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The Literature On Leadership Styles Education Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5490 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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With the following literature review, it is the goal of the researcher to disclose how theories and previous studies provide a basis for comprehending principal leadership styles and their effect on school climate. The study findings and theoretical examples generated crucial information that helped the researcher in scrutinizing various components of principal leadership including leadership styles, school climate, responsibilities and relationships. This review was essential in establishing questions used for qualitative survey questionnaire that solicits teacher’s perceptions on how their principals’ leadership style/behaviors influences school climate. Essentially, this review may disclose components of leadership that may compliment in the development of current and aspiring principals.

In this generation of accountability and transparency, principals are required to exercise strong instructional leadership in their institutions. They face the task of increasing student performance while preserving order through acceptable student behavior which may demand altering school climate and culture (Tableman, 2004).

While teachers are at last held responsible for enhancing student learning in schools, altering the organizational conditions for enhancement across schools is the central task of school principals (Halverson, Pritchett, Grigg and Thomas 2005). In Tableman’s best exercise brief (2004), principal accountability to instructional leadership is directly correlated to school climate. She states that ―school climate is a significant element in discussions about improving student achievement (Pg. 2). Consequently, school climate accountability is also a crucial feature of the principal leadership.

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Effective and efficient leadership and a climate favorable to student’s performance are essential to all schools. Effective leadership improves an organization’s ability to achieve all goals, including the need to gain a competitive advantage, the need to cultivate ethical behavior, and the need to administer a distinct workforce fairly and reasonably (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004). Bennis (2003) points out four features of effective leadership. Firstly, leaders should have the ability to involve others in the establishment of a shared vision. Secondly, leaders should possess a distinct voice to their followers. Thirdly, a leader should have strong moral behaviors. Finally, leaders should be able to adapt to pressure to adjustment. Bennis argues that these behaviors are essential for institutional leadership in the 21st century.

A crucial study of the relationships between school climate and student performance was reported by Brookover et al. (1979). Focusing on school climate as a common social system of both expectations and norms, the perception of students, teachers and administrators were all taken to account. These researchers established that school climate was better at predicting student performance than were socioeconomic conditions and ethnicity. Consequently, it can be assumed that effective leadership and school climate are positively correlated to student performance.

Leadership Theories

In previous studies of leadership theories, researchers tended to focus on the behaviors and traits of leaders that were portrayed in all leaders. Leadership behaviors and traits that may vary from culture to culture or from the school system to the school system were rarely mentioned (Stogdill 1948).

Additional scrutiny of leadership considered leaders as individuals bestowed with certain personality traits and behaviors which were made up of their abilities to lead. These studies scrutinized individual traits such as intelligence, socioeconomic status, birth order and child-rearing practices (Bass, 1990). More recent studies realized that leadership styles contrast from situation to situation (Blanchard, Hershey, and Johnson, 2008) and contingency theories (e.g., Fiedler, 1967) were formulated, although these theories still did not cover extensively cultural variables (Zepp et al, 2009).

Leadership theories give potential essential explanations of how leadership behaviors and styles evolve (Bass, 1990). Although this research will focus on teacher’s perception of how principal leadership styles influence school climate, it is essential to show if leadership styles are purely based on the theory. In addition, theoretical perspectives may be used as a guideline for hopeful principals as they develop and hunt for the knowledge and skills to lead an institution.

Trait Theory

The Trait Theory came forth from the great man theories that focused on pointing out the inherent qualities and qualities by esteemed leaders (Northouse, 2007). Researchers became interested in seeking to establish particular traits of the extraordinary man that distinguish leaders from followers. Consistent set of traits distinguished leaders from non-leaders across a number of situations (Stodgill, 1948). Instead of being a characteristic that individuals possessed, leadership was re-conceptualized as a social relationship. Many of the leadership behaviors that differentiated leaders from non-leaders were compatible with leadership effectiveness (Stodgill, 1974).

