Theoretical background and research evidence on leadership modes and their impact on school improvement

Issue 24

“Theoretical background and research evidence on leadership modes and their impact on school improvement”

Kostas Fassoulis, Maria Iliofotou, Dimitris Kalogiannis

Pages 9 – 29

Abstract

School leadership, over two decades now, has emerged as a dominant factor of school effectiveness and
school improvement. This very fact is the fuse of writing this article, which in particular aims to outline the evolutionary path of leadership theories, to present the fundamental axiomatic assumptions of each of them, to recapitulate the research findings and to outline the primary reasons of the growing, at international level, political interest in school leadership. In particular, we present all those theories which were fundamental evolutionary steps in the course of the field of school leadership, starting with trait theories and continuing with modern and optimistic democratized approaches. Specifically, trait theories that appeared first in the field focused on desired leadership characteristics (traits). Second in the row were the behavioural approaches to school leadership that tried to detect successful leadership behaviours. Subsequently contingency theories stressed the need to match the appropriate leadership behaviour with the organizational context. From the 80s onwards, the optimistic approaches of transformational and visionary
school leadership dominated the field. These approaches stressed the need for school leadership to act as an agent of change in mentalities, attitudes, structures or the overall structure of the organization. In recent years the dominant trend in school leadership is the democratization of its concept with the distribution of responsibilities and powers to the largest possible number of members of the teaching staff. However, the main weaknesses of theories of school leadership are that they are normative, unilateral and partial.In the epilogue we list the main reasons which justify the growing interest of policy makers in school
leadership. These reasons stem from the political need to consolidate reforms and to implement and consolidate the principles of New Public Management in education. The findings of scientific research on the contribution of school leadership in school effectiveness and school improvement also demonstrate the importance of school leadership as a key factor for sustainable school outcomes. However the sustainability of school outcomes requires, in the context of late modernity, the formulation of a holistic modelof school leadership.