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Investigation Of Theories Pertaining To Leadership Styles Education Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5441 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This chapter will focus on investigation of theories pertaining to leadership styles of school administrators that has been advanced by various research studies on the subject. In addition the paper will also examine how administrator leadership styles impacts on professional development of teachers and it influence on middle school students at various developmental stages. Finally this section will take a detailed look at the various determinants of middle school pupils at each stage of their development by taking a snapshot of each stage in context of all other factors that influence their growth at that time. As such this section will be in two parts, the first part will outline the various leadership roles of school principal and what it entails. The second part will investigate the various developmental stages of middle school students and how the leadership style of the school principle including the teachers approach to teaching impact on student development in context of all other factors.

Leadership Styles and Roles of School Principal

Current available literature on leadership theories in the context of modern organization are still varied in terms of number and types of the major leadership theories. In the journal of Harvard Business Review, Tannenbaum and Schmidt have summarized the four common leadership theories that can be identified in modern organizational leaders (2008). In general there are four major types of leadership styles that apply to all types of leaders and managers regardless of their fields of professional. Most of this leadership styles that have so far been advanced were developed with organizational leaders in mind and include democratic style, authoritative style, bureaucratic and Leissez-Faire Style (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008).

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In this context school principles can be viewed as leaders, albeit with some form of limitations, another limitation is that a school system doesn’t strictly fit the definition of organization per se. However what is not in contention is that the roles and tasks of managers and leaders are very similar and greatly correlate with each other. Since school principles are usually the highest ranking persons in middle schools, their management style is crucial in determining the direction and performance of their school as Buckner attested in a research study that investigated the role of school principles (2006).

Leadership theories refers to the approach that a manager adopts in order to exercise authority in the work place and be able to direct staff towards meeting the organizational mandate as outlined in their job descriptions. It is the way that a manager resorts in order to discharge all the sum total of responsibilities that entails management and leadership (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). Leadership theories have just recently been advanced and well understood, earlier literature that is available which attempted to identify and classify leadership theories focused on personality aspects that defined leaders and which defined followers. It was not until 1939 when, Kurt Lewin was able to provide a well documented and thorough research of leadership theories at that time in a study that formed frameworks and references of future studies in leadership theories and styles. The results and finding of which, research were published in the U.S Army Handbook (1973). Let us briefly describe these major types of leadership styles that school principles are liable to adopt in the course of their duties

Authoritative Style

This theory of leadership is referred as autocratic or authoritative style, as the name would suggest it refers to an approach where a manager maintains and run an organizational with a tight leash on the apparatus of power. A manager is this type of style expects his word to be law and employees do not have room to present their suggestion for consideration (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). In this context a school principal makes decisions regarding the running of the institution without consulting with teachers or students on policies that would directly impact on them. The principal makes decision from the highest level and passes them through established protocols to be implemented by various departmental heads through existing organizational procedures.

In this type of leadership motivation among employees is very minimal or nonexistent and the techniques that are used to provide motivation apply a combination of threats and promises such as benefits and retributions (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). The implications is that teachers feels unappreciated since they are not involved at all in the running of the school or decision making and are therefore not motivated enough to perform their duties adequately since they feel compelled, for instance to discharge their duties. If the teachers are motivated instead of being compelled the teaching quality is found to be more consistent and above average.

Bureaucratic Style

The other type of leadership theory is bureaucratic style of management. In this type of management a manager requires that all work procedures within the organization be done in such a way as is clearly outlined in the organizational manual or according to set policy.

Regardless of situations that are unique and in which the organizational policies might not apply, a bureaucratic leader is more likely to insist on sticking to the organizational way of doing things (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). A school principal will therefore more often manage the school, teachers and student by the book without deviating from their traditional roles as set out in the job description or as was taught in their management classes in college.

The upshot is that this system does not provide room that would improve the performance of the school especially when new ideas are incompatible with the accepted management concepts. This leadership style kills creativity in the work place and might cause burn out among teachers, however it is appropriate in a work setting such as in laboratory research environment where all variables of interests are carefully controlled in order to achieve desired results (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). Nevertheless, in the school system setting this method does not have any advantages that would contribute to effective management of teachers and students, more so when the role of principals requires them to be instructional leaders which is a new concept in school management.

