Transformational and transactional leaders in higher education.
With increasing pressure on university presidents to provide educations that meet 21st century needs as well as to keep their institutions viable, an understanding of transactional and transformational leadership skills is necessary. While transformational skills are highly regarded for their vision and sense of mission, transactional skills focusing on the exchange of work for various types of rewards should not be dismissed. This Delphi study sought opinions of university presidents to arrive at a consensus regarding their ranking of major transactional and transformational management practices and concepts, major issues confronting them, and effective group and individual leadership skills. A number of actionable results and implications should interest university presidents and also business managers.
This study is concerned with the characteristics of presidents of institutions of higher education who are considered transformational and transactional leaders. The study adds current data to the published and perceived characterization of such leaders and their approaches to changing the learning environment at their institutions. While addressing the widespread appeal of transformational leadership and its practical application to higher education, the study also profiles the qualities needed by leaders to introduce a climate of change utilizing transformational or transactional leadership.
The growing consensus among educators and policy-makers is that the current process of education must change dramatically. A different approach is needed to prepare today's leaders to meet tomorrow's challenges. The new structure should enhance preparation, allowing for innovation and futuristic thinking in a collaborative setting (Rodriguez, 1999).
Americans at all levels have had great faith in the power of education to improve their quality of life. Education has been viewed as an escape route from poverty, an antidote to intolerance born of ignorance, a primary source of national prosperity, and the foundation of democracy (Swail, 2003). Scientific and technological advances have intensified in the past two decades, and, for the first time in history, created a truly global community. Modern telecommunications link all the corners of the planet. Like the technology that helped create the emerging worldwide marketplace, the global community is in a dynamic period of change. Business communications, capital and financial services, research, and educational programs increasingly move across national borders. The pace of change will accelerate, and the urgent need for highly educated men and women who possess competence, perspective, human values, and political courage will increase (New England Board of Higher Education, 1991).
The prevailing view of management theory is that highly centralized management is generally ineffective and inefficient in the face of rapidly changing environments, such as those faced by organizations in the "knowledge industry." Rather, those closest to the market and production processes are likely to have the best information and ideas about what directions to take or changes to make and how to do this in a timely fashion. Their efforts can be guided by budget discipline-an overall spending target-and by indicators of movement toward desired results. But such indicators should measure total spending and its results (outcomes), rather than count how many of a particular input are used or how resources are deployed by the units, (e.g., colleges and departments), who are nearest to the market and the productive process (Feinberg, 2005).
The president, as the chief executive officer of an institution of higher education, is measured largely by his or her capacity for institutional leadership. The president shares responsibility for defining and attaining goals, for administrative action, and for operating the communications system linking the components of the academic community. The president represents the institution to its many publics. The president's leadership role is supported by delegated authority from the board and faculty, and degree level of delegation is the key to establishing leadership (Crawford, 2003).
As the chief planning officer of an institution, the president has a special obligation to innovate and initiate. The degree to which a president can envision new horizons for the institution, and can persuade others to see them and work toward them, will often constitute the chief measure of the president's administration (Leithwood, 1992).
The president is expected to infuse new life into an institution, and may at times be required, working within the concept of tenure, to solve problems of obsolescence. The president will necessarily utilize the judgments of faculty but may also, in the interest of academic standards, seek outside evaluations by scholars of acknowledged competence (Leithwood, 1992).
It becomes the duty of the president to insure that the operating standards and procedures within the college or university conform to the policy established by the governing board and to the standards of sound academic practice. The president must also ensure that faculty views, including dissent, are presented to the board in those areas and on those issues where responsibilities are shared. Similarly, the faculty should be informed of the views of the board and the administration on like issues (Leithwood, 1992).
The president is largely responsible for maintaining existing institutional resources and creating new resources, for overseeing a large area of non-academic activities, for public understanding, and, by the nature of the office, is the chief person who speaks for the institution. In these areas and others, the president's work is to plan, organize, direct, and represent. Transactional presidents perform these functions of management and, at the same time, focus on keeping the institution running smoothly and efficiently. In contrast, the transformational president will also perform these functions with empowered and authoritative delegated teams while being visionary and concerned about charting a mission and direction. Thus, the president's position, by its responsibilities, is the key strategic source within a higher education institution from which leadership, and more specifically, transformational leadership, should originate (Leithwood, 1992).
