Six Types of Leadership Styles in Education: A Guide for Educators

Six Types of Leadership Styles in Education: A Guide for Educators

Do you aspire to serve as an educational leader who makes an impact in the lives of students? Exploring different types of leadership styles in education in a Master of Education (M.Ed.) program can help you take your career to new levels of success. 

Education leaders play critical roles in helping students learn and grow while creating safe and inclusive learning environments. But which leadership style is best suited to you? By understanding the following six types of leadership in education and how to leverage them, you can ultimately incorporate the leadership style that’s right for you and your school’s needs.

Understanding Leadership in an Educational Setting

Although most people may think of administration when they think of leadership in education, in reality, teachers and other educators inherently serve as leaders of their respective classrooms. No matter the specific setting, strong educational leadership can make all the difference in achieving desired goals and outcomes while helping students (or other teachers) feel valued and supported.

Significance of Leadership in Education

There’s no overstating the impact of effective leadership in education. Whether it’s a confident teacher leading a classroom of 20 students or a principal working to support their staff, educational leadership lays the foundation for safer learning environments, confident classroom management, and effective learning solutions that benefit everyone.

Exploring Six Types of Leadership Styles in Education

There are six primary leadership styles that are used in education, ranging from transformational to transactional. With an understanding of what each type entails, you can determine which approach may work best for you and your school.

Transformational Leadership Style: A Focused Approach

In simplest terms, transformational leadership in education involves leaders working directly with teams to lead by example. With this form of leadership, it is important to look past self-interests and at the “big picture,” striving toward a shared vision in a team setting. Transformational leaders in education tend to be extremely hands-on, working alongside other educators toward a common goal and making sure everybody’s opinions are considered throughout the process.

Instructional Leadership Style: Guiding Academics

Another common leadership style in education is instructional leadership, which is primarily focused on direct teaching and development of learners. The core purpose of this leadership style is to ensure teachers are empowered to do their jobs well, following the idea that all instructors should be able to rely on their knowledge to teach students while drawing on their unique experiences with minimal “rules” in place.

Constructivist Leadership Style: Building Knowledge Together

Another education leadership style to which many adapt is that of constructivist leadership, focused on identifying a problem and allowing students to come up with their own creative solutions. This type of leadership is effective when it comes to getting students and teachers to collaborate and problem-solve while building confidence and critical thinking skills.

Democratic Leadership Style: Encouraging Participation

For schools or districts in which the goal is to foster widespread collaboration and participation, a democratic leadership style may be the most effective approach for administrators, professors, and other education leaders.

Also commonly known as participative leadership, democratic leadership aims to involve teachers and other staff as much as possible in the decision-making process. The idea is that teacher experiences are valued and a solid reflection of the school’s needs. Taking these employees’ opinions into consideration when making key decisions can help everyone feel involved, heard, and valued.

Emotional Leadership Style: Leveraging Empathy

While perhaps less effective in an administrative leadership setting, emotional leadership can be a suitable strategy for leaders in a classroom setting. Essentially, this leadership style allows teachers and classroom leaders to connect with students on an emotional level, becoming mentors with a high degree of awareness. The outcome of this leadership style can lead to students’ ability to form safe bonds with their teachers, which can encourage more open, honest dialogue as well as more inclusive learning.

Transactional Leadership Style: Structured and Directive

Last but not least, transactional leadership is yet another common style used in different levels of education. Through this approach, leaders exchange rewards for those who follow instructions and yield desired outcomes. This style is frequent in classroom settings, especially early childhood education, where students may receive rewards for good performance in class. This can be effective because it reinforces positive behavior—but leaders who follow this style should remain mindful of negative consequences, too.

Impact of Leadership on School Culture

Strong educational leadership can have a major impact on school culture. This remains true in all educational settings, from the smallest of early childhood classrooms to the college lecture hall.

How Leadership Styles Shape School’s Culture

In many ways, the leadership style an educator or other leader follows can influence the overall culture of the classroom or the entire school and district. This is because leadership styles affect the way people within a school communicate and collaborate. Additionally, it plays into how people solve or respond to problems and how core values are followed. All of these are central factors in shaping a school’s learning culture.

Role of Leadership in Developing Positive Learning Environments

The ultimate goal of any educational leader is to help ensure all students and staff (where applicable) can enter an environment where they feel safe, included, and valued. Different leadership styles in early childhood education and other contexts can create the positive learning environments students need to thrive and grow.

