Leadership in Academic Libraries: Exploratory Research on the Use of Transformational and Transactional Leadership Styles
This project was supported in part by the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation & Excellence at Stetson University.
Thursday 26 March 2015, Portland Ballroom 253, Oregon Convention Center, 8:00 am – 9:00 am
This study was exploratory in nature and examined a small sample of academic librarians’ perceptions of the use of transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership by their director/dean/university librarian. More leadership theories and paradigms exist other than transformational leadership, but research has shown transformational leadership is highly correlated with successful change.
- Change is difficult and complex, and most attempts at organizational change are unsuccessful. Change brings uncertainty and threatens the perceived order of the world.
- All organizational change consists the “context” of the organization: the external and internal environments of the organization.
- Organizations have more control over their internal environment than their external environment, but not complete control.
- Change can be fundamental – as a means of adjusting to changes in the external environment- or incremental – a series of changes designed to meet an organizational vision.
- Resistance to change can be
- Aggressive – outright hostility
- Passive – not doing what needs to be done
- Passive-aggressive – continually asking for more data; wondering if this change will be necessary three years from now
- Resistance happens because
- No stake in the process
- Unsure how they will fit in the new organization
- Fear of the unknown change brings
- Too much change too fast
- Individual personalities and attitudes of those within the organization greatly affect change.
- “Normative commitment” comes from the duty and “obligation” an employee feels toward the organization.
- “Affective commitment” comes from the emotional attachment an employee feels towards the organization, often due to alignment of personal and organizational goals and values.
- Affective commitment has been shown to be more strongly associated with positive attitudes toward change.
Transformational & Transactional Leadership
- James MacGregor Burns first defined the terms transactional and transformational leadership.
- Bruce Avolio and Bernard Bass expanded on his ideas to create the full range of leadership spectrum
- Laissez-faire – the complete absence of leadership.
- Transactional – a series of “exchanges” between leader and follower; set organizational goals and standards and rewards those who meet goals and standards.
- Transformational – nothing in an organization is “too good, too fixed, too political, or too bureaucratic that it cannot be challenged, changed, retired, or abandoned.”
- Transactional leaders have greater quantitative performance while transformational leaders have greater qualitative performance.
- Transformational leaders use the “Four I’s”:
- Idealized influence – modeling organizational values and building trust
- Inspirational motivation – sharing a vision of a better future
- Intellectual stimulation – encouraging new ways to solve problems and questioning cultural assumptions
- Individual consideration – helping followers reach their goals and potential and empower them to work autonomously
Methodology & Results
- The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) was distributed to several ALA listservs over two separate one month periods.
- The MLQ uses a 0-4 scale.
- Transformational Leadership is comprised of
- idealized influence (with sub-components of idealized attributes and idealized behavior)
- inspirational motivation
- intellectual stimulation
- individualized consideration
- Transactional leadership is comprised of
- contingent reward
- management-by-exception, active
- Laissez-faire leadership is comprised of
- management-by-exception, passive
- laissez-faire traits
- The MLQ also measures the leadership outcomes of
- extra effort – inspiring others to achieve more than they thought possible
- effectiveness – both how effective the leader is and the effectiveness of the organization
- satisfaction – in the leader and leadership styles
- A total of 465 academic librarians at 4 year institutions and non-dean/director/university librarian
- Overall, the results were middling to low.
|Means of Laissez-faire, Transactional, and Transformational Leadership|
|Leadership Type||Mean (on a 0-4 scale)||N|
|Means of Individual Components of Leadership Styles|
|Leadership Component||Mean (on a 0-4 scale)||N|
|Means of Leadership Outcomes|
|Leadership Outcome||Mean (on a 0-4 scale)||N|
- This study is very limited due to the number of respondents and the self-selection of participants, and the results cannot be projected to all academic library leaders as a whole.
- When asked to describe their external environments, most leaders use terms like “chaotic, uncertain, constantly changing, disruptive, and complex.”
- This has created a “new normal” for organizations where change is a constant, rather than the “old normal” where change had obvious starting and stopping points.
- The ACRL Top Trends in Academic Libraries reflects the changes in higher education and academic libraries. The changes include
- Use of the library’s physical space
- Services offered students and faculty
- Access to and delivery of information
- The academic library’s mission and purpose is also in flux. Libraries now must contribute to student success and be at the forefront of open access and digitization.
- The 2013 ACRL Environmental Scan found great changes in what academic librarians are expected to know and do, how academic libraries are used, and what academic libraries should be to students and faculty. These changes are driven by technology, new developments in higher education, and shifting student demographics.
- The profession is in need of transformational leaders to help facilitate these massive changes within the profession.
- The respondents rated their leaders as more transformational than transactional, but the means for both transformational (2.05) and transactional (1.65) leadership styles are not high. The 0 to 4 scale the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire uses makes a mean of 2.05 only so-so, while the mean for laissez-faire, a complete absence of leadership (1.52) is rather high.
- The highest mean was for effectiveness (2.12), and both means for extra effort (1.77) and satisfaction (1.98) were below two.
- The low means for leadership outcomes, especially extra effort, are another hindrance to change.
- Extra effort does not mean doing the work of 2 or 3 people, but going beyond what you thought you were capable of doing.
- The means for the individual components of transformational leadership were also middling.
- Idealized Influence – shown to reduce pessimism towards change and gain the trust of those in the organization. The components of idealized attributes and idealized behavior are slightly more than 2.
- Inspirational Motivation – shown to reduce “cognitive forms of resistance to change.” The highest transformational component with a mean of 2.4.
- Intellectual Stimulation – the lowest transformational component with a mean of 1.78. Intellectual stimulation in the form of follower development means those in the organization have skills and confidence to succeed the new environment, limiting one of the fears of change. Intellectual stimulation challenges employees to find innovative solutions to problems, creates a learning organization, and fosters an environment primed for the constant change of the “new normal.”
- Individual Consideration – the second lowest mean of the transformational components (1.84). Individualized consideration may be the biggest help in influencing the attitudes about change of those in the organization. Through the personal relationships they create, transformational leaders reduce stress in an organization. Research has shown individual consideration by transformational leaders helps followers to understand the need for change, improve affective commitment (which positively affects attitudes toward change), and increase the attraction for change amongst followers.
Evidence suggests leaders can learn to be transformational. One way a leader can become transformational is through the mentoring by an experienced transformational leader. Transformational leadership can also be learned through leadership classes and continuing education. The “Four I’s” of transformational leadership can be developed by learning “critical evaluation and problem detection, envisioning, communication skill for conveying a mission, impression management, and how and when to empower followers.” Leaders with high emotional intelligence are more likely to be transformational and can more easily learn the “Four I’s.” More research and analysis needs to be done on transformational leadership in academic libraries, especially as it relates to transformational followers, but academic libraries and the profession of academic librarianship need to critically assess its leadership look to develop transformational leaders to being about needed change within the organization.
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