Contingency Theory

The Contingency Theory, created by Fiedler (1964) argues that a leader’s ability to govern is contingent upon a number of situational factors, such as the leader’s preferred style, capabilities and traits of followers and other situational influences. Fiedler created contingency theory by observing the styles of many different leaders working in different environments, primarily military institutions (Northouse 2007). Consequently, Fiedler made empirically grounded conclusions about which style of leadership was most suitable and styles that were worse for a given organizational environment (Northouse, 2007). Fiedler classified leadership as task-motivated and relationship-motivated. Task-motivated leaders are related primarily with reaching a specific goal while relationship-motivated leaders are related with building close personal relationships. Fiedler’s Contingency Model helped to determine a leaders degree of leader-member task structure, relations and position power (Northouse, 2007). Contingency theory produces practical procedure for school leaders (Chance and Chance 2002). The Chances believed that comprehending contingency theory will aid school leaders in various ways.

Firstly, this theory aids in identifying outside variables that influence a school. Secondly, contingency theory contributes to appraise the influence of school’s organizational structure on reactions to external pressures and desires. Significantly, Contingency theory matches leadership styles with the necessities of the school and consider the association among teachers’ personalities and point of view (2002).

Hanson (1979) used the Contingency Theory to education by pointing out five sub-systems of general school systems as leadership, teaching, guidance, students and maintenance. Every sub-system involves the interplay among tasks and people. Technical, political, cultural and economic forces were established as influencing all school systems. Learning institutions often impose tight constraints on various subsystems by imposing standard operation procedures that end up in responses that disregard crucial issue (Hanson, 1979).

Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership Theory is derived from the piece of work of Hersey and Blanchard (1977). The basic hypothesis of this theory is that the leader acquires his leadership style to different leadership circumstances/situations, organizational task and to followers’ maturity (Marzano, McNulty and Waters, 2005). According to Northouse, a leader must assess his or her employees to evaluate how dedicated and competent they are to perform any assigned task. At this point, the leader will be able to establish the required leadership style.

Path-Goal Theory

The Path-Goal Theory argues that an employee’s motivation, satisfaction and performance are dependent on the leadership style exercised by their superior (House, 1971). According to House and Mitchell (1974), path-goal leadership leads to motivation when it expands the number and kinds of payoffs that employees receive from their work. Northouse (2007) states that “this theory is designed to explain how leaders can aid employees along the path to their goals by choosing specific behaviors that are best suited to employee’s needs and to the circumstances in which employees are working”.

Transformational Theory

Transformational Leadership is the common word in educational leadership currently. This leadership style was developed by Burns (1978), who suggested a theory of transformational leadership in his book called Leadership. Transformational leadership is a when “leaders and followers help one another to reach higher levels of upright morality and motivation” (p.20). Bass (1985) agrees with Burns that Transformational leadership is the preferred style of leadership given that it is assumed to yield better results beyond stipulations. Transformational leaders form a “relationship of mutual motivation and elevation that changes followers to leaders and may change leaders to moral agents” (Burns, 1978, p.4). Additionally, the transformational leader figures out the vision in a clear and attracting manner, explains how to achieve the vision, acts optimistically and confidently, expresses content in his followers, promotes values with actions, empowers followers to achieve the vision and leads by example (Yukl, 2002).

Bass (1985) provides four factors, also commonly known as the four I’s of leadership, which exhibit the behavior of transformational leaders: intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, individual consideration, and idealized influence. Intellectual stimulation is characterized by allowing “followers to think of old challenges in new ways”. Individual consideration is characterized by providing “personal attention to individuals who seem neglected in the organization”. Inspirational motivation involves communicating “high performance expectations”. Finally, idealized influence is involving modeling behavior through extra-ordinary personal achievements, behavior and character (Bass, 1990, p. 218).

