A study on effective leadership

INTRODUCTION

In order to be effective, schools require skilled leaders. The role of the principal is the key to a school's ability to meet the needs of the teacher it serves. However, the impact and the influence a principal has on teacher commitment is not a simple relationship. Principals in today's schools require the person in the position to carry out a countless number of functions as well act in a variety of different roles. As DeLucca, et al. (1997) found, "the literature on educational leadership clearly emphasizes that the principal is a highly complex and demanding role" (p. 105). Fullan (1991) described the changing role of the principals over the past two decades as becoming "dramatically more complex" (p. 144).

The study of transformational leadership in the context of principals' school leadership is relatively new. Building upon the work of Burns (1978), Bass (1985), and Bass and Avolio (1994), Leithwood (1994) developed a transformational model of school leadership. Leithwood states that transformational leadership skills are necessary skills for principals if they are to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Recent studies completed by various scholars in the field have indicated that administrators who demonstrate a transformational leadership style have teaching staff with increased job satisfaction, a greater sense of teaching efficacy, demonstrate higher levels of organizational commitment, and have less staff turnover (Griffith, 2004; Yu, et al., 2002; Ross & Gray, 2006).

However, strategic leadership is the main role of the principal while pedagogical leadership is the responsibility of the teachers (Crowther et al., 2000 and, 2002; Smylie-Hart, 1999). Their relationships have been described by Crowther et al. (2000) as "parallel leadership". Teacher leaders and administrator leaders work in parallel and develop new roles and relationships within the school. Strategic leadership theory suggested that strategic leaders are individuals who have the ability to think strategically by envisioning, anticipating, innovating, maintaining flexibility, and mobilizing others to adopt changes which provide the organization with a competitive advantage (Elenkov, et al, 2005; Ireland & Hitt, 2005). Strategic leaders enable organizational staff to exploit diverse opportunities to adapt and respond to environmental uncertainty. According to Ireland and Hitt, strategic leadership theory advocates that, "companies are a reflection of their top managers, and, in particular, of the chief executive officers" (p. 65). Hence, Davies (2004) had identified nine factors associated with the strategic leadership styles of school heads. In his terms, Davies classified these nine factors into two parts: firstly, the ability of a school head to undertake organizational activity (strategic competence, strategic orientation, strategic translation, strategic alignment, and strategic interaction), and secondly, his or her individual characteristics (restless, absorptive, adaptive, wise).

Teacher commitment is crucial to effective schools, teacher satisfaction and retention. There has been increasing interest among scholars in the concept of commitment and the study of the commitment of several professionals such as students (Staw, 1976; Meyer & Allen, 1987). Educational researchers have focused on commitment to the organization in this case, teachers (Firestone, 1990; Tyree, 1996; Nais, 1981). They call this phenomenon "teacher commitment", denoting commitment to the school (Ryes, 1989). Commitment is part of a teacher's affective or emotional reaction to their experience in a school setting (Ebmeire & Nicklaus, 1999). According to the related literature, in these circumstances employees can develop affective commitment: in a more decentralized organizational structure (Robbins, 1997), in an organizational structure having an open and honest communication network (Zangaro, 2001), in an organizational culture encouraging participation (Parnell & Crandall, 2003), when they have the opportunity to participate in decision-making (Somech & Bogler, 2002), especially in strategically important decisions (Lines, 2004; Celep, 2000), and when they are affected by the outcomes of these decisions (Torka, 2004), when they have the opportunity to participate in the strategic planning process (Oswald et al., 1994), when they are provided with autonomy (Firestone & Pennell, 1993), when they have the opportunity to acquire knowledge and other resources in the organization (McDermott et al., 1996), when strategic objectives (Enriquez et al., 2001), expectations (O'Creevy et al., 1997) and the vision (Oswald et al., 1994) of the organization are communicated to them, when they are treated fairly and justly (Martin & Bennett, 1996; Naumann et al., 1998), when they have adequate payment (Abdulla & Shaw, 1999), when there is a congruence of ethical values between employee and organization (and/or manager or supervisor) (Schwepker, 1999; Peterson, 2003; Janssen, 2004), when they have a supportive, facilitative and hearty leader (Kidd & Smewing, 2001; Hui et al., 2004) and when they find their leader (or supervisor) trustworthy (Perry, 2004).

STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Many researchers have pointed out that in order to be effective in the current context of school improvement, principals need to conform to the role as transformational leaders who have the potential for building high levels of commitment to the complex and uncertain nature of the restructuring agenda (Caldwell, 1992;, Hallinger, 1992;, Leithwood & Jantzi, 1997;, Murphy & Hallinger, 1992). There are differences in what these roles might include, that is, what the dimensions of principal leadership style are. Building the dimensional measure of principal leadership style, thus, motivated the researcher to conduct this study in the hope that it will contribute to our understanding of the principal's transformational leadership style which is considered a foundation of school effectiveness.

Another important issue that has not been adequately examined by previous research is the underlying model of the strategic leadership styles of principals. Waldman and Javidan (2002) indicated that little research exists on strategic leadership and its influence on organizational performance. The general problem is that contextual factors influence leadership behaviors across all levels of the organization, thus constraining leaders to adopt behaviors driven by external and internal demands. (Antonakis & House, 2002;, Carroll, 2002;, Waldman, et al, 2001;, Waldman & Javidan, 2002).

It has been widely recognized that many discouraged school behaviours are, to an important extent, due to the low commitment of teachers. Teachers who experience this deficiency would engage in a variety of work behaviours that only reinforce their task failure (Rosenholtz, 1989). In an effort to overcome this, teacher commitment becomes necessary. Leithwood et al. (1994) suggest that committed teachers are less likely to leave the organization and have a desire to improve practices in an effort to realize the school's mission. Therefore, teacher commitment should be examined because it leads to greater job effort and involvement. (Porter, et al, 1974;, Rosenholtz, 1989).

Since there is no specific style that is best for all situations, developing skills in selection of appropriate transformational and strategic leadership styles need to be emphasized because if these skills are poor, the consequence can be quite negative. Ubben and Hughes (1992) postulate that effective leadership depends on understanding the condition of a problem situation and assessing correctly how much participation is required to be successful and the form that this participation should take. An incorrect response to the demand of a situation may have a negative impact on-teachers' personal satisfaction and may consequently affect their enthusiasm and commitment. Many times staff or teachers are dissatisfied with principals, not because of the nature of their decision, but because of the leadership style used (Leadership Management Development Center, 1997).

Moreover, the Ministry of Education in Thailand enforces school' principals to obtain quality assurance certification once every five years, where the schools need to ensure the system is developed in accordance with the standards, criteria, principles and guidelines as stipulated in the educational Act. In recent years, the average points obtained in the national test shows that, Islamic private schools in three provinces of southern Thailand ranked bottom compared to other schools in national ranking as far as academic achievement is concerned. (Secretary Board of Educational Office, 2007). In addition, Sermsak and his colleagues (2004) noted, the Islamic private secondary school principals lack of skills especially in educational management. As a member of an educational organization, the researcher considers that it is important to conduct this study. In this study, the researcher focuses on the principals in Islamic private secondary schools in southern Thailand. As mentioned above, principals are educational leaders and teachers are practical instruments in achieving the school's goals. Conducting a study to identify which is the most effective principal leadership style (transformational leadership or strategic leadership) and its effect on teacher commitment is believed to be a worthwhile study.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The theory that this study has tried to build was based on the foundations of several existing theories in the literature. Firstly, the study reviewed various dimensions of leadership styles from previous studies by Barnett et al. (2001), Chui et al. (1996), Janzi and Leithwood, (1996), and Leithwood et al. (1996) considering-the present school context in southern Thailand. Five relevant dimensions of leadership styles are specifically proposed to be used in this study (Liethwood, 1996). The five dimensions of transformational leadership styles are visionary leadership, individual orientation, structural leadership, empowering leadership and role modelling

Secondly, the study reviewed the strategic leadership styles (Davies, 2004; Davies & Davies, 2004). There are nine categories of strategic leadership characteristics. In his terms, Davies classified these nine factors into two categories; individual characteristics (restlessness, absorption, adaptiveness/adaptibility and wisdom) and organizational capability (strategic competence, strategic orientation, strategic translation, strategic alignment and strategic interaction.

