Saturday, January 4, 2014

Considering the range of leadership theory

Let's consider the range of theories that purport to describe leadership - all in varying ways! These lenses assist in the understanding of this complex social phenomenon called leadership.  Here are a few common theories just to provide some overview.  We will add to this list together and will choose one or two theories to explore further. Reading list with reference info available by request.

Trait-based leadership Excellent leaders can be shown to do things in similar ways – the ‘great-man’ theory.  Sociologically – leadership involves the power to control and the power to motivate.  Psychologically, great leaders share personality and temperament traits. (Gill, 2006).
Emergent leadership According to Misiolek & Heckman (2005), behaviorally-based leadership theory can provide insights into emergent leadership in virtual environments. This study also provides additional insights into the patterns of leadership that emerge in virtual environments and relationship to leadership behaviors.  Emergent leadership is defined as leadership that emerges over time outside of formal assignment or position.
Contingency theory and leadership This group of theories integrates common leadership considerations in reference to the context.  See
Complexity leadership New on the scene; see for definition.
Transactional leadership

Based on interaction between leader and follower, transactional leaders provide rewards and punishment to require certain behaviors from followers.  The authority of the leader emerges from the transactions that occur in the group, and the careful wielding of legitimate power.
Transformational leadership “In many studies, transformational leadership has emerged as a promising approach in response to increasing demands to develop and implement innovations in schools” (Moolenar et al., 2010, abstract).
Distributed leadership
Distributed leadership has caught the attention of researchers, policy-makers practitioners and educational reformers (Spillane, 2006; Harris, 2008; Leithwood et al., 2009a). It is the leadership idea of the moment, even though its genesis can be traced back to the field of organizational theory in the mid 1960s (Barnard, 1968). Critics argue that distributed leadership is nothing more than a “new orthodoxy” which reinforces managerialist principles (Fitzgerald and Gunter, 2007). Alternatively, others argue it offers a new way of thinking about leadership in schools and provides a powerful tool for transforming leadership practice (Spillane et al., 2001)
Harris, A. (2009).  Distributed leadership: What we3 know. Studies in Educational Leadership, 7(1), 11-21.

Same stuff, different day

Are you going to change the world?  Okay - what about a small piece of the world, in, say, education!  See last paragraph of this presentation - what would you choose to change with education innovation?


Let have a discussion about leadership theory

Where does charismatic leadership fit the postmodern world and what about great men like Winston Churchill? 

What do you think? ... see my ideas at:

Someone asked for this citation:

Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7 (2), 95-105. 

Look forward to reading your comments and/or questions.

Dr. M.

Leading toward education change

The quest for a foundation of leadership theory and research that will support accessible, open, engaging, inclusive and high quality education continues.  This applies to all sectors of education, although the leadership requirements for K-12 and higher education, for example, are likely quite different. 

 Here are some things to read regarding higher education:

Someone asked me in my presentation for the Follow the Sun conference to provide the reference suggesting higher education is resistant to change:

Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-105.

"We hardly need to be reminded that higher education institutions, especially universities, are notorious resisters to change" (p. 102).

I like this statement as well - leaders take note!

"There is growing evidence and a sentiment that sitting in a large lecture hall three times a week is not intellectually stimulating or perhaps worth the commute to campus" (p. 104).  

Garrison has other things to say about  how leadership can support the adoption of blended learning in higher education:

Garrison, D. R. (2005). Transformative leadership and blended learning in higher education. CHERD Notes, 3 (winter).
Vaughan, N., & Garrison, D. R. (2006). A blended faculty community of inquiry: Linking leadership, course redesign and evaluation. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, 32(2), 67-92. 

Garrison, D.R. & Vaughan, N. (2008). Blended learning in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. (Organizational Change, Appendix 1).
 Here is another valuable article on institutional identity:

Organizational identity and leadership

I want to share what I am observing from  KTH in Sweden as they consider the use of technology for learning.  Stay tuned ....

Starting the conversation

Who needs leadership?
  Social problems, change and education futures

Introduction – so what’s going on that needs education intervention?

According to Keller (2008),  changes in many things including technology “constitutes [sic] the most consequential set of changes in society since the late nineteenth century, when the nation went from a largely domestic, rural, agrarian mode of living to an industrial, international, and urban economy” (Preface xi).  Consequently, for higher education, “this set of circumstances is going to force all academic enterprises to rethink their place and purpose not just in philosophical terms but in very pragmatic ways as well.” (Beaudoin, 2003, p. 520).  These philosophical and pragmatic changes also affect teaching practice and the role of teacher.

Across the globe in the last decades, pervasive technology and notable socio-economic dynamism have changed our society. This change has made it increasingly difficult for education to operate in insular ways; attention to changing demographics, global economies, new social mores and new information and communication technologies is vitally important (Keller 2008).  The potential reach of technology seems limitless, and has already changed education in “the way we organize ourselves, our policies, our culture, what faculty do, the way we work, and those we serve” (Ikenberry 1999, p. 63). Change in education to accommodate broader societal changes and requirements embodies new ways of thinking about access to education, economic issues, accountability, technology the teaching-learning process and, most importantly, leadership. 

This short course provides the opportunity to examine the premises behind open and distance education, to identify global social problems amenable to solutions found in open and distance education delivery, and considers the leadership strategies that may provide the greatest likelihood that ODE can be adopted.  Our challenge: identify six principles of sound, strategic leadership of value when using ODE as a remedy for significant social problems.

When we speak of leadership in education, we are speaking of leadership in public institutions that are designed to serve the greater good.  It is not possible to provide effective leadership without an understanding of the purpose of education, and its role in society.  Education is fundamentally characterized by a quest for improving the human condition.  It is to overcome social and economic challenges, resolve inequities, promote societal power and prowess and allow for individual development.   According to Schofield, education is a place where people develop according to their unique needs and potential; one of the best means of achieving greater social equality is to allow every individual to develop to their full potential. Leadership requires that schools be shaped in such a way to so.  Few accomplish this goal perfectly. The critics think otherwise - education is a system created to reproduce the existing inequalities. 

Schofield, K. (1999). The purposes of education. Queensland State Education: 2010. Retrieved from

Of all the opportunities we have to define the leadership that education needs, what is your definition?