Higher education is at a crossroads. It must redefine its mission accompanied by measurement standards as to how it is going to meet the needs of citizens demanding higher education in the 21st century. Higher education should take into account the impact of globalization, the development of information and advanced communicative technologies, the rapid change in demand in employment, and the critical need for highly qualified educators who have practical experience in their disciplines. As enrollments continue to expand, educators, state governments, and business should begin working in a partnership atmosphere (Alexander, 2000). This might begin with transformational leaders as presidents of institutions of higher education who comprehend the situation and provide visions of the changes and directions needed to achieve this atmosphere.
Overview of Leadership and Its Application to Education
Historically, organizations have been viewed as learning systems in which success depended on the ability of leaders to become direction-givers and on the organization's capacity for continuous learning (Garrat, 1987). Transformational leaders tend to have the attributes to learn across their specialist discipline. Transactional leaders are usually at the top of their functional specialty and have limited perspective to see that change is needed and what the consequences may be for continuing the same practices (Bass, 2003).
Elements of quality leadership exist within every functional activity, with representatives serving in any capacity that can influence change. Quality leadership is demonstrated if effective results are recognized and realized. Traits that define effective leadership are included in either a group or individual category. Group traits include collaboration, shared purpose, disagreement with respect, division of labor, and a learning environment. Individual traits include self-knowledge, authenticity/integrity, commitment, empathy and competence (Astin and Astin, 2000). (See Table 1.)
Transformational leadership is the current focus of concepts relating to organizational leadership. These concepts are based on vision statements that provide the directional path for the organization. In addition, the vision statement should be supplemented with a mission statement that energizes and inspires all members of the organization as they pursue obtainable objectives. The vision and mission statements establish the long-term goals, are the basis for the organization's strategy, and identify methods for implementing the strategy.
Transformational leaders who communicate a vision and a sense of strategy are those who "find clear and workable ways to overcome obstacles, are concerned about the qualities of the services their organization provide, and inspire other members to do likewise" (Swail, 2003). Transformational leaders encourage development and change.
Historical definitions of transformational leaders have depicted them as heroes, with charismatic personalities expressing and promoting a mission of major organizational change. Heightened scholarly attention surfaced in the 1990s addressing the merits and theories of transformational leadership. This was driven by two major undercurrents. The first was the evolution of cynicism and disillusionment with the very idea of leadership and the changing climates of opinion endorsing various types of leadership. The second was the constant change in leadership styles that were the "order of the day" as organizations attempted to adapt to the wider cultural and economic shifts society. Therefore, interest and research in transformational leadership began to boom (Bass and Avolio, 1993). The transformational leader is still a long way from being the leader for every situation, and, as a result, there are few empirically documented case examples of the transformational leaders' acumen.
Transformational leadership is value driven. The leader sets high standards and purposes for followers, engaging them through inspiration, exemplary practice, collaboration, and trust. Transformational leadership aims at responding to change quickly and at bringing out the best in people. Such leadership is change-oriented and central to the development and survival of organizations in times of environmental turmoil, when it is necessary to make strategic changes to deal with major threats and opportunities. It derives its power from shared principles, norms, and values. Leaders who encourage transformation share power, are willing to learn from others, pay specific attention to intellectual stimulation, and the individual's need for achievement and growth (Ramsden, 1998; Caldwell and Spinks, 1999; Bass and Avolio, 1993).
The transformational leader may be needed in the scholarly community (Bass and Avolio, 1990; Leithwood, 1992, Sergiovanni, 1990; Silins, 1994). A key factor is the introduction of entrepreneurialism to the public sector as higher education institutions attempt to adapt to the economic and organizational shifts in their environment. Declining support for higher education from its traditional funding sources over the last two decades emphasizes this point. As a result, major short-term goals have been established, and day-to-day focus has shifted to an environment of institutional marketing or business development; the focus is not on students.
Transactional leadership is centered on exchanges and based on two factors: contingent rewards and management by exception. Contingent rewards are the exchanges between leaders and subordinates in which effort by subordinates is exchanged for specific rewards, such as salary and benefits, bonuses, or other incentives. A job description, which becomes the understanding of the leader and subordinates, states the job to be executed and what benefits the employee will receive in performing that job. Management by exception is the oversight that involves corrective criticism, negative feedback, and negative reinforcement. The common method is applying the evaluation of the job performance with the proposed corrective performance that is presented as the solution, preventing an occurrence of something not wanted, or listing the desired actions in performing the job (Connor, 2004).