Democratic Style

The third type is democratic leadership style, also referred as participative style since it strives to involve employee in organizational management and decision making. In this type of leadership a manager understands that employee are more informed in some instances than their leaders and can therefore provide valuable insight that can contribute to informed decisions at the management level (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). It makes an employee feel important and appreciated at the work place and is therefore a very motivating method of running an organization.

When principals involve teachers and students in school management and decision making the result is a well run school where the teachers are motivated in teaching and implementing decisions that would promote the welfare and performance of the students. Another characteristic of democratic style is that a principle would routinely delegate task to other teachers that they are expected to implement without necessarily having to consult with the principle. Therefore this leadership style is most appropriate where teachers are competent and skilled and can therefore be relied to undertake sound decisions with minimal guidance.

Leissez-Faire Style

The final and fourth leadership style is the Leissez-Faire a French word that loosely translated describes lack of interest, and rightly so because in this case a manager is almost detached away from the intricacies of organization and employee management. Much leeway is given to employee to use their best judgment and achieve individual or teamwork requirements, meet targets and work deadline (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). A principle in this case is less concerned with measuring the work quality of teachers in order to determine if they meet the minimum required quality standards, the assumption is that teachers are performing according to expectations and able to meet targets. In the same way the school principle is not involved in providing the much needed guidance to students. In the end what happens is that the school system has no leadership to rely on, or in that case clear management protocols, since the school principal is more of a figure head of the institution.

It is important to note at this point that the type of leadership is caused by various factors, and that at times a school principle might choose to use several different types of leadership styles at the same time since they are not mutually exclusive, for instance use of both authoritative and democratic styles at the same time. Some of the factors that influence the type of leadership styles include the principle personality type that is usually determined by the level of education, skills, experience, and previous work environment (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 2008). Another factor would be the personality types of the teachers which is often useful in determining the type of leadership style that a principle would apply in managing them. At times this factor becomes significant for instance where junior staffs require being micro managed in order to perform. Finally the school values, traditions, and policies will also provide bearing as to how the principle will run the institution in a way that is acceptable to other stakeholders such as parents and board of school. This is because a principle might find that deviating from traditional leadership styles of the school might result in management crisis (Buckner, 2006).

Nevertheless the greatest determinant that influences the type of leadership that a school principle is likely to adopt is the one of attitude. Indeed as Geert Hofstede, the Germany psychologist who researched the revolutionary findings that provided the first measurable evidence between association of culture and organization in what he termed as power distance explains. The approach that a leader adopts to manage people is as a result of the attitude of the manager towards the employees (Hofstede, 1977). Positive leaders he notes are likely to adopt the democratic or Leissez-Fare style that places much trust in employees and sets to achieves motivation through providing rewards. Negative managers on the other hand are more predisposed to adopt authoritative leadership style that uses set of punishments to achieve employee cooperation and ensure motivation.

In the next section of this paper we are going to investigate the tasks and leadership styles of school principals in various roles that include managerial roles, administration roles, instructional leaders and curriculum leaders.

School Principle as a Manager

In order to best understand the managerial roles of principles it is important to appreciate the school management structure of a typical middle school. The practice in most elementary schools is that the principle is the sole person responsible for running the school, usually assisted by the deputy principle. Beside the school board and other school committees, the principle is directly answerable to the school superintendent who is normally in charge of all schools in a district ((Wohlstetter & Mohrman, 1996). The management roles of a school principle regardless of the leadership style that is adopted involve student management and discipline, school finances, public relation duties, school facilities and committee chairs among others (Wohlstetter & Mohrman, 1996). With the advent of the school-based management system (SBM) that has now been introduced in many elementary school, principles are now expected to make more decision that directly affect the running of the school than was traditionally the case.

A typical principle of a middle school is now accorded authority to undertake decisions that advise on the amount of budget that is required for the development of the school and determine what amount goes to which project. In addition, schools principles are required to determine the number and qualifications of teachers required, set the teaching standards, and pass marks for the students without necessarily having to consult or seek authority from school boards or from their superintendents (Wohlstetter & Mohrman, 1996).