Thirdly, the study reviewed a theory from perspective of the affective approach on commitment. Commitment is defined as "the relative strength of a person's identification with and involvement in an organization" (Mowday et al., 1982). According to Buchanan (1974), commitment is "a partisan or affective attachment to the aims and values of an organization, to one's role in relation with these aims and values and to an organization for its own sake", Further, according to the cost-benefit approach, commitment is "a result of the perception of benefit associated with staying in and the perception of cost associated with leaving from an organization" (Kanter, 1968). From the normative approach, commitment is "the aggregate internalized normative pressures to conduct in a manner which meets organizational objectives and interests" (Wiener, 1982). It extensively examines the influences of transformational leadership and strategic leadership on teacher identification, involvement, and loyalty to the commitment (Abdulhakam, 2005). The three factors of teacher commitment are identification, involvement and loyalty.

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

Based on the statement of research problem and the theoretical model as seen in Figure 1, the objectives of the study are as follows:

  1. To examine the factors underlying the transformational leadership styles of school principals in Islamic private secondary schools in Southern Thailand.
  2. To examine the factors underlying the strategic leadership styles of school principals in Islamic private secondary schools in Southern Thailand.
  3. To examine the factors underlying the teacher commitment of school teachers in Islamic private secondary schools in Southern Thailand.
  4. To examine the effect of transformational leadership style of school principals in Islamic private secondary schools in Southern Thailand.
  5. To examine the effect of strategic leadership style of school principals in Islamic private secondary schools in Southern Thailand.
  6. To examine the effect of transformational leadership of school principals on teacher commitment through strategic leadership style in Islamic private secondary schools in Southern Thailand.
  7. To examine the effect of strategic leadership style of school principals on teacher commitment through transformational leadership style in Islamic private secondary schools in Southern Thailand.

RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

As stated earlier, the objectives of the study are to examine the factors underlying the transformational leadership and strategic leadership styles on teacher-commitment and to examine which leadership style which is dominant among the Islamic private secondary school principals. Thus, the hypotheses of the study are as follows:

H1: Transformational leadership styles of school principals are represented by visionary, individual orientation, structural leadership, empowering leadership, and role modelling.

H2: Strategic leadership styles of school principals are represented by restlessness, absorption, adaptiveness/adaptability, wisdom, strategic competence, strategic orientation, strategic translation, and strategic alignment.

H3: Teacher commitment factors are represented by identification, involvement, and loyalty.

H4: The transformational leadership style of school principals directly and significantly affects teacher commitment.

H5: The strategic leadership style of school principals directly and significantly affects teacher commitment.

H6: The transformational leadership style of school principals positively and significantly affects teacher commitment through strategic leadership style.

H7: The strategic leadership style of school principals positively and significantly affects teacher commitment through transformational leadership style.

RESEARCH DESIGN

This research adopted a quantitative approach as described by Creswell (2003), by emphasizing the utilization of quantitative surveys to determine if the effects existed between the variables, strategic leadership and transformational leadership styles, and teacher commitment as perceived by Islamic private secondary school teachers in three provinces in Southern Thailand. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) is used to determine to what extent the model of hypothesized effects is supported, and how well a hypothesized conceptual model fits the associated data.

The Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) is preferred because many previous studies supported the employment of SEM in this kind of research (see e.g. Clegg et al. 1997, Neilson 1997). SEM is also selected because of its ability to define and test a comprehensive "System Contingency Approach" (Hiltz, 1994) type of theoretical models. For instance Chin (1998, vii) has mentioned that, "when applied correctly, SEM-based procedures have substantial advantages over first-generation techniques such as principal component analysis, factors analysis, discriminant analysis, or multiple regression because of the greater flexibility that researcher has for the interplay between theory and data". Compared to these "first generation" techniques often used in these types of analysis, some of the advantages of the SEM include the ability to: (1) estimate the direct, indirect, and total effects of variables; (2) define and investigate relationships among latent constructs; (3) estimate the variance accounted for in each latent construct by other variables in the model; and (4) estimate error terms associated with each observed and latent variable (Heck and Wolcott 1997; Li, Harmer Duncan, Acock and Boles 1998).

Research methods of the study consist of two steps; firstly, a hypothesized model will be developed by reviewing related literatures. The model will be assessed by educational experts. Secondly, the developed learning process reform model will be validated using the SEM to analyze the data collected from the Islamic private secondary school teachers in three provinces in Southern Thailand (Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani,)

In addition, at the end of the questionnaire there is an open space, where respondents have the opportunity to write about their experiences on commitment or comment on the questionnaire or the study in general. The Thai language questionnaire is filled out anonymously and it took about 20 minutes to complete.

