Transformational leadership in higher education lecturing

Electronic versions


  • Lauren Mawn


This thesis applied transformational leadership to the context of higher