What is Educational Leadership? - Concepts & Theories

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  • 0:04 Educational Leadership
  • 0:53 Major Concepts and Theories
  • 1:34 Leadership Characteristics
  • 2:25 Leadership Theories
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

Are you a current or future educational leader? This lesson defines educational leadership and describes the major concepts and theories of educational leadership through the lens of student learning.

Educational Leadership

An educational leader serves as a guide and influences other educators in an administrative setting. In some cases, it may be a team of educational leaders. Leaders in these executive roles work toward finding ways to improve learning and to improve the process of educating students. They serve in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions as well as early childhood education centers. School site leaders, directors, principals, and assistant administrators are employed to work either as the sole educational leader or in small teams. Typical positions for educational leaders in administrative settings are:

  • Principal
  • Superintendent
  • Academic dean
  • Director
  • Head of school
  • Department chair
  • Provost, or
  • President

Major Concepts and Theories

Educational leadership theories borrow from business management principles. In the United States and other developed nations, leadership models from the business world were adapted to fit the educational setting. Since schools and their communities are diverse and change over time, theories regarding the role and function of educational leaders have likewise been reformed and remodeled.

Researchers continue to investigate leadership in different educational settings. One style of leadership isn't better than another. Each is more or less effective based on the context of the setting in which a leader works. Environmental factors such as size, school culture, staff, and personalities dictate the most suitable leadership style.

Leadership Characteristics

Most theories of educational leadership refer to the type of leader or style of leader based on essential elements such as capabilities, practices, and approaches. Theory components are classified into three categories: characteristics, concepts, and practices of educational leaders. These three components help in understanding leadership types as a theory.

  • Characteristics of educational leadership, which include behaviors, styles, and leadership traits

  • Concepts of educational leadership, which include management vs. leadership, power, coercion, and conceptual frameworks; and

  • Activities or practices of educational leaders, which include approaches or ways of leading

Through an understanding of these components, you can begin to understand yourself as an educational leader and understand the impact of leadership on student learning.

Leadership Theories

The authentic leader is self-aware, genuine, and leads with the heart. This type of leader puts the mission and goals of an educational institution above self-interests. Mrs. Ann, a principal, focuses on long-term results for the good of students and their learning. She isn't afraid to show emotions or vulnerability to connect with teachers, students, and parents. This makes her fit the profile of an authentic leader.

A transformational leader changes individuals and social systems. Positive change develops followers into leaders. Mr. Terry, a school director, improved morale, motivation, and performance by getting to know teachers well. He connected the mission and identity of the organization to each person's sense of identity. Teachers say he is a role model and inspires teachers, students, and other stakeholders in the school. Inspired teachers and motivated students have a positive impact on student learning and the norms of the school. These effects will likely outlive the tenure of this transformational leader as the changes he has made will continue on after he leaves.

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