The school administrator is the linchpin for success in the educational environment. It is difficult to determine which leadership style or combination of styles is most effective in education. Leadership styles and leadership theories vary, intersect and overlap. The manifestation of a particular leadership style and its effectiveness is often determined by the leadership qualities of the leader, the type of organization, and/or the goal of the organization. Transactional leadership, transformational leadership, shared leadership, classical leadership and many others have been studied and defined to develop a better understanding of effective leadership. (See Reference 4.)
Administrative leadership is a leadership style that focuses on accountability, bureaucracy management, and enforcing rules, procedural regulations and administrative chores. (See Reference 1.) In this age of accountability, it is easy to understand how an administrator might rely heavily on this leadership style. School administrators are held accountable for the academic and behavioral climate of the school and the impact that those concepts have on the performance of the school as a whole.
Instructional leadership is manifested by a principal whose actions are directed at the ultimate goals of student growth, high expectations and academic excellence. This type of leadership is focused on curriculum development and alignment, monitoring and evaluating teachers and the allocation of resources for optimal instruction. (See Reference 2.) The success of this type of leadership is measured solely on the instructional growth and health of the school.
Shared leadership is an informal leadership style that is based on the embodiment of ownership, learning and sharing and is sometimes aligned in theory with "democratic" leadership. (See Reference 3.) The success of this type of leadership hinges on the ability of the leader to establish a cohesiveness among human resources personnel and to get them to accept being a part of the leadership ring. The underlying theory is that the collaborative leadership that uses all available human resources, engages shared perspectives and solutions, and is more comprehensive is therefore more effective.
In contrast to shared leadership, classical leadership is more formal and is hierarchical in design. There exists a distinct division between leaders and followers. (See Reference 3.) These leaders lead and expect others to follow. They are goal-oriented, concern themselves with high productivity and focus on engaging those in their charge to the organizational goal. (See Reference 4.)