With regard to transformational leadership in education, Leithwood (1994) created the transformational model of school leadership. He established that the four I’s of transformational leadership, discovered by Bass and Avolio, and are essential for school principals if they are to overcome the challenges of today’s schools. Every of the four ―I’s of leadership, inspirational motivation, idealized influence, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation, might significantly influence a principal in building the basis for a conducive school climate. Bass and Avolio argue that transformational leaders achieve better results from followers by involving the four I’s.

Based on the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, transformational leadership is like to work well in schools. The MLQ questionnaire has been used for over 10 years to test transformational leadership theory (Avolio and Bass, 1994). Although, this instrument has been refined and improved with time. Bass (1998) and Yukl (1999) concluded that transformational leaders get higher ratings and are perceived as leading performing organizations, and move employees to perform better than expected further than transactional leaders. Leithwood (1994) conducted a four-year study of schools going through structural change and established that there is “reasonably concrete support for the idea that transformational forms of leadership will be of acceptable value in the context of a restructuring schools agenda” (p. 515).

Transformational leaders influence a school climate through their concern for staff/subordinates. The leader takes into consideration the needs of others over his own, is consistent rather than arbitrary, shares risk with followers, demonstrates high standards of moral ethical conduct, sets challenging goals for followers and possesses and uses referent powers. The leader arouses individuals’ team spirit and enthusiasm. The leader vastly communicates speculations and personally demonstrates commitment to achieving common goals and the shared vision (Avolio and Bass, 1994).

Avolio and Bass also suggest that it is essential for transformational leaders to allow employees to become a contributing component of the decision-making process in schools. Staffs are part of the process of addressing challenges and finding creative solutions, and are motivated to try new approaches with confidence and no fear because of mistakes made previously. Under this form of leadership, teachers receive greater leadership tasks and expanded authority, are involved in increasing teamwork that serves as an interfacing device for the school and engage more in collegial relationships to share information and advise the principal from time to time (Rowan, 1990)

Transactional Leadership

In 1970s, leadership theory research went beyond focusing on several types of situational supervision as a way to improve general organizational performance (Behling and McFillen, 1996). Study has shown that many leaders looked up to a transactional leadership theory which is the most prevalent method of leadership still viewed in today’s organizations (Avolio, Waldman and Yammarino, 1991). Transactional leaders govern through specific motivations and encourage through an exchange of one thing for another (Bass, 1990). The theory behind this leadership method was that leader’s exchange incentives for employees’ compliance, based on bureaucratic authority and a leader’s authority within an organization (Yukl, 1998).

Avolio and Yammarino (1991) suggest that transactional leadership focuses on how to manage the status quo and conserve the day-to-day activities of a business, but does not focus on pointing out the organization’s directional focus and how subordinates can work toward achieving those goals, increasing their efficiency in compliance with these goals, thus improving organizational profitability. The idea of transactional leadership is cross-eyed in that it does not take the entire circumstance, employee, or future of the organization into consideration when rewarding (Crosby, 1996).

The inherent theory of this leadership method is that leaders bargain rewards for employees’ compliance, a concept based in a leader’s legitimacy in bureaucratic authority and within an organization (Yukl, 1998). Examples of this reward bargain included the leader’s capability to fulfill promises of recognition, advancements and pay increases for employees who perform well (Bass, 1990). Transactional leadership is a theory well thought-out to be value-free; nevertheless, Heifetz (1994) contends that the merits are simply covert.

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Leadership Styles

Leadership style is the aspect and approach of providing direction, motivating people and implementing plans (Lewin and White, 1939). Lewin led this study to identify different styles of leadership. The study has been very essential and established three major leadership styles, participative, authoritarian, and delegating. These leadership styles have expanded over the years. The following studies have integrated some aspect of these foundational leadership styles in an exertion to help principals in the elaboration of leadership styles favorable to current educational systems.

