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date: 19 December 2018

Transformational Leadership and Change in Education

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

One of the most widely discussed and utilized notions that has risen to the forefront of educational administration is the concept of transformational leadership. Transformational leadership was initially conceived as a process whereby leaders strategically transform the system or organization to a higher level by increasing the achievement and motivation of their followers. Early theorists would also argue that transformational leadership and change are inexorably intertwined, which in turn underscored the importance of a leader’s ability to positively transform the attitudes, norms, institutions, behaviors, and actions that structure our daily lives. Later writers and researchers would gradually extend and develop the theory and argue that the ultimate goal of transformational leadership is to transform people, as well as organizations.

While early work on transformational leadership concentrated on politics, business, and the armed services, the research emphasized the value of “followers” as a distinguishing factor present in the transformational leadership model. This distinction is likely what attracted scholars to begin applying its tenets to modern educational contexts, which are typically characterized by significant pressures to implement widespread reforms and change. In this regard, transformational leadership is often viewed as well suited to education as it empowers followers (i.e., instructors) and provides them with a sense of hope, optimism, and energy as it defines the vision of productivity as they accomplish goals. Additionally, transformational leaders work toward influencing shared beliefs and values to create a comprehensive level of change and innovation, and aim to nurture a school culture that is oriented toward a learning ethos, whereby such leaders seek to expand the capacities of each employee, enhance his or her way of thinking, and promote individual ambition. In this way, learning and growth becomes a shared responsibility.