Leadership Styles: Transactional, Transformational, & Servant

Directional sign with Work Life

Leadership greatly impacts the effectiveness of an organization. Some of the best leaders demonstrate flexibility and exhibit different leadership styles based on the context of the situation. Often, leaders assume different leadership styles in their personal and professional lives. Three styles common in any organization include transactional, transformational, and servant leadership.

Transactional Leadership

The transactional leader assumes the role of a manager. Their efforts are centered on organization and production (Pepper, 2010). Furthermore, the focus is not placed on the good of the worker, but the level of organizational effectiveness. The transactional leadership model emphasizes the role of punishment and an exchange of incentives for efforts. The rewards are typically extrinsic. Think of the transactional leader as the typical manager whose main focus is ensuring that every cog is in place.

Transformational Leadership

A transformational leader is one who empowers, inspires, and invites others to join him in committing to a shared vision (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011). The characteristics of a transformational leader include high levels of enthusiasm, celebrating successes of others, and encouraging creativity (Leonard, 2008). The rewards are intrinsic. Think of the transformational leader as a cheerleader. He or she supports you and encourages you to take responsible risks to better yourself and the organization.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership begins with the desire to serve others and the aspirations to lead (Greenleaf, 2008). In addition, servant leadership involves shared decision-making and helping others to be the best they can be. According to Spears and Lawrence (2002), “Servant leadership is about getting people to a higher level by leading at a higher level” (p. xi). Rather than being served, it focuses on serving others (Ebener & O’ Connell, 2010). Furthermore, the servant leader model requires the leader to work to surpass his interests for the good of the whole organization. Servant leaders act with humility, celebrate the successes of others, and empower others to make decisions for their good and that of the organization (Ebener & O’Connell). A servant leader exhibits the characteristics of (a) listening to others; (b) showing empathy; (c) healing; (d) being aware of others’ needs; (e) building consensus; (f) using foresight; (g) being a positive model; (g) committing to the positive growth of the organization and its members; (h) building a community (Spears, 2004). Think of the servant leader as a coach who is on the sidelines. The servant leader is not in it for the glory; he or she is more concerned about the good of the organization and its people.

Think about the leader in your own building and his or her typical actions. Under which style of leadership does this leader’s characteristics fall? Which type of leader do you think you act most like in your personal and/or professional life?

—-Stephanie Scott http://effectivek12schools.com—-


Ebener, D. & O’Connell, D. (2010). How might servant leadership work? Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 20(3), 315-335. Retrieved from http://www.servantleadershipmodels.com/Nonprofit_Mgt_and_Leadership_article.pdf

Greenleaf, R. (2008). The servant as leader. Westfield, IN: The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

Leonard, A. (2008). What’s your leadership style? Campus Activities Programming, 41(2), 20-23Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Lezotte, L. & Snyder, K. (2011). What effective schools do: Re-envisioning the correlates. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Pepper, K. (2010). Effective principals skillfully balance leadership styles to facilitate student success: A focus for the reauthorization of ESEA. Planning and Changing, 41(1/2), 42-56. Retrieved from http://planningandchanging.illinoisstate.edu/recentarticles/volume41.shtml

Spears, L. & Lawrence M. (2002). Focus on leadership: Servant leadership for the twenty-first century. New York: NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Mission Impossible, No Way!


Before schools can even begin the continuous improvement process, they have to establish direction for all stakeholders. Creating a mission is the first step. The mission statement is a sign of the school’s integrity. Effective schools embrace clearly defined missions shared by all members of the staff.

A shared mission is one in which everyone understands the direction the school is moving (Lezotte, 1991). High-performing schools infuse an achievement based mission statement throughout all aspects of the school (Slade, Jones, Wiesman, Alexander, & Saenz, 2008). Specifically, these statements address concepts such as challenge, academic success, and citizenship. For example, an academically focused mission may state that the school will focus on providing outstanding instruction in a challenging environment.