Transactional leaders control by their interest in and need for output and use this output to maintain the status quo. Transactional leaders demonstrate a passive style when using management by exception with employees or subordinates. This passivity is present when employees do not receive recognition for their positive contributions to the organization but instead become the focal point of attention when errors or problems occur. Transactional leaders provide clear goals and objectives with a short-term scope or application and do not have a major interest in changing the environment or culture except when problems occur. The relationship that develops between the transactional leader and the subordinate is an unwritten understanding that the purpose of the follower is to carry out the wishes of the leader (Burns, 1978). Transactional leaders outline specifically and clearly what is required and expected from subordinates. Such leaders and their subordinates usually share a common understanding of goals and expectations. The environment is highly structured with an emphasis on managerial authority. This creates an uncreative climate and impedes creative expansion of the organization due to the assumption that people are largely motivated by simple rewards for specific job performance. In many cases this results in a lack of improvement in job satisfaction. The major disadvantage of this model is that it does not take into account people's desire for self-actualization (Dollak, 2008).
Comparison of Transactional and Transformational Leadership
To some degree--as alluded to earlier--transactional leadership might be characterized as a leadership of the status quo. Readers draw authority from established power relationships. Transformational leadership is a leadership of change--change within leaders, within their subordinates, and within their organization.
Transactional leaders provide subordinates with something they want in return for something the leader seeks. To be effective, a transactional leader must realize and respond to subordinates' changing needs and wants. Kuhnert and Lewis (1987), as cited in Carlson and Perrewe (1995), suggest two levels of exchange: lower order and higher order. The former is based on the exchange of material goods and privileges, such as performance-based pay bonuses and paid access to airline lounges for business travelers. The latter are less common and maintain follower performance through exchanges of trust, loyalty, and respect.
Transformational leadership draws from deeply held personal value systems. Transformational leaders bring followers together to pursue collective ambitions by expressing and disseminating their personal standards. While transactional leadership can most certainly bring about constructive outcomes, transformational leadership is held to promote performance beyond expectations by drawing from charisma, consideration, motivation, and stimulation (Carlson and Perrewe, 1995).
This study highlights the identity of effective leadership in higher education by applying a matrix of group and individual qualities to an expert panel of leaders. A Delphi study was used to obtain consensus and determine if leadership-either transformational or transactional or both--has been or can be effective. (See Table 1.)
Statement of the problem
Significant changes in higher education have occurred due to taxpayer backlash (Alexander, 2000), the rapid growth of the Internet, increasing globalization of higher education, economic shifts in the demographics of society, and economic commerce. These factors are creating the need for a new definition and approach to the management of higher education institutions. Should presidents of such institutions be utilizing transformational or transactional leadership management practices and concepts to benefit the stakeholders of higher education? Secondly, what leadership qualities are necessary for a university president to develop a vision and well-designed strategy to overcome funding limitations as well as alternative and workable plans in a university setting? This study attempts to answer these questions.
Methodology and research design
This Delphi study selected 300 university presidents from private and public higher education accredited institutions in the United States from the 25th anniversary Higher Education Directory[R]. These selections used a random numbering criterion from the Random Number Generator in ExceFM software. Excluded from this selection were university presidents representing highereducation institutions classified as technical schools.
An invitation letter sent to the 300 selectees received a positive response from 52 university presidents (17%). This broad-based representation became the expert panel for the initiation of round one of the Delphi study. The expert panel provided input to 41 distinct indicators that included a list of concerns, issues, management practices and concepts, and effective leadership qualities. These indicators were force-rated through three rounds of surveys to determine the level of agreement and consensus based on medians and interquartile ranges for each indicator.
The panel was asked to refine the list by the following:
1. Indicating the relative significance of each major concern on the rating scale by force ranking, and 2. Adding new concerns or practices and concepts to the list.
