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Transformative Leadership Primer


Carolyn M. Shields

Transformative Leadership: A Primer both delivers a complete and engaging overview of transformative leadership and also clearly distinguishes it from other popular approaches to leadership. Hence, this will be the text of choice for many graduate courses in educational leadership. Carolyn M. Shields shows how the tenets of transformative leadership interact with one another, and how they provide a lens for leadership that offers an excellent, inclusive, equitable, and socially just education for all students. Using anecdotes and narratives drawn from empirical research, as well as current data, Dr. Shields establishes how transformative leadership comprises a comprehensive approach to leadership in highly diverse contexts, and how it can empower students who are traditionally marginalized due to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, home language, or religion. Accepting a mandate for educational change, reconstructing knowledge frameworks, and redistributing power in more equitable ways are starting points for transformative leaders. Changing the structures, cultures, curricula, and pedagogies of the school to be more democratic and emancipatory; acknowledging our interconnectedness and interdependence with global neighbors; and accepting responsibility for promoting both public and private good are processes that implement the transformation. Taken together, these changes cannot be accomplished without considerable collaboration, conversation, and moral courage. No leader wanting to promote excellence and equity for all should be without this primer that offers a new way of thinking about all aspects of schooling, from facilities and fiscal issues to academic programs and school policy. Transformative leadership offers a promising and robust theory of change for all situations and contexts.
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1. Understanding Leadership Theories


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I hope to demonstrate that the processes of leadership must be seen as part of the dynamics of conflict and of power; that leadership is nothing if not linked to collective purpose; that the effectiveness of leaders must be judged not by their press clippings but by actual social change.

—Burns, 1978, p. 3

There are competing theories and competing practices, and it is our role as administrators, individuals of action, to sort among them … A critical theory is necessary; to encourage us to view events in historical perspective, to doubt the validity of received truth (…), and to continue our search for more adequate solutions to our problems.

—Foster, 1986, p. 13 ← 1 | 2 →

Why Do We Need Yet Another Leadership Theory?

My response to the question of why another primer on educational leadership lies in the quotations with which this chapter opens. Pulitzer Prize–winning scholar James McGregor Burns, in his seminal work simply called Leadership (1978), argued that the impact of leadership should be judged by actual social change. Approximately a decade later, educational leadership scholar William Foster asserted the need for a critical theory of leadership to judge from among the myriad theories to discover “more adequate solutions to our problems.” And there definitely is a myriad of theories.

In the 2010 International Encyclopedia of Education, there are 47 chapters relating to different aspects of educational leadership. Moreover, the 2002 Second International...

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