The literature on leadership styles (Hershey and Blanchard, 1977) provides some essential clues on principal leadership styles. These leadership philosophers argued that leadership style was a proportionately constant construct for an individual and that while some persons may have the capacity to govern using more than one leadership style, flexibility was not distinctive of all leaders (Williams, 2006). Fiedler and Chemers (1974) believed less in leader’s ability to change their styles; Sergiovanni (1991) recommended that under certain situations individuals would conform their leadership style to differing circumstances.

Blake and Mouton developed the Managerial Leadership Grid (1964) which was designed to elaborate how leaders help organizations to realize their functions through two elements: concern for people and concern for performance. Even though concern for performance primarily means how a leader is concerned with realizing organizational task, it can mean whatever the institution is seeking to attain (Blake and Mouton, 1964). Another factor, concern for people refers to how a leader addresses the people in an institution who are trying to realize its goals (Northouse, 2007).

However, many research studies can be classified under the heading of the leadership style approach, the Michigan and Ohio State studies of the 1940’s, and the studies by Blake Mouton represent this approach (Northouse, (2007). In the Ohio research employees completed questionnaires that pointed out how many times their leaders were involved in certain types of traits by using the LBD Questionnaire, (Coons and Hemphill, 1957) and a new type of the questionnaire by Stodgill (1963) known the LBDQ-XII. The study found that subordinates’ agglomerated around two general forms of leadership behaviors: which were task behaviors, initiating, and consideration (Stodgill, 1974), which were relationship traits.

Studies, while focusing on the influence of leaders’ behaviors on the productivity of small groups, pointed out two types of leadership behaviors. One, employee orientation, is the trait of leaders who approach employees with a competent human relations emphasis. Secondly, production orientation is made up of leadership that emphasizes the technical and performance aspects of the job (Northouse, 2007). Consequentially, workers are seen as means for getting work completed (Bowers and Seashore, 1966).

Huffman and Jacobson (2003) carried out a study to establish the relationship between teachers’ perceptions of their institutions as professional learning communities and their principal’s leadership style (Williams, 2006). The topics of the study were eighty-three expected principals registered in education administration training at a Texas university. Each topic identified his principal as having one of three contingent leadership styles: directive, collaborative, and non-directive. Players in the study rated collaborative-style principals as more appreciative of two key measures of vocational learning communities: conscience – being an organization directed by positive principles, values and ethics and contribution -providing a safe atmosphere for diverse ideas, beliefs, and strategies.

Huffman and Jacob sons’ (2003) research draws on study on principals in New Brunswick and utilizes decision-making as its criterion of leadership style (Williams, 2006). The cooperative style is only one of potential leadership approaches. In this research the cooperative style was labeled as the hypothetical style. The directive illustrated by Huffman and Jacobson (2003) was improved to include a directive and a descriptive style. Huffman & Jacobson (2003) explained the laissez-faire style that deals with some features with the behavioral style in this study. Additionally, this particular study aided researchers realize that all leaders are not the same. This is an essential point because the literature on school reform rarely considers the distinct leadership styles that principals introduce to their positions (Williams, 2006).

