Leadership Styles in the Classroom
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Leadership style is a broad term without a commonly accepted definition. In a sense, an individual’s leadership style is the sum total of the way in which the leader interacts with his or her followers. This includes the manner by which the leader provides overall direction as well as specific instruction. It involves the way leaders communicate with the followers and how they involve them in the work environment, the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people
Leadership styles are often used interchangeably with management styles, although there are significant differences between true leaders and managers. In one sense, all leaders are managers but not all managers are leaders. One key difference is seen in the followers. They respond to real leaders because they want to, not because they have to.
The question of whether or not teachers have leadership styles or management styles has not received as much attention as other topics seen as key to effective learning. However, regardless of whether we label them or not, teachers do have characteristic ways of managing their students and their classrooms. Here are five leadership styles that can be seen in the classroom:
1. Autocratic Leader
2. Democratic Leader
3. Bureaucratic Leader
4. Benevolent Leader
5. Transformational Leader
The thought of autocratic leadership conjures up images of stern and unfeeling dictators, but in reality many autocratic leaders and teachers are very pleasant people. What makes the style autocratic is the underlying assumption the teacher knows best in all cases and in all circumstances, without exception.
Autocratic teachers may use group discussion techniques, but the topics and discussion procedures are tightly controlled by the teacher, with no input from students.
In theory, this is the leadership style hailed as the one that best fosters student involvement. The underlying assumption is that students themselves, not just the teacher, have a responsibility for managing their learning. In practice, many teachers solicit input from students but maintain ultimate responsibility for decision making for themselves. Even in the hands of a skilled practitioner, it takes time to collect input and find something approaching a group consensus.
A bureaucratic leader follows the dictates of the school administration or corporate training hierarchy with no questions and no variation. Lesson plans and workshop materials are developed in accordance with acceptable institutional practice. If the powers that be feel one group discussion activity per day is permissible, the bureaucratic leader will do no more and no less.
The hallmark approach of a benevolent leader is good feelings and good will. The underlying assumption is becoming a friend to students will make them more receptive to instruction. Much of what passes for student-centered learning could be characterized as benevolent leadership on the part of the teacher. The teacher is there to serve as a friend and mentor, allowing maximum freedom of individual choice and action.
As the title implies, transformational leaders are all about change. Through a passionate belief in a vision of future possibilities, transformational leaders attempt to change the way their students think about themselves, their learning, and their expectations for the future. It requires a high degree of enthusiasm and energy on the part of the leader that is contagious. Learners see the value of the vision and willingly follow the leader towards its attainment.
This style sounds almost fanatical in nature, but it has a solid academic foundation. James MacGregor Burns introduced the approach in his 1978 book entitled Leadership. Researcher Bernard Bass expanded Burns original work and presented what is now known as the Bass Theory of Transformational Leadership. He published his findings in the 1985 book, Leadership and Performance, and continued his leadership research until his death in 2007.
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