“Transformational leaders do not merely react to environmental circumstances, they attempt to shape and create them” (Onorato, 2013, p. 38).
Transformational leadership includes many leadership concepts (for example: having vision; becoming a change catalyst). Transformational leadership is an interactive kind of leadership process, and focuses on the relationship between the leader and follower and not necessarily on the leader’s traits, behaviors, situation, contingencies, or context of practice. This kind of leadership relies on strategies like “encouraging continuous learning among staff” and “sharing learning throughout the organization and working with the community toward achieving broader organizational goals." It focuses on “variables in the change process” of improving overall classroom instruction (Onorato, 2013, p. 38), making it perfectly aligned with the tasks of teacher leaders.
Leadership for Teacher Leaders
Concepts and practices related to transformational leadership, collaborative working, and emotional intelligence have value in teaching practice, but are usually talked about in context of their importance for administrators. Yes, in administration roles, it is essential to develop transformational leadership abilities, since transformational leaders in an educational context can have powerful ripple effects on other educators in the building and can increase teacher commitment and reduce teacher burnout (Eyal & Roth, 2011). Transformational leadership abilities can also improve student outcomes, since when principals and other administrators exhibit strong leadership skills, it can have a positive impact on student achievement (Labby, Lunenburg, & Slate, 2012).
But what about if a classroom teacher does not have any desire to pursue administration?
A transformational approach is still likely to motivate and empower others more than a transactional approach would (Eyal & Roth, 2011). Teacher leaders have to lead by working collaboratively with teams when making decisions, to improve the quality of the outcome, and to improve buy-in from the team (Coleman, 2011). This is particularly important, since people are motivated to feel that they are important in their social group (Rock & Cox, 2012). Involving them in collaborative decision making would improve their sense of commitment to the team and its goals. Further, when team members are given a sense of power or control is more likely to yield satisfaction (Rock & Cox, 2012). As a result, a teacher leader who harnesses a transformational leadership approach and works collaboratively with their team is likely to have better long term consequences for the decisions being made, and for the team itself.
Along with working collaboratively with peers and my education team, it's essential for teachers to develop their emotional intelligence, since strong emotional intelligence skills tend to coincide with perceivably stronger leadership skills (Maulding, Peters, Roberts, Leonard, & Sparkman, 2012). Developing strong emotional intelligence lends itself to making a team feel supported and valued, which is crucial to increasing their buy-in and commitment (Rock & Cox, 2012).
Teachers also have to consider how these concepts can be applied to professional peer groups and professional learning communities. Teachers not in leadership roles still have to exhibit leadership when they collaborate with their team(s), so they must develop their skills in team collaboration and emotional intelligence. At all times, teachers must develop good relationships with colleagues and value their team's input as team decisions are made (a skill that will continue to serve them well in formalized leadership roles later on).
Eyal, O. & Roth, G. (2011). Principals' leadership and teachers' motivation: Self-determination theory analysis, Journal of Educational Administration, 49, 256 -275. doi:10.1108/09578231111129055
Coleman, A. (2011). Towards a blended model of leadership for school-based collaborations. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 39, 296-316. doi: 10.1177/1741143210393999
Rock, D. and Cox, C. (2012). SCARF in 2012: updating the social neuroscience of collaborating with others, Neuroleadership Journal 4, 1-14. Retrieved from http://www.neuroleadership.org
Labby, S., Lunenburg, F. C., & Slate, J. R. (2012). Emotional intelligence and academic success: A conceptual analysis for educational leaders.International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 7, 1-11. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/m42281/1.2/
Maulding, W. S., Peters, G. B., Roberts, J., Leonard, E., & Sparkman, L. (2012). Emotional intelligence and resilience as predictors of leadership in school administrators. Journal of Leadership Studies, 5(4), 20-29. doi:10.1002/jls.20240
Onorato, M. (2013). Transformational leadership style in the educational sector: An empirical study of corporate managers and educational leaders.Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 17, 33-47. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1368593704?accountid=11752