Instructional Leadership

Besides NCLB (2001) demanding accountability for student performance, but also means that principals become instructional leaders. Based on the legal framework, academic performance and instructional leadership are positively correlated. Particularly, the law requires principals to have the instructional leadership skills to assist teachers and generally improve school’s climate, and the instructional leadership skills needed to assist students achieve challenging State student academic performance standards (Title II, Section 2113 46 (c)). For this reason, it is crucial for principals to clearly comprehend instructional leadership. Secondly, if principals can make instructional leaders, will that be effective for them to achieve new accountability requirements. Kotter (1990) supposed that the functions of management and leadership are quite not similar. He presumed that the overriding purpose of management is to ensure order and consistency to institutions/organizations, while the purpose of leadership is to provide change and movement in organizations. Current study on instructional leadership insists the function of the school-based leader in developing people, setting directions, and making the organization work (Leithwood et al., 2004). The principal has the option share the accountability of instructional leadership with other educational leaders by providing resources and guidance for teachers, creating a positive organizational culture, communicating vision and expectations, and professional learning communities, and exhibiting a clear aspect in the school (Leithwood, 2005). Significantly, the principal’s instructional leadership traits influence the climate and instructional organization, both of which are connected to student performance (Bossert, et al., 1982). Various studies have established connections between instructional leadership and the school climate (Hoy et al., 1991; Sergiovanni, 1995). Principals’ behaviors are proportionally related to school climate, such as teacher advocacy, participatory decision-making, effective communication, and equitable evaluation procedures. According to Yukl (1998), studies usually define leadership depending on their individual future perspectives and the aspects of the circumstance of most interest to them (p. 2). according to Yukl’s syntheses of definitions, reflect the presumption that leadership includes a process whereby intentional impact is exerted by one person over other people to structure, guide, and facilitate relationships and activities in a group or organizationâ€-(p.3). Alternatively, Hoy & Miskel (2000) argue that “leadership should be described broadly as a social process in which an individual of a group or organization impacts the interpretation of organization’s events, the selection of goals or desired results, organization of tasks, power relations, individual motivation and abilities, and shared orientationsâ€- (p.394).

Instructional leadership is different from that of a school administrator in various ways. Principals who praise themselves as administrators are too involved in dealing with strictly administrative tasks compared to school heads who are instructional leaders. The latter role involves creating clear goals, managing the curriculum, monitoring lesson plans, allocating resources to instruction, and evaluating teachers. Briefly, instructional leadership is those decisions that a principal takes, or allocates to others, to promote improvement in student learning (Flath, 1989). The instructional principal takes instructional quality the preferred priority of the school and tries to bring that vision to achievement. Teacher perceptions help to comprehend how principals’ instructional leadership influences classroom instruction. Blasé (2000) did a thorough study of teachers’ perceptions about qualities of school principals that impact teachers’ classroom teaching have concluded that the traits connected with instructional leadership proportionately influence classroom instruction . The study found that when instructional leaders supervise and provide responses on the teaching and learning process, there were improvement in teacher reflection and relatively detailed instructional behaviors, a rise in introducing new ideas, wide options in teaching strategies, more feedback to student diversity, and more discretion to make alterations. The authors also observed that teachers portrayed positive influences on satisfaction, motivation, and a sense of security. More lately, the definition of instructional leadership has moved in focus toward stronger involvement in teaching and students’ learning. Attention has moved from teaching to learning, and some have recommended the term learning leader over instructional leader (Richard, 2002).

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (2001) describes instructional leadership as “leading learning communities where staff members meet regularly to discuss their duties, reflect on their jobs, work together to problem solve, and take accountability for what students learn. They function in networks of common and complementary skills rather than in isolation or in hierarchies.  Instructional leaders also ensure adult learning a preference; set high standards for performance; develop a culture of persistent learning for adults and create community support for school achievement. Blasé (2000) portrayed instructional leadership in particular traits such as giving feedback, modeling effective instruction, making suggestions, soliciting opinions, supporting collaboration, giving praise for effective teaching, and providing professional development opportunities. Blasé (2000) that learning should be the top preference of an instructional leader with focus on the enhancement of learning. Therefore, to gain credibility as an instructional leader, the principal must also be a practicing teacher i.e. leading by example. In the UK, most principals engage an average of 20% of their time every week on teaching (Weindling, 1990). Instructional leaders should know what is happening in the classroom; an opportunity to participate the halls to get first-hand about what is happening within the school as well as the classrooms. Besides, a teaching principal reinforces the belief that “the only purpose of the school is to satisfy the educational needs of scholars” (Harden, 1988, p. 88).

Leadership and School Climate

Various studies have different references for school climate; Hoy et al (1991, p. 10) defined school climate as “the relatively enduring feature of the school environment that is felt by participants, influences their behavior and is based on their combined perception of behavior in schools.” Miskel and Hoy (2005, p. 185) define school climate as “the set of internal features that differentiate one school from another and affect the behaviors of each school’s members.” Kottkamp (1984) described school climate as shared values, commonly held definitions of purpose, and interpretations of social activities.

