I am knee deep in writing my dissertation for my Doctor of Education. Writing is such a task – as I write this I am not even sure what adjective to use to describe it. Writing is such a _________________ task: creative? wriggly? iterative? messy? hard? frustrating? down-the-rabbit-hole-ish? inspiring? maddening? joy-filled?
I needed a moment to just free write what I am LEARNING (thank you personal blog). No style worries, no referencing (ok not true because I value integrity too much – but you know what I mean), no trying to create good figures by using smart art on PowerPoint when you have literally NO idea what you are doing, no trying to avoid passive voice.
Dear Passive Voice,
I do not like you very much. Yet, I cannot seem to live without you. Why do you continually knock on my door? Please don’t for the next 6 months.
And I digress; I have had a dream-like epiphany. I am certain that this is not new for others but it is new to me. I have been a formal school leader and I have been an informal school leader. Presently, I find myself somewhere in-between but closer to informal leadership in my role as Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Professional Year Program (BEd) for secondary school teacher candidates. I am researching and writing about organizational change and educational leadership. I was 49 years old when I first realized that there is a SIGNIFICANT and fundamental difference between Transformational Leadership and Transformative Leadership. (turn on the first lightbulb here thanks to my advisor, Dr. Scott Lowrey, at Western University)
I have used these terms interchangeably and I am pretty sure that others have too. And no – this is not simply word play and semantics- smoke and mirrors- if you are already thinking so. Get ready for a WHAT, SO WHAT and a NOW WHAT thinking routine!
Transformational leadership is about reform. Taking what presently exists and transforming it for the better- REFORM. Leithwood & Sun (2012, p. 388) write that the focus of the transformational leader is on “increasing the commitment and effort of organizational members toward the achievement of organizational goals.” Hewitt, Davis & Lashley (2014, p. 228) clear it up for me: “Transformational leadership, in other words, involves reforming or improving the status quo while ultimately maintaining it and reproducing it.”
Transformative leadership is all about DISRUPTION. This!
“Transformational leadership focuses on improving organizational qualities, dimensions, and effectiveness; and transformative educational leadership begins by challenging inappropriate uses of power and privilege that create or perpetuate inequity and injustice” (Shields, 2010, p. 564).
I do not think that one is better than the other. But I do think that we cannot use the language interchangeably- especially in our current situation where it is time to disrupt, decolonize and prioritize liberation of the oppressed. (Yes, I am reading the mighty work of Freire and Freire & Macedo. And yes, I love it. And yes, I understand that it may be unsettling. And yes, I am becoming a disruptor of my own mind. And my last and yes…it has taken me a long time to get here and great deal of self interrogation.) Either you reform or you disrupt through your leadership. Can you use these different typologies strategically at different times? I think so. But remember, this is a splat of my late night-dream thoughts after reading and this blog post is an early morning journal entry written after only one cup of coffee.
Time to disrupt. Time be a positive deviant. Time to lead with strategic clarity in my own work. And time to speak up.
I still like you… a lot. We will take a small break in our relationship. Or, I am happy to keep seeing you in the background work and in a minimized way. I am not sure yet. Either way, this dissertation is designed to disrupt my thinking.
See you in the more just future,
References for you:
Hewitt, K. K., Davis, A. W., & Lashley, C. (2014). Transformational and Transformative Leadership in a Research-Informed Leadership Preparation Program. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 9(3), 225–253. https://doi.org/10.1177/1942775114552329
Leithwood, K., & Sun, J. (2012). The nature and effects of transformational school leadership:
A meta-analytic review of unpublished research. Education Administration Quarterly, 48,
Shields, C. M. (2010). Transformative Leadership: Working for Equity in Diverse Contexts. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46(4), 558–589. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X10375609