The following were the statements the participants were asked to rank:
I. Major transactional management practices and concepts
1. Provides a consistent direction that inspires trust.
2. Devotes time to communicate the organization's vision, purpose and values.
3. Energizes the organization, including faculty, staff, and students.
4. Holds individuals accountable for their performance and commitments.
5. Readily shares information, resources, praise, and credit.
6. Ensures that individuals within the organization apply the vision, purpose, and values within their spheres, of influence and in their day-to-day activities.
7. Practices active listening, comprehension, and applies others' suggestions.
8. Appears to be comfortable delegating important tasks.
9. Demonstrates respect and empathy for others.
10. Spends extra time developing and mentoring others.
II. Major transformational management practices and concepts
1. Providing a clear sense of direction and purpose for the institution by creating a long-term vision.
2. Establishing an environment of excellence of performance that is not an act but a habit.
3. Determining to succeed one step at a time while building momentum and practicing resilience, resulting in perseverance.
4. Demonstrating enthusiasm through positive views and an atmosphere of excitement, passion, and optimism.
5. Becoming focused on outcomes through advance planning, prioritizing, organizing time lines, and successfully delegating to maximize efforts.
6. Demonstrating a willingness to assume responsibility and consequences for outcomes.
7. Incorporating discipline, drive, and determination by delaying gratification, accepting of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing.
8. Relinquishing the impulse to dominate others by acknowledging and influencing them.
9. Reflecting courage through sacrifice and expecting much [raising expectations] of themselves.
10. Getting things done by using humor and humility and, thereby, showing strength and self-respect.
III. Major issues confronting university presidents
1. Tenured faculty or staff reluctant to consider change due to personal impact.
2. Reduction in state or other governmental funding to higher education.
3. Traditional and historical structures viewed as sacred.
4. Society's ignorance of value that could come from a transformation in higher education.
5. Institution's structure within a system as a deterrent to changes in higher education.
6. Lack of incentives or rewards for initiating changes in higher education.
7. Stakeholders' influence in wanting to maintain the status quo.
8. Leadership qualities lacking in personnel.
9. Belief that it is a governmental (federal/ state-local) responsibility to improve the quality of higher education.
10. Lack of a vision or thoughts as to where to begin with improving the direction of higher education.
11. Lack of dedicated personnel passionate about of higher education.
IV. Effective leadership skills (I = individual; G = group)
1. Commitment. (I) The passion, intensity, and persistence that supplies energy, motivates individuals, and drives group effort.
2. Competence. (I) The knowledge, skills, and technical expertise required for successful completion of the transformation effort.
3. Authenticity. (I) Consistency between a person's actions and most deeply felt values and beliefs.
4. Shared purpose. (G) Reflects what shared aims and values the group can take time to achieve.
5. Collaboration. (G) Empowers individuals, engenders trust, and capitalizes on diverse talents.
6. Self-knowledge. (I) Awareness of the beliefs, values, attitudes, and emotions that motivate a search for change.
7. Empathy. (I) The capacity to put oneself in another's place: requires cultivation of listening skills.
8. Disagreement with respect. (G) Recognizes that disagreements are inevitable and should be handled in a atmosphere of mutual trust.
9. A learning environment. (G) Allows members to see the group as a place where they can learn and acquire skills.
10. Division of labor. (G) Requires each member of the group to make a significant contribution to the overall effort.
The result of the first round was 100% participation.
Round 2 had a response rate of 70%, with 36 panelists participating. Reasons for 10 of the panelists not responding were: three retired, three resigned, two died, one transferred to another institution, and one withdrew. No reason was given by six of the panelists who ceased to participate and did not response to multiple communications.
Round 3 had a response rate of 97% (35 panel members) of the adjusted panel from Round 2. One panelist withdrew.
Discussion of Delphi Results
The data from the expert panel were analyzed using two criteria: level of agreement and consensus. The level of agreement for each of the 41 indicators was expressed using the median as the unit of measure. Supplementing the median was the mean (average), and both taken together provided support for determining the level and order of importance. The level of consensus of each of the 41 indicators was expressed as the interquartile range. Supplementing the interquartile range was the standard deviation which, taken together, provided support for determining the level of consensus. The priority ranks (level of agreement) were combined with the degree of consensus to determine the overall importance of the major concerns.
Final ratings resulted in 25 (61%) of the 41 indicators receiving a median rating of 6 or less, indicating that the panelists agreed or strongly agreed the indicator was applicable, and 23 indicators (56%) reached a level of statistical consensus with an IQR of 2 or less. Indicators reaching the highest and strongest level of consensus were 8 representing 20% of the total indicators.