The implications is that management skills is now key for any school principle in order for them to make competent decision on time which is an important factor for smooth running of the school. Another feature of school-based management system (SBM) is that it also provides school stakeholders such as parents, teachers, students and committees with powers to influence the running of the school (Wohlstetter & Mohrman, 1996). It therefore means that a school principle must have people management skills that are necessary in the few times that the principle gets to make consultative decisions or chair the various committee meetings. Besides as the school head, the principle must take up all other leadership and management roles of the institution that include ensuring that the student community have the desired level of discipline among others. There are also new roles that principles are now required to take up and which will rely heavily on their managerial skills for instance teacher and student motivational roles, change management which requires principals to spearhead change in school by providing effective management and liaising with external stakeholders.

School Principle as Administrator

The management roles of a principle are inseparable with administrative duties; in fact administrative role is one area that is required at almost every level of any job description (Wohlstetter & Mohrman, 1996). It is therefore one of the most basic and important roles that any school principle must be able to competently undertake. The principle role of an administrator is to ensure that the institution is running smoothly by ensuring that all parameters of the school system are performing according to the desired level.

Some of the administrative duties that a school principle encounters in the daily running of the institution include approving the school curriculum and participating in design of other strategies that intends to promote the performance of the school. Principals are also required to oversee and participate in implementation of educational programs as well as provide guidance in resolving bottlenecks on the same (Wohlstetter & Mohrman, 1996).

In promoting student academic performance the principle is required to investigate the determinants that are crucial for classroom teaching success, this will often require documentation of best combination of strategies that have been tried as well as their results. A principle must also ensure that the school conforms to the various requirements that are required by law, or by the school board including other stakeholders of the school. Towards this end principles must ensure that necessary records are in order and that necessary paperwork exists according to the established standard operating procedures. In addition the principle must be in office in order to approve key financial spending through signing of appropriate paperwork (Wohlstetter & Mohrman, 1996).

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In recruitment and hiring of staff members, the principle is the key figure that is required to make the final decision regarding the candidate. This requires assessment of candidates based on various skills and abilities that can be found in their resumes which a principle must be able to peruse and have them documented for future references. In addition the principle must routinely go through all the employee files in order to appraise their performance as well as decide on which ones to dismiss or forward warning letters where performance is found to be below standards. Indeed administrative duties of principles are the most bulky and makes up a sizable proportional for overall duty that they must perform.

School Principle as Instructional Leader

Instructional leader is a new concept that principles are required to take up which is also referred as academic leader since the roles that principles are now required to undertake involve more focus on student academic performance and setting of quality teaching standards (Blasé, J & Blasé, Jo., 2000). The emergence of this ideology was informed by research studies in the education sector that were able to quantify the importance of instructional leader’s roles by school principles. Consistently this research studies found that academic roles when taken up by principles went a long way towards improving the performance of the schools, and therefore concluded that this role was one of the keys to effective management and success factor for middle schools. Key activities that involve instructional leadership include evaluation of academic lessons, teaching methods, curriculum assessment and teachers in general against a preset benchmark to determine how best they measure (Blasé, J & Blasé, Jo., 2000).

In this case the principle takes up the role of monitoring performance on a regular basis using specific indicators that are reliable in determining the academic trend and performance of the school. An important activity at this stage requires a school principle to provide corrective actions where targets are not being met and undertake follow up to ensure that suggested corrections have been implemented. As an instructional leader the principle is required to be directly involved in development of school curriculum as well as lesson plans including monitoring the same to ensure they are implemented accordingly (Blasé, J & Blasé, Jo., 2000). The importance of this is that the school principle is aware of all the components of the school academic and can be able to determine the weak points in the system that hampers excellent performance.

The features of an instructional leaders system requires a school principle to monitor student academic performance, support teachers academic efforts, participate in teaching and interact with teachers in order to understand their challenges in meeting targets (Arul, 2001). As an instructional leader a principle is therefore required to have skills in communication, staff management and student guidance through interactions, be competent in order to solve issues and have attention to details. (Arul, 2001)

School Principle as Curriculum Leader

By the virtue of their profession, curriculum development and processes is one of the key areas that any school principle should be thoroughly competent; it is also one of the tenets in any school institution that significantly determines the academic performance of the school (Minehira & Marlow, 2001). Indeed the core requirements that principles are expected to meet as well as teachers have to do with the academic performance of the students, what is usually referred as “bottom line” by the school stakeholders (Minehira & Marlow, 2001). It is therefore a role that principles are usually held accountable and which significant efforts must be made in order to ensure they are adequately addressed. The differences between academic leader and instructional leader roles are very slim and some studies are seen to incorporate these two roles as one, since they both essentially focus on boosting on academic performance of the school spearheaded by the school principle.

