26 SES 05.5 PS, General Poster Session
General Poster Session
This study examines to what extent school leaders’ attitudes towards transformational and transactional governance elements can be linked to their personality traits. In particular it is investigated whether the five factor model of personality (Big Five; Costa & McCrae, 1992) can be used as a predictor for school leaders’ attitude formation towards transformational and transactional elements of new governance instruments in education systems.
The promotion of output-oriented governance models has changed tasks and conditions of school management and increased the demands on professional leadership. In addition to administrative and pedagogical activities, school leaders are required to pursue and account for purposeful and systematic developments (Altrichter, Kemethofer, & George, 2018; Brauckmann & Schwarz, 2015). This results in new responsibilities and a changed task profile (Brauckmann & Pashiardis, 2016), requiring school leaders to apply both, transformational and transactional leadership elements (Bass & Aviolo, 1995). The concept of transformational leadership comprises creating visions and goals for the school and intellectual stimulation by targeted teacher training (Day, Gu & Sammons, 2016). Transactional leadership consists of management by exception. School leaders making use of transactional practices are supposed to use internal and external evaluation data to support evidence-based development and to discuss contingent reward (Pietsch & Tulowitzki, 2017).
So far, research has mainly focused on the relationship between leadership styles, organizational benefits and student outcome, corroborating positive connections between leadership styles, the performance of subordinates (Krueger, Witziers, & Sleegers, 2007; Leithwood & Levin, 2005) and of students (Bruggencate, Luyten, Scheerens, & Schleegers, 2012). However, hardly any study investigated the antecedents of leadership styles in the school context.
In general, studies on the effect of leader personality on leadership results are based on the premise that a certain set of personal characteristics is essential for exercising influence (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Bono & Judge, 2004; Judge, Piccolo, & Kosalka, 2009). In a meta-analytic review Bono and Judge (2004) report that leadership behavior is significantly predictable through personality traits. Based on the five-factor model of personality comprising the traits extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience, 28% of the variability of leadership behavior was explained. The results of Bono and Judge (2004) suggest that personality traits differ in their predictive power on leadership styles. Transactional leadership dimensions were less strongly related to personality than transformational leadership dimensions (Bono & Judge, 2004). Transformational leadership dimensions (i.e. charisma, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration) were strongly related to extraversion and neuroticism. Transactional leadership dimensions were related to all traits except neuroticism as predictors for management by exception, however the associations were small. Agreeableness turned out to be the strongest predictor of contingent reward.
Although the approach of using personality traits as predictor turned out to be useful, it should be noted that the results are of limited generalizability to other settings (i.e. military, business, government, etc.). According to Judge et al. (2002), extraversion was the only trait that generalizes across settings. All other traits were more strongly related to leadership in studies on student rather than business or military settings. This opens up the question to what extent individual differences could be useful explaining variance in school leadership dimensions in output-oriented governance structures. Thus, this paper aims at extending previous research in at least three important ways: a) it strengthens the approach of investigating the antecedents of leadership behavior in the school leadership context using b) the Big Five traits, whereby c) current challenges for school leaders are studied using well-established leadership strategies (transformational and transactional strategies).
All school leaders of compulsory general education schools (i.e. primary and secondary schools, but not academic secondary schools) in an Austrian province were asked to fill in an online questionnaire. In total, 678 principals were contacted, of whom 362 took part in the study. About two-thirds of the school leaders in the study are female, the average work experience is seven years (SD: 6 years). The majority of the participants run a primary school (72%). In terms of school size, proportion of female school administrators, number of students and teachers, the sample matches the overall population in the federal state (Statistics Austria, 2016). Personality traits: Global personality characteristics were assessed with the NEO-FFI scales (Rammstedt & John, 2007; German version of NEO FFI scales Costa & McCrae, 2008) comprising the subscales for extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness and conscientiousness. All scales showed acceptable to satisfactory reliability scores Alpha >.70, except the agreeableness scale (Alpha = .59). The replication of the factor structures of the original scales was possible in all cases and supported by CFA results. The manifestation of the individual personality factors largely corresponded to the norms of the German speaking population. Attitude toward transactional and transformational control strategies: The attitude of school leaders towards governance methods in the school system was measured using the attitude scale of Kemethofer and Altrichter (2017). The introductory question was: "In order to improve the quality of school education new tools of governance have been introduced in various countries. For how appropriate do you consider the following instruments for the improvement of the Austrian school system?” Subsequently a list of 22 transformational (i.e. individualized consideration dimension; intellectual dimension; charisma dimension) and transactional leadership tools (reward dimension; management by exceptions dimension) in the Austrian school context has been added. As answer options the expressions were "completely appropriate" (= 4), "rather appropriate" (= 3), "less appropriate" (= 2) and "not appropriate at all" (= 1). All subscales measuring dimensions of transactional and transformational leadership tools showed satisfactory reliability (all Alpha >.75).
First results indicate that, in general, school leaders reported significantly more positive attitudes towards transformational governance elements than transactional ones. The school leaders’ attitudes could be partially predicted by personality traits; however the explained variance was generally low. As in previous studies, stronger associations between the transformational dimensions of leadership elements and personality than transactional dimensions and personality emerged. Above all, neuroticism proved to be the strongest predictor of the attitude towards transformational leadership dimensions. Low levels of neuroticism favoured a positive attitude towards the transformational composite and charismatic aspects of transformational leadership, as well as, but to a lesser extent, transactional leadership. The trait openness turned out to be a positive predictor of the charismatic leadership dimension. Surprisingly and contrary to earlier studies in other contexts, only the transactional leadership dimension contingent reward could be explained by the trait extraversion. Agreeableness and conscientiousness did not prove to be significant predictors. In the discussion, at least three possible explanations for the small, but significant, correlations in this study are presented: a) transformational and transactional leadership in schools may have dispositional antecedents that cannot be captured in analyses using the five-factor model of personality (i.e. core self-evaluations), b) focusing on broad leadership behaviors rather than specific leadership behaviors at work may have reduced the extent to which implicit theories account for the personality leadership link, and c) lack of reliability of the measured personality constructs may have reduced the possibility to discover associations between personality and school leadership attitudes. Finally, it will be discussed to what extent the individual difference approach can be useful for the management of leadership behavior in a school context.
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