Analysis of Round 3
Round 3 was administered to obtain a consensus among the members of the Delphi expert panel regarding the issues and leadership practices and concepts and their importance.
Within the category "Issues," indicator 3 (traditional and historical structures that are viewed as sacred) had the highest median of 2. This indicator emphasizes the impact and influence that all stakeholders have on the president before he/ she considers any change initiative. The indicator's interquartile range was a 2, demonstrating a minimal consensus among the expert panel members.
Indicator 2 (reduction in state or other government funding to higher education) had a median of 3 with an interquartile range of 3. This indicator presented the importance of budgets and expenditures and related funding as a major issue confronting university presidents. The interquartile range of 3 indicated a lack of consensus among the expert panel members.
Indicator 1 (tenured faculty and/or staff reluctant to consider changes due to personal impact) had a lower median than in the previous rounds. The lower value was a median of a 4 with an interquartile range of 3. This reflected the age-old issue of tenure and its related application. While this indicator had an interquartile range of 3, a consensus could not be indicated.
Within the category "major transformational management practices and concepts," the indicator that recorded the highest ranking with a median value of 1 was indicator 1 (provides a clear sense of direction and purpose of the institution by creating a long term vision). This indicator retained its level of importance and gained in consensus throughout the three rounds, with round three concluding with a perfect consensus as a result of an interquartile range of 0. This indicator brings to the forefront the central importance of a strategic plan as the key instrument of the university president.
Indicator 2 (establishes an environment of excellence of performance that is not an act but a habit) within this transformational category in Round 2, with a median of 2, was the second most important indicator. Again this emphasizes the key role the president plays in requiring quality within the environment of the university and all of its activities. The interquartile range of 1 demonstrated consensus. As with indicator 1, indicator 2 retained its level of importance and gained in consensus throughout the three rounds. Round 3 concluded with an interquartile of 1, demonstrating a consensus.
Within the category "major transactional management practices and concepts" for Round 1, indicator 1 (provides a consistent direction that inspires trust) again had a median value of 1. This indicator reinforces the analogy that the university president is the central point for all stakeholders in providing a climate of strength and reliance for stakeholders' trust. The interquartile range of 0 improved from a 1 in Round 2, demonstrating an improved and complete level of consensus.
In Round 2 within this category of "transactional management practices and concepts," indicator 2 (devotes time communicating an organizations vision, purpose, and values) was the second highest median with a 2. This reflects the importance and need for the trait of good communication by the president to all stakeholders that results in a focus on a direction for the institution. The interquartile range improved in its level to a 1 from a 2 in Round 2, demonstrating a concluding Round 3 with a strong level of consensus.
For Round 3 within the category of "effective leadership skills," the indicator with the highest median of 1 was indicator 1. This indicator (an individual skill of commitment) again had a median of 1 accompanied with the interquartile range of 1. This presents the critical need for a university president to have the passion, intensity, and persistence that supplies energy, motivates individuals, and drives group effort. The interquatile range of a 1 demonstrated a strong degree of consensus.
The second-highest ranked indicator from the category of "effective leadership skills" was the individual indicator 2 (competence). This indicator had a median of 2 and an interquartile range of 1. This indicator demonstrates the quality of knowledge, skills, and technical expertise required of a president for the successful completion of the transformation effort. The interquartile range of 1 demonstrated a strong consensus.
The third-highest ranked indicator from the category of "effective leadership skills" was the individual indicator 3 (authenticity). This indicator had a median of 3 and an interquartile range of 1. This indicator is the consistency between a person's actions and most deeply felt values and beliefs. This leadership skill depicts the sincerity and ethical application of a president's decision making. The interquartile range of 1 represented a strong consensus.
What was noteworthy was the strengthening of indicators from Round 2 to Round 3 within the categories of transformational, transactional, and leadership for the two highest median indicators.
Findings, Conclusion and Limitations The following limitations pertain to this study:
1. Research did not include management theory, as presented in business colleges by educators or by management practitioners or theorists, prior to 1965.
2. Restrictive boundaries were placed by the researcher on phenomena relating to institutions of higher education whose purpose is the development of technical skills, commonly referred to as technical schools, even though many of these have now become accredited and offer both bachelor and master's degrees.