However as an academic leader the roles of the principle are strictly limited to academic field, while instructional leader roles also involve teachers and student management besides a focus on academic performance. As such in this role school principle must actively research and implement current trends in teaching methods and regularly update the school curriculum in order to provide the students with the competitive edge that is necessary for exemplary performance (Minehira & Marlow, 2001). Principles must also be conversant in curriculum development and teaching assessment methods, in which their involvement must be substantial and must be able to allocate adequate resources that provide support to teachers. In all this academic activities the principal must be proactive in coordinating teacher’s efforts, addressing student concerns, and providing guidance in a way that facilitates academic teaching and student learning (Minehira & Marlow, 2001).

In a research study by Minehira and Marlow, a school principle is required to be conversant with the five types of school curriculums: official curriculum, operational curriculum, hidden curriculum, null curriculum and co-curriculum (2001). Official curriculum is what is approved for the school and what has been documented, while operational curriculum is what the teachers get to implement in the course of their teachings. Hidden curriculum generally refers to the school traditions that are not written down but are known, null curriculum on the other hand describes specific type of learning that are not included in any curriculum or taught to students. Finally co-curriculum encompasses all activities that the students and teachers undertake in the process of learning. (Minehira & Marlow, 2001).

Part 2: Developmental Stages of Middle School Student

In a school setting many developmental theories assert that students learning process takes place both in classroom and outside classroom. The major determinant of student learning process and their development at various stages is influenced by two major factors: social environment and genetic or personality type (Kail and Cavanaugh, 2004). The assumption of various studies that had attempted to investigate the developmental stages of middle school students holds that, pupil development must be studied in context of the larger student community but in a distinct manner (Kail and Cavanaugh, 2004). However a student must also be perceived to be unique subject in a learning environment where academic achievements and performance is seen to vary across the board due to this individuality.

Most research studies therefore concur that the major determinant of student development as well as academic performance is greatly influenced by the resourcefulness of the student themselves. Many educational theorists have advanced various classifications that categorize developmental stages of students from the period of early school to adulthood. Most of this research studies while essentially the same are notably different in their approach to definition of students at these specific stages. In a research study by Tomonari for instance, developmental stages of children are broadly categorized into three major groups: adolescence, middle childhood and early childhood (1987). This definition is largely based on student tasks, physical growth as well as society expectations of the student (Tomonari, 1987).

Since this research study is based on middle school student, the elements of early childhood would not be investigated in this paper given that the age of children at this category is between birth and eight years, in fact even the stage of middle childhood would still not be relevant since children at this age are defined as 8-12 years old. Normally the definition of middle school in this context is that stage of learning before college but after elementary school with little variations depending on the education system. Therefore our focus in this case would be on adolescent stage which we shall briefly assess in terms of major developmental activities that are taking place in students before we move on to more distinct developmental stages outlined in other studies.

Adolescent stage among children can take various dimensions, this is more so for middle school students since it is taking place in a learning environment context. It is usually defined as a period in life where a person has attained sexual maturity but before start of adulthood (Tomonari, 1987). At this point in life a person is experiencing dynamic changes in several areas that include, physical, psychological, cultural, social and moral (Tomonari, 1987). At this stage of development the most important changes that are taking place involve new identity formation; at times this stage is brief and does not last the entire duration of middle school before the next stage of adulthood sets in. In terms of physical growth, students at this stage experience rapid growth which have psychological as well as social implications, the reason is that students at times feel uncomfortable at times with their growth and their self esteem takes center stage (Tomonari, 1987). The implication is that their social lives becomes important and they are more concerned about what other persons thinks about them especially about their physical appearance and intelligence level.

During this period physical growth is influenced by pituitary glands that are responsible for release of sexual growth hormones, estrogen in females and testosterone in males (Tomonari, 1987). In terms of cognition development this is a critical stage where students are keen on gaining knowledge and a time where their learning ability is strained due to the curriculum demands that requires much hard from them. Therefore this stage is an important point where teachers and principal inputs are crucial in shaping the students cognition and learning in general. The importance of this stage is two ways; both to the teachers and students in that students are adopting long life learning habits in preparation of their future life as students while at the same time they are gaining self esteem (Tomonari, 1987). The role of teachers and school principle therefore is crucial in motivating the students and shaping their learning habits.

