-in-law, and even Steve Bannon.

In addition, he has fired Sally Yate, the acting attorney general, for “refusing to enforce a legal order”.

Unfortunately, Trump has not promised any rewards yet—just walls and bans.

The buck stops there for Trump and Transactional Leadership.

Transformational Leadership and Trump

A transformational leader is usually associated with the word ‘charisma’. Once again, people can safely assume that by being a formal reality show host, Trump could be a transformational leader.

Nevertheless, let’s benchmark Trump against Bass’ model of transformational leadership. Bass (1990) does not box a transformational leader in a charismatic brand.

Consequently, for him, superior leader performance comes when a leader creates awareness of the mission and allows their follower to go beyond.

Likewise, Bass’ Transformational Leader goes by these traits:

  1. Charisma: Provides vision and sense of mission
  2. Inspiration: Communicates high expectations
  3. Intellectual Stimulation: Promotes intelligence
  4. Individualized Consideration: Treats every person respectfully

Given the abovementioned traits, it’s definitely a NO for all for Mr. President.

Twitter Leadership in full swing!

Twitter Leadership and Trump

With all three major leadership theories squeezed out, what’s left for Mr. Donald J. Trump?

Definitely, he does not fit in any of the three mainstream leadership ideals because he is Trump. He does not follow the Bible because he creates his own canon of alternative facts.

Hence, we propose a theory: the Twitter Leadership. It does not fall in any of the three leadership models, although it has some traces of transactional leadership.

In addition to the earlier definition of Twitter Leadership, this theory can be simply explained by the following:

  1. Simplistic: Vision and policies must fit in 140 characters.
  2. Social Media Driven: The official medium of communication and source of information devoid of fake news
  3. Self-promoting: The leader should be at the center of everything.

Arguments aside, @realDonaldTrump fits this model perfectly.

As a challenge to future researchers in this colorful field of leadership, Trump is the perfect guinea pig for this paradigm shift.

How effective is Twitter Leadership? We will find out in the next four years.