How Are Different Leadership Styles Used in Education?

In a number of ways, various leadership styles can enhance performance, improve student learning, contribute to student growth, and even advocate for changing student needs.

The Link Between Leadership Style and School Performance

Effective leadership styles can impact school performance in terms of standardized test scores and other metrics. Educational leaders who create inclusive learning environments can empower students to perform their best day in and day out.

Ways Leadership Styles Affect Student Learning

Students tend to learn best in an environment where they feel their ideas are valued and their efforts are seen. An educational leadership style that supports these ideas can help students learn more readily and effectively.

How Leadership Contributes to Student Growth

All students require support in order to grow throughout their journeys. Effective leadership inside and outside the classroom can help students overcome learning obstacles and achieve their full potential.

Leadership’s Role in Advocating Student Needs

Oftentimes, learners rely on their teachers to recognize and advocate for their needs to administrators and other higher-ups. In this sense, an educational leadership style centered on listening to learners and genuinely valuing their input means educators can more effectively understand and advocate student needs to others in positions of power.

Choosing the Right Leadership Style in Education

Whether you are working as a teacher or in more of an administrative role, choosing and committing to a leadership style is an essential step to take in your career. Of course, not every leadership style is suited for all educators, which is why it’s so crucial to weigh your options and select the leadership style that will best serve the needs of your classroom, school, or district.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Leadership Style

There is a lot to keep in mind when adopting a leadership style as an educator. First, think about your own strengths and weaknesses and how those might apply to your ultimate choice in leadership style. Do you naturally enjoy collaborating and working with others? If so, then a more transformational or instructional approach may be better.

On the other hand, you’ll also need to consider the needs of your school or classroom. This means taking a step back to assess what your learners truly need, then brainstorming leadership styles that may align best with those needs.

Adapting Leadership Style According to Needs

It’s also important to understand that choosing a leadership style doesn’t necessarily mean you’re committed to that approach for the rest of your career. In fact, your leadership style should evolve and change over time rather than remain static. This way, you are constantly reevaluating your strengths, weaknesses, and students’ needs and adapting to make changes as necessary.

How an M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision Program Can Help Form a Leadership Style

If you’re looking to build your confidence and knowledge as an educational leader, it may be time to explore a formal degree program that supports and provides you with the resources you need to thrive. An M.Ed. in administration and supervision can be an ideal way to gain a competitive advantage and expand your career prospects and opportunities.

How an M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision Gives Leaders an Advantage

Specifically, the M.Ed. in administration and supervision at Marymount University is designed with educational leaders in mind, empowering students to become more effective and innovative leaders while fostering key values such as ethics, social justice, and integrity.

In addition, this program is offered fully online, allowing even the busiest of professionals to continue their crucial work while pursuing an advanced degree that benefits them. As part of this program, students can also pursue their administration and supervision licenses.

Career Opportunities After Master of Education in Administration and Supervision

Those who complete a Master of Education program can expand their career opportunities to encompass any number of in-demand roles, with potential options including:

  • Admissions counselor
  • Educational researcher
  • Senior curriculum specialist
  • Leaders in public, private, and Catholic schools

Likewise, all students who complete an M.Ed. program through Marymount University are also licensed to teach the following in the state of Virginia:

  • Elementary education (PK-6th grade)
  • Secondary education (6th-12th grade)
  • Special education (K-12th grade)

Potential Salary Ranges for Graduates

The potential salary for a graduate of an M.Ed. program varies greatly depending on a variety of factors, including the exact role, level of experience, and geographic location of the job. However, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay of an elementary, middle, or high school principal with a master’s degree is $101,320 per year. Meanwhile, postsecondary education administrators with master’s degrees earn a median pay of $99,940 per year.

Can an Effective Leadership Style Enhance the Quality of Education?

There’s no denying the impact an effective leadership style can have on the overall quality of student education. Of course, not all leadership styles are ideal for all learning environments; that’s why it’s so essential to carefully assess needs and outcomes before settling on an educational leadership style for you. From there, you can serve as a confident leader who makes a true difference in the lives of your students.

Interested in earning a higher degree in the realm of education? Get in touch with an advisor at Marymount University to learn more about our program options.