At this stage the student social life take new dimension due to peer groups that have great influence on the character of the pupil as well as learning habits, during this period student are learning interpersonal skills and their roles in social groups that they have become part of (Tomonari, 1987). Hence the challenge here is for the principle and the teachers to influence the impact of social groups in a way that contributes to the wellbeing of the student, what is referred as” positive peer pressure influence” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2004). Principles can influence this by adopting leadership and management styles that encourage dialogue among the student fraternity and the teaching staff. An important duty that teachers and especially the principle is bound to adopt is one of role model since student at this point are searching for role model; quite often this happens to be a person that they interact with on a daily basis.

Overall this stage requires that principle take initiatives that cultivate close relationship between students and teachers (Tomonari, 1987). This is important so that the teaching staffs are best positioned to address the various challenges that students are facing at this stage which can negatively impact on student learning habits and therefore the performance of the school.

It is also one of the stages that can be a pitfall to students since it comes with increased freedom and natural tendency of children at this age to be stubborn and unwillingness to recognize authority. Another important role for teachers is to nurture the co-curriculum talents of students that usually emerge at this point and build upon it. Finally the role of teachers and principals at this stage of student development require them to be able to identify behaviors and personalities that could be problematic to handle or which can negatively influence the behaviors of other students (Tomonari, 1987). Indeed this is the most crucial stage perhaps in the whole lifetime of the students because by the time this period comes to pass it will have either broken the student or made them in the sense that students must measure up to the academic challenges in order to advance to the next levels of education. For those students that fail at this point especially as far as academic performance is concerned, they hardly ever get to catch up at a later stage and most often do not advance to gain higher education.

In other studies researchers has categorized child developmental stages differently from what we have so far summarized in the preceding chapter, in this section we are going to examine student developmental stages based on the world renowned theory of Erickson, a psychosocial psychologist.

In this categorization which is referred as Erickson’s Eight Stages of Development, child development is described right from the period of birth to late adulthood. Among the eight stages of development in Erickson developmental model our focus will be limited to three of the stages that are relevant to our study of middle school children which include: industry versus inferiority, learning identity versus identity diffusion and learning intimacy versus isolation (Stevens, 1983).

Industry versus Inferiority

This is the period when students are just entering the phase of what can be referred as adolescent according to the research study of Tomonari (1987). At this stage there are three key areas that dictate the life of a student: social life, peer pressure and academic life (Stevens, 1983). In terms of social life the student is experiencing increased need to learn interpersonal skills since they most often interact with other peers due to new responsibilities or as a result of increased freedom. The role of teachers in this aspect requires them to provide guidance as well as impart skills that build students confidence in front of their peers and even adult audience. When it comes to peer pressure the challenge is to ensure that peer influence does not negatively influence the development of students especially as far as academic performance is concerned, since this is the stage that peer influence is at its greatest (Stevens, 1983). Finally at this stage the student is required to be more focused academically due to the expanded academic workload that they are expected to put up with. Hence at this stage substantial efforts should be undertaken by teachers and especially the principle in providing an environment that is conducive to learning and which supports student’s quest of knowledge.

Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion

This period a student is still in adolescent but has progressed further towards adulthood, this stage is characterized with sense of maturity and some form of self-confidence (Stevens, 1983). At this stage a student has adjusted to the huge academic workload that they are required to undertake and are usually able to meet the minimum requirements of academic performance. In terms of co-curriculum activities the student are now more aware of their talents and the need to balance sport activities, social life with school academics (Stevens, 1983). This stage is easy for teachers as counselors in that not much is expected from them when it comes to providing guidance to students since they are generally complying with regulations and able to meet expectations. This is because the teachers have already laid the foundations at the previous stage and majority of students are naturally predisposed to observe school rule and regulations.

However minority of students still require guidance and direction from the teachers that should be enforced through the school regulations. A child at this stage is described to have attained self-certainty and is constantly engaged in experimental roles in search for the most satisfying character, a process that can take a long duration of time (Stevens, 1983). The role of the principle in this entire situation is to provide appropriate leadership that supp


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