Leadership styles have been studied in many types of organizations. Research into leadership and its effect on those within the organization can also be applied to the academic setting when one considers it from an organizational standpoint. This research examines the role of leadership on academic performance and supports the hypothesis that school leadership has an influence on academic performance.
In the business environment, leadership style has been connected with higher levels of job satisfaction and performance in the workplace (Braun, Peus, Weisweller, and Frey 2013). The same principles have also been applied to academic settings, taking into account leadership styles of principals and teachers (Braun, Peus, Weisweller, and Frey 2013). The effect of leadership on students could be expected be similar to the effect of an organization leader on employees in a business organization. Transformational leadership has been found to be an effective leadership style in both organizational and academic settings (Braun, Peus, Weisweller, and Frey 2013). This evidence supports the connection between leadership and student academic performance. It also supports the ability to apply research on leadership in the business environment to the academic setting.
Handford and Leithwood (2013) found that the development of trust within the school has an effect on academic performance. In the study, schools were divided into high trust and low trust schools. It was found that teacher trust is a function of the teacher’s interpretation of the principal’s competence, reliability, consistency, respect, openness, and integrity. This study suggests that when principals work to develop these traits, it will have an effect on teachers, which then transfers to the students. Building trust has an effect on the academic performance of the school through its effect on the classroom teacher. It stems from the development of trust between the teacher and principal.
Heck and Hallinger (2014) found that the effects of school leadership had a longitudinal correlation as a mediator of the instructional environment of the school. It has an effect at the classroom level, which translates to the students. This study demonstrates how the effects of leadership style affect multiple levels of the school setting. It also demonstrates that the school functions as a system and that leadership choices have an effect that echoes throughout the entire system. School leaders were found to be able to enhance the school environment and create conditions that lead to greater consistency at the classroom level, which is the mechanism through which the leader affects academic performance (Heck and Hallinger, 2014).
Garcia, Duncan, Carmody-Bubb, and Ree (2014) found that principals of elementary schools with certain personality traits were likely to be rated by teachers and students as more conscientious and emotionally stable. Using the Big Five personality traits, those that were open, agreeable, and emotionally stable were more likely to see themselves as effective leaders. These principles were also more likely to influence others to perceive them as effective leaders in the school (Garcia, Duncan, Carmody-Bubb, and Ree, 2014). Both principal and follower perceptions had an effect on the ability of the leader to gain trust and were predictors of whether the leader would be able to use the transformational model of leadership effectively (Garcia, Duncan, Carmody-Bubb, and Ree, 2014). This research supports the role of leadership in creating an environment within the school that promotes relationships within the organization and that promotes academic performance. This suggests that leadership style may be predictive of academic performance.
Not everyone agrees that idealized leadership styles are predictive of effective school systems with high academic performance and low teacher attrition. One study supports the idea that rather than searching for differences between types of principals that one should examine the degree of leadership between the principal and the teacher (Urick and Bowers 2014). The study considers leadership roles to be a shifting dynamic between the principals and the teacher. It was found that factors other than principal personality were predictive of the development of three different types of principal leaders. For instance, differences in urbanicity, performance accountability, and background were predictive of whether the principal would be controlling, Balkanizing, or Integrating. The studies provide support for a more complex model in the assessment of school leadership effectiveness (Urick and Bowers 2014).
An analysis of literature on the effects of leadership and school performance found that leadership effects schools much in the same way that it affects business organizations. The ability of the principal and administrators to build trust between the teachers and the students has an effect on school performance. While a majority of the literature supports leadership traits and personality as factors that influence the leadership models, others disagree. Opposition to the view that personality and leadership are the most important factors in determining whether the leader can take a transformational role do so with claims regarding the role of external factors outside of the school as moderators of the leadership style adopted by the principal. This view suggests that the principal reacts and adjust to their surroundings, as much as they create and transform it. It highlights the connection between the principal and the school as a dynamic exchange.
The evidence suggests that leaders can have a significant impact on staff cohesion, which translates into student performance. This research suggests that research on leadership in other organizations translates into the school setting. Like much of the research on organizational leadership, the transformational leadership style was associated with positive outcomes. When compared to controlling leadership styles, it was found that transformational leaders were more effective in achieving positive results for the organization, regardless of whether the organization is a business or a school.
The research also suggests that even though personality and leadership style have an impact on teacher and academic performance, this factor alone cannot predict performance. It was found that factors outside of the control of the principal can also have an effect on academic performance and relationships within the school system. Factors outside of the school system can have an effect on the leadership style that the principal adopts. This suggests that the principal personality and background is not the only factor that affects leadership and academic performance, but they do have an undeniable effect on the school as an organization.
This view takes a systems approach to the school system and considers the principal is a component of the system. Factors that affect any part of this system also affects all of the other parts. The school exists as part of the community system surrounding it and is in turn, affected by it. This research concludes that even though the background of the principal and their major personality type has an effect on leadership style and the principles were ability to relate to teachers and students within the system, other factors must be considered in evaluating this relationship. The study supports the need to examine the topic from the standpoint of a systems approach, rather than from a purely psychosocial model. As far as the basic premises are concerned, leadership does have an effect on academic performance and the academic ratings of students. It demonstrates the importance of relationships and building a school based on effective leadership skills to boost student performance.