Instructional leadership vs transformational leadership, difference, pros & cons

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There is a lot of talk these days about instructional leadership and transformational leadership. Which one is right for your school or district? In this article, we’ll take a look at the key differences, the pros and cons of each of these two type of leadership to help you decide which is right for you. Read on to find out!

What is instructional leadership and what is transformational leadership?

Instructional leadership is a term used to describe the role of school leaders in promoting quality teaching and learning. Transformational leadership, on the other hand, refers to a style of leadership that focuses on organizational change and development. Both instructional and transformational leadership are important for school success.

Instructional leaders work to improve teaching and learning by providing clear expectations for teachers, supporting them in their professional development, and ensuring that resources are aligned with instructional goals. Transformational leaders create a shared vision for the future and build buy-in from all stakeholders. They also develop systems and structures that support continuous improvement.

Both instructional and transformational leadership are necessary for creating positive change in schools. When used together, these two approaches can help schools achieve their goals and improve student outcomes.

Key differences between instructional leadership and transformational leadership

There are several key differences between instructional leadership and transformational leadership:

  1. Instructional leaders focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning, while transformational leaders seek to change the culture and climate of the school to create a more positive and productive environment.
  2. Instructional leaders typically have more formal authority than transformational leaders, and they are often responsible for implementing district or state initiatives. Transformational leaders, on the other hand, tend to be more informal leaders who work to motivate and inspire others to achieve common goals.
  3. While both types of leaders play an important role in improving schools, instructional leadership is more focused on the classroom while transformational leadership is more concerned with changing the culture of the school.
Female leader with diverse business team
Female leader with diverse business team

Pros of instructional leadership over transformational leadership

The advantages of instructional leadership over transformational leadership are many:

  1. Instructional leadership provides a clear and concise focus on student learning, whereas transformational leadership can be more diffuse and may not always prioritize student achievement.
  2. Instructional leadership often results in more effective communication between teachers and administrators, as there is a shared focus on improving teaching and learning. This can lead to greater collaboration and better use of resources.
  3. Instructional leadership can provide more support for teachers in terms of professional development and mentoring, as well as access to data and other information that can help improve their practice.
  4. Instructional leadership tends to be more sustainable over time than transformational leadership, which can be more susceptible to changes in personnel or philosophy.

Cons of instructional leadership compared to transformational leadership

  1. One of the key criticisms of instructional leadership is that it can often result in a more bureaucratic and less creative environment. This is because the focus on standardized processes and procedures can lead to less room for innovation.
  2. Instructional leadership can also be less effective in motivating and inspiring teachers, as it can appear overly prescriptive.

Transformational leaders, on the other hand, are more focused on motivating and inspiring their followers. They emphasize view change and innovation, which can create a more dynamic and creative environment.

Additionally, they tend to be more effective at communicating vision and purpose, which can help to engage and motivate employees. However, transformational leaders can also be accused of being too autocratic or dictatorial in their style.

Pros of transformational leadership over instructional leadership

Transformational leadership has been shown to be more effective than instructional leadership in a number of ways:

  1. Transformational leaders are more likely to develop a shared vision and sense of purpose within their team or organization. This can lead to greater cooperation and commitment from team members, as they feel invested in the success of the overall organization.
  2. Transformational leaders are more adept at motivating and inspiring others to achieve their goals. They often do this by conveying a strong belief in the potential for success and providing specific, achievable goals for team members to strive for.
  3. Transformational leaders tend to be more effective at creating an environment that fosters innovation and creativity. This is because they encourage risk-taking and provide opportunities for employees to experiment and explore new ideas.
smart leader
smart leader

Cons of transformational leadership compared to instructional leadership

  1. One of the key criticisms of transformational leadership is that it can lead to a leader becoming too autocratic and overbearing.
  2. This style of leadership can also be seen as being manipulative, as the leader may use their powers of persuasion to get followers to do things that they wouldn’t normally do.
  3. Transformational leaders may have difficulty delegating tasks and authority, which can lead to feelings of frustration among team members.
  4. Another downside of transformational leadership is that it can create a “cult of personality” around the leader. This happens when the leader becomes so revered and respected that they are seen as being above criticism. This can lead to followers blindly following the leader without questioning their decisions, even if those decisions are harmful.
  5. The transformational leadership style can be very demanding and stressful, as the leader is constantly having to motivate and inspire their team. This can lead to burnout if the leader isn’t careful.
  6. Transformational leadership may not be appropriate for all situations. For example, if there is a crisis that needs to be dealt with quickly, a more autocratic leadership style may be necessary. Additionally, some followers may not respond well to this style of leadership and may feel alienated or uninspired by it.

Situations when instructional leadership is better than transformational leadership

There are certain situations when instructional leadership is more effective than transformational leadership:

  1. One such situation is when there is a need for clear and concise direction. When there is a lot of change happening, or when goals are unclear, an instructional leader can provide the stability and guidance that is needed.
  2. When there is a need for expert knowledge. If there is a particular problem or challenge that needs to be addressed, an instructional leader with the relevant expertise can be very helpful in finding a solution. Instructional leaders typically have a deep understanding of the subject matter and are able to provide employees with the resources and support they need to be successful.
  3. Instructional leadership can be more effective than transformational leadership in situations where followers are resistant to change. If people are set in their ways and reluctant to try something new, an instructional leader can help them see the value in making a change. By providing clear and concise direction, expert knowledge, and a willingness to listen to followers, an instructional leader can be very successful in leading change.
leader on top
leader on top

Situations when transformational leadership is better than instructional leadership

One of the key decisions that school leaders must make is whether to adopt a transformational or instructional leadership style. While both approaches can be effective, there are certain situations when one style may be more advantageous than the other.

Transformational leadership is typically more effective when there is a need for change within an organization. This style of leadership focuses on inspiring and motivating employees to buy into the vision of the organization and work together to achieve common goals. Instructional leadership, on the other hand, emphasizes providing clear direction and guidance to employees in order to help them improve their performance.

There are several situations when transformational leadership may be more appropriate than instructional leadership:

  1. When there is a need for organizational change: If the school is facing significant challenges or there is a need for change in the way things are done, transformational leadership can be an effective way to generate buy-in from employees and get them on board with the new direction.
  2. When employees are not meeting expectations: In some cases, instructional leadership may be ineffective if employees are not meeting performance expectations. Transformational leadership can be more successful in these situations as it focuses on inspiring employees to do their best work.
  3. When morale is low: Low morale can be a major problem in any organization, but it can be especially detrimental in a school setting. Transformational leadership can help boost morale by motivating employees and getting them excited about their work again.
  4. When there is a need for innovation: If the school is looking to implement new ideas and strategies, transformational leadership can be an effective way to get employees on board with the change. This style of leadership emphasizes creativity and risk-taking, which can encourage employees to think outside the box.
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Instructional leadership vs transformational leadership summary

Conclusion paragraph: So, what is the difference between transformational and instructional leadership? The main difference between these two types of leadership is that while transformational leadership inspires followers to change their beliefs and behaviors for the better, instructional leadership focuses on teaching followers the right way to do things so they can be successful. Both have their own set of pros and cons, which we looked at earlier in this article. In some cases, transformational leadership may be a better fit for you or your organization than instructional leadership – and vice versa. If you’re still not sure which type of leadership would work best for you or need more help deciding, don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments below!

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Hidayat Rizvi
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