Principal leadership styles can be connected to the climate of the physical structures. Therefore, effective principal leadership is essential. Researchers have connected principal behaviors to school climate (Bulach, et al); for sure, the school climate can be shaped by the traits and behaviors of the leading principal. Bulach et al. (1998) established that teachers’ views of teacher-principal connection were associated to school climate. Principal’s behaviors such as teacher advocacy, effective communication, equitable evaluation procedures, and participatory decision-making, and are related to school climate. The productive school movement recognized the significance of quality leadership by continually identifying strong instructional leadership as helpful in creating a school climate favorable to student performance (Grubbs, et al 2002).

A principals’ leadership style is likely to cause a disorderly school climate. Welsh (2000), argues disorderly school climate have been ignored and least attention has been given to this phenomenon. Welsh describes the effects of school climate (such as transparency and fairness of rules) and individual student traits (such as sex, race, age, and dimensions of bonding) on different angles of school disorder, including victimization, perceptions of safety, avoidance, offending, and misconduct. He judged that school climate offers significant potential for improving both the comprehending and the prevention of school violence Welsh (2000).

Principal and Teachers Relationship

Power in any organization is based in the ability to manage resources and the access to resources (Peffer, 1992). These resources include relationships, authority, people, and information. The principal is in charge of governing these resources. Because the teachers are part of the principals’ authority base, they are advantaged of having a vast understanding of decision-making related to these resources. Moreover, because of the close working relationship between teachers and their principals, the teacher may privy to given demands of principal leadership as it associates to the role of instructional leader (Marshall and Hooley, 2006).

According to Hartzell, Nelson, and Williams (1995), power and authority are relationship entities; every relationship has two sides. The nature of the relationship between the principal and teachers depends on the behavior of both parties. To have a concrete relationship, the principal and teacher need to have clarity associated to each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and the features of personal styles (1995).

John Gabarro and John Kotter (1992); management and personnel researchers; argue that, employees and bosses have unique personality values, structures, and ways of working that have been developed over time, and neither teachers nor the principal can change. Nevertheless, what can alter is how both parties identify characteristics in those structures and systems either impeded or facilitate their abilities to work together. Once teachers are aware of these things, measures can be taken to improve the relationship.

At times relationship between principals and teachers become adversarial when the principal seems to consistently give priority, resources, attention, and recognition to school functions and demands other than those of the teachers (Hartzell et al 1995). A fundamental principal of psychology is that we respond to our perceptions, and self-fulfilling predictions do exist (Eden, 1984). Alternatively, if teachers perceive the principal as a competitor, he will behave differently than if they appreciate the principal as a potential partner in contributing to achieve certain goals.


The opinion of the researcher in this research is consistent with current literature that suggests a principal’s leadership style influences school climate. For example, the levels of trust and how decisions are made, the failure to enrich staff, and deal with contradictions are major impacts on a schools’ climate. It is essential that schools become places where teachers are involved in school renewal or reform efforts for enhancing the schools and where administrative support motivates the entire staff to model traits that foster collegiality and a professional atmosphere (Bullach, 2006; Northouse, 2007; Tableman, 2004). In addition, the strong connection between the way principals interact with teachers and the general school climate influences the way in which proactive leadership expands. Essentially, the research shows that school climate influences the overall student achievement and performance.



The purpose of this research was to explore teachers’ perceptions of how their principal’s leadership styles influence the schools’ climate. The research is qualitative in design and will include teachers and principals from a suburban school system. The timeline for the research was 6 weeks. Filled questionnaires with each selected teacher were utilized to aid the researcher in comprehending their perceptions of principal leadership styles and behaviors. Although, more than twenty four interview questions were used in the questionnaire, some of the questions were constructed using the results from the literature review. Members of professi


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