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Try this leadership style to better navigate times of challenge and change

By April 5, 2021No Comments

The pandemic has tested us all, and for principals, the challenges just keep coming. After all, it will be their job to help address the pandemic’s lingering effects on teachers and students for years to come. What kind of leadership style will help them succeed?

Though it may be a new way of thinking for some principals, they’ve got to consider who they must be, not just what they must do, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Kent Davis write in the April issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine, which is titled The Empowered Principal. This in turn means learning the differences between transactional and transformational leadership. Transactional leadership is all about setting expectations, assigning tasks, and monitoring compliance, whereas transformational leadership focuses on inspiration, collaboration, professional growth, and a sense of purpose. Research suggests that transformational leaders often produce better team results. Keep in mind that these are leadership styles, not immutable personality traits, say Bryan and Kent, so any school leader can learn to choose the style that suits the situation best.

There are personal characteristics that lend themselves to the transformational leadership style, and which can be learned: things like self-efficacy, optimism, trust, relational awareness, and reflectiveness. Leaders who are self-aware enough to see themselves honestly and as others do are likelier to accurately perceive their schools’ needs and set about addressing them.


McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.