Validity and Reliability

Content validity

The validity of the measurement-items will be assessed in order to determine if a measure adequately reflects the real meaning of the construct under consideration. Two types of validity checks were performed in the initial stages of scale development: (1) Content Validity and (2) Construct Validity (Hair et al., 2006).

Construct validity

Construct validity or factorial validity, describes the logic of items which comprise measures of social concepts; this refers to the extent to which the empirical definition of the construct corresponds to the conceptual definition of the construct (Hair et al., 2006). Two types of validity were used to assess Construct Validity: (i) Convergent Validity and (ii) Discriminant Validity.

Reliability

The Cronbach's Alpha value is used to assess the reliability parameters. It provides a summary of the intercorrelations that exist among the set of items. Any suspect measurement-items will be removed. For this research study, the expected Cronbach's Alpha value is above than 0.7 as suggested by Hair et al. (2006), implying a statistically acceptable internal consistency reliability.

Population and Sample

The population in this study is Islamic private secondary school teachers in three provinces in Southern Thailand who teach in the school that are generally based on the Western Educational model. A simple random sampling is used to select the participants. The expected margin of error (accuracy) should 4 % and confidence interval of 95% (Ferguson, 1981; Vockell & Asher, 1995). All survey instrument will mailed to and administered by the Principal and Manager for administration for the respective schools. All completed survey instruments will return to researcher using enclosed envelopes.

Data analysis method and Statistical technique

This study will employed Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) techniques to determine the extent to which the model of the hypothesized effects is supported. All the statistical procedures are performed using SPSS 11.5 and AMOS 16.0.

SEM evaluates how well a hypothesized conceptual model fits the associated data. Sometimes SEM is called a latent variable causal modeling because it is used to test causal models and theories, and because it involves the measurement of latent variables. The SEM is usually viewed as a confirmatory rather than as an exploratory procedure. It can also be seen as a family of statistical techniques which incorporates and integrates path analysis and factor analysis.

The model consists of two parts, the measurement model and the structural model.

The measurement model specifies how latent variables or hypothetical constructs depend upon or are indicated by the observed variables. It describes the measurement properties (reliabilities and validities) of the observed variables.

The structural model instead specifies the causal relationships among the latent variables. By "causal" what is meant is the assumption that, everything else being constant, a change in the variable at the tail of the arrow will result in a change in the variable at the head of the arrow (Loehlin,1987, p.4).

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

Result of this study are pictured to provide empirical data on factors of effective leadership styles among Islamic private secondary school principals in Southern Thailand that have not been fully studied. Therefore, this study will fill this research need.

Thus, the results of this study are expected to help in the understanding of teachers and principals which is in accordance with effective leadership styles. The findings are extremely important to understand or determine the effect or failure of factors affecting the implementation of principal leadership styles both in terms of on transformational leadership and strategic leadership styles as perceived by the teachers. Such information can help to improve the strategy in order to accomplish school success.

Finally, this study will aid teacher educators, administrators, professional development coordinators, and government officials to adequately prepare, train, and support principals so they may become effective Islamic principals in line with the current educational reform endeavour as intended by the Ministry of Education in Thailand. These considerations make this study worthwhile.

DEFINITION OF TERMS

Principal Leadership Behaviour

The behaviour on the part of principals that transforms change in their followers through visionary leadership, individual orientation, structural leadership, empowering leadership, and role modelling.

Strategic Leadership

It is defined as educational executives who adopt a new way of thinking and acting. More than ever before, strategic educational leadership depends upon a restlessness, absorption, adaption, wisdom, strategic competence, strategic orientation, strategic translation, strategic alignment, and strategic interaction

Teacher commitment

It is defined as the relative strength of teachers' identification with, involvement with, and loyalty in a school organization. In this study, teacher commitment is measured primarily by the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ) developed by Mowday and his colleagues (1979) and also by selected items from other scale developers (e.g., Allen & Meyer, 1990; Buchanan, 1974; Blau, 1985; & Cook & Wall, 1980).

Islamic Private School (IPS)

The schools, which are established by private individuals, offering both religion and secular subjects are fully subsidized or partly subsidized, or not subsidized at all. Those schools that are not subsidized enjoy a certain degree of freedom in educational operation and organizing educational activities (e.g. manpower, finance, and material resources). The present study deals with the first category of schools (fully subsidized) whose educational activities are under the government's supervision.

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