A strong mission focuses on specific results and includes definitive benchmarks (Slade et al., 2008). In addition, the mission statement should not include exact criteria for measuring success but instead provide a framework in which stakeholders can produce results. A strong mission should address goals, priorities, procedures for assessment, and accountability measures (Lezotte, 1991).

My school’s mission is “All students can learn. All means all. No excuses.” What is your school’s mission?  Do you feel the staff knows and focuses instruction toward that mission?

—-Stephanie Scott  http://effectivek12schools.com—-


Lezotte, L. (1991). Revolutionary and evolutionary: The effective schools movement. Okemos, MI: Effective Schools Products. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/edutopia.org-closing-achievement-gap-lezotte-article.pdf

Slade, J., Jones, C., Wiesman, K., Alexander, J., & Saenz, T. (2008). School mission statements and school performance: A mixed research investigation. New Horizons in Education, 56(2), 17-27. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ832903.pdf

The Value of Collaboration

meeting plc clipProfessional Learning Communities (PLCs) and collaboration are buzzwords that are actually worthy of discussion. Creating a collaborative culture provides an opportunity for districts to facilitate discussion within a school and between schools through articulation. “When teachers have many opportunities to collaborate, their energy, creative thinking, efficiency, and goodwill increase—and the cynicism and defensiveness that hamper change decrease” (Kohm & Nance, 2009, p. 68).

PLCs empower teachers to identify issues to improve their practice, as well as promote mutual learning and valuable discussion. Through the process of discussion with colleagues, teachers experience the value of the shared vision(Levine & Marcus, 2007). The members of the PLC apply strategies and best practices flexibly in their own classrooms and schools and report the results to the other members.

By working together, teachers save time reinventing the wheel and instead agree upon effective lessons and assessments proven to be valuable. Departments and administrators are able to easily identify which standards show mastery, and which standards require further instruction. PLCs present a forum free from judgement in which colleagues can discuss their own areas of weakness and strength and share best practices.

In my own experience, a PLC is helpful when teachers don’t feel they are being scrutinized. When the district and school empower the PLCs to generate their own goals and plan, there is more buy-in.

If  you have been part of a PLC, what do you feel is the most valuable piece to the collaboration? In what areas does your PLC struggle?

—-Stephanie Scott  http://effectivek12schools.com—-


 Kohm, B. & Nance, B. (2009). Creating collaborative cultures. Educational Leadership, 67(2), 67-72. Retrieved from the Academic Complete Research database.

Levine, T. & Marcus, A. (2007). Closing the achievement gap through teacher collaboration: Facilitating multiple trajectories of teacher learning. Journal of Advanced Academics, 19(1), 116-138. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ786607.pdf

The Importance of Being Physically Active

Think recess and P.E. class aren’t important?

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 10.28.19 PM Hispanic youths typically lack access to opportunities and resources for becoming more physically active and this lack of physical activity negatively impacts their academic achievement (Basch, 2011b). Typically, students with low grades are more likely to drop out (Bowers, 2010). In 2009, the dropout rate for Hispanic students was 14.7% which was more than double the rate for Caucasian students at 6.9%  (United States Census Bureau, 2010b). We must find creative ways to provide students with physical activities, such as:

  • walking clubs
  • donations of fitness equipment (treadmills, stationary bikes, etc.)
  • quarterly field days as incentives for positive behavior and attendance
  • Wii or Xbox fitness games during lunch
  • school-wide choreographed dances to well-known music such as “Thriller”
  • staff vs. students games
  •  yoga class (This is also great for teaching patience and focus.)

The ideas are endless, but we must serve as role models for students. If we get involved in the physical activities, we set a positive example and show students we care about their health too. What are some cheap, creative strategies you’ve initiated in your schools to get kids moving?

—-Stephanie Scott http://effectivek12schools.com—-


Basch, C. (2011b). Physical activity and the achievement gap among urban minority youth. The Journal of School Health, 81(10), 626-634. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00637.x

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010b). High school dropouts by age, race, and Hispanic origin: 1980-2009. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0272.pdf