3. Restrictive boundaries were placed by the researcher on training schools developed by corporate America, whose programs may have become accredited to offer degrees.
4. The selection of the Delphi method in itself imposed limitations relating to the kind of communication process that was utilized. A major challenge included selecting people with expertise in the problem and then locating them.
Based on the findings of this study, the following conclusions were drawn:
* The relationships within an environment of both transactional and transformational leadership within higher education require further research.
* The distinction between transactional and transformational leadership practices and concepts in higher education may not be as clear as traditionally believed.
* University presidents recognize the critical need for devoting time in providing all stakeholders with a vision, purpose, and values that result in a clear and consistent direction.
* University presidents recognize that establishing an environment of excellence in their institution inspires trust in their leadership and energizes the entire organization-faculty, staff, and students.
* University presidents realize that their major challenge in introducing change is overcoming the traditional structures of culture with their accompanying policies and procedures.
* Both transactional and transformational leadership practices and concepts will have to be applied to ensure change because of the reluctance of tenured faculty and staff to consider changes due to personal impact.
* The reduction in state or other government funding to higher education will require critical application of transactional and transformational leadership practices and concepts to ensure that an institution of higher education achieves its educational purpose.
* For an institution of higher education to succeed, its president must have the individual quality of commitment demonstrated with passion, intensity, and persistence. This will supply the energy and momentum to motivate and stimulate the stakeholders to strive toward a group effort.
* A university president's competence in knowledge, leadership skills, and technical expertise is necessary to ensure the successful completion of a transformational effort.
* The university president must demonstrate attribute of authenticity-consistency between actions and deeply felt values and beliefs.
* Updating and refining an institution's strategic plan, which should include imperatives. These imperatives should be driven down into the colleges and individual departments.
* Implementing a quality program of Six Sigma, and subsequent application for the Malcolm Baldridge award.
* Immediate update of all policies and procedures to ensure that applicability is possible for the university's current climate and environment.
* Implementing a rigorous program of post-tenure review with high standards applied uniformly to all members of the faculty.
* An extensive dialog with alumni and stakeholders to design a participative institution development program.
* Contracts for presidents should be limited to five years with only one renewal.
* University search committees should begin requiring candidates for the president's position to have prior business and practical experience in addition to academia.
Implications for business managers:
* A successful organization depends upon applying both transformational and transactional concepts, practices, and principles.
* Balancing and applying both transactional and transformational leadership can have a major influence on the effectiveness of an organization.
* Transformational and transactional leadership together may be more effective if both individual and group levels of leadership skills are applied.
* The best leaders recognize that strong leadership does not come in a single form, and each leadership style complements the other.
* Each issue and situation may call for a different approach and unique form of leadership skill application.
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Lloyd Moman Basham, Texas A&M University-Commerce
Dr. Basham's primary area of research is leadership, especially transformational leadership in higher education. He brings 30 years of practical experience in the private sector--computer, telecommunications, and security companies-to his present academic position as head of marketing and management in the College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Texas A &M--Commerce.
Table 1. What is Effective Leadership? Group Qualities Individual Qualities Shared purpose--reflects the Commitment--the passion, shared aims and values of the intensity, and persistence that group's members; can take time to supplies energy, motivates achieve. individuals, and drives group effort. Collaboration--an approach that Empathy--the capacity to put empowers individuals, engenders oneself in an other's place; trust, and capitalizes on diverse requires the cultivation and use talents. of listening skills. Division of labor-requires each Competence--the knowledge, skill, member of the group to make a and technical expertise required significant contribution to the for successful completion of the overall effort. transformation effort. Disagreement with Authenticity--consistency between respect--recognizes that one's actions and one's most disagreements are inevitable and deeply felt values and beliefs. should be handled in an atmosphere of mutual trust. A learning environment--allows Self-knowledge--awareness of the members to see the group as a beliefs, values, attitudes, and place where they can learn and emotions that motivate one to acquire skills. seek change. Source: Astin and Astin, (2000). Note: From "Leadership reconsidered: Engaging higher education in social change," by A.W. Astin and Helen S. Astin, 2000, Non-Published Report, Chapter 11, p. 10-15. Copyright 2000 by W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Adapted with permission.