Raising Standards Together

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MEP learning pack

Masters in Education Practice: Leadership


Thinking about leadership and leadership styles


The best of both worlds – what kind of leader are you?

In the last two subtopics we looked at the contrast between transformational leadership and transactional leadership. In the recent ‘Review of the school leadership landscape’ in England, headteachers and middle leaders commented particularly on the pressure of increasing accountability. They said that such accountability demands and work pressures often led them as leaders to revert to managerial practice even though their disposition was to be more transformational.

Despite knowing transformational leadership would be more effective in the longer run, school leaders felt ‘forced’ by external pressure to employ transactional leadership approaches that focused on immediate results and detailed supervision of staff performance.

(Earley et al, 2012; p.26)

However, although transformational and transactional leadership behaviours have often be characterised as being opposite features, this may be a rather artificial separation. Instead they can be perceived as different features that leaders may draw upon as an integrated part of their practice. Although leaders may orientate more to one approach than the other, it is likely that they will exhibit elements of both, and they ‘may exist along a continuum, both being needed for effective leadership to take place’ Bottery (2004; p.17). Most leaders have a profile of the full range of leadership styles that includes both transformational and transactional factors. Indeed, some see transformational leadership as an expansion of transactional leadership. So, for instance, the dialogue needed to establish genuine mutually beneficial exchange in transactional leadership is raised to a higher level through the building of shared visions and goals in transformational leadership.

Activity 2.5.1

Consider all that you have read and studied in this topic and then reflect upon your own experience of leadership (that of others and yourself). What elements of the styles discussed in this topic do you recognise in leadership with which you are familiar? In thinking about the kind of leader you are, and would wish to be, what features of leadership would you want to incorporate and why?

Having done this, now look at the Welsh Government’s ‘Leadership Standards – individual review (ILR)’ document.

  • Relate your thinking and reflection on this topic to elements of the Standards framework.  
  • What particular standards criteria has this helped to focus upon? For these criteria complete the sections in the review document on: ‘What evidence do I have against this standard?’ and ‘What will I do next to address any gaps and further my leadership development?’

(Note: you may have completed the ILR previously, but the aim of this exercise is to look at the standards criteria again in the light of this topic.)

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