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Transactional?  Transformational?

Who are the leaders we need in education right now? We have an abundance of books and articles that have been written on leadership styles, many of which distinguish between transactional leadership and transformational leadership. Quite often, the distinction rests on leaders who work within—and, hopefully, improve—the status quo versus those who venture outside the box to work on the edge of emerging new ways of operating. 

These are tough times for educators, especially for those who are in positions of leadership. So many things have changed in the past year and a half, and many people are struggling to regain their footing, mentally, emotionally, and financially. In circumstances such as these, it is a perfectly natural human reaction to retreat to safe ground, to assess the terrain before venturing forward. In the animal kingdom, we observe this cautious behavior, for example, in deer or rabbits, who will often stop dead in their tracks, freezing all movement until the potential danger passes by.

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And so, it is for those of us who currently balk at the prospect of leaving the safety of the status quo. Yet, paradoxically, this may well be the perfect time to transform our practices, to refresh an educational system that, quite frankly, was not working well for many communities before the pandemic. Our friends the deer and rabbits also teach us that sometimes it is best to feel the fear and move anyway, because bold action could lead us to better ground where we might thrive. 

Yes, transformative change can be scary, and mistakes might be made along the way. This is where transformational leaders really shine. They are resilient, they learn, they adapt, and they persevere. Under their guidance, education is a living system that grows and is resilient enough to thrive even in the worst of times. Perhaps I speak only for myself, but these are qualities that I want my son—and indeed all children—to learn and live by. 

Author: Dr. Mary Ann Burke, Coaches Evolve

Articles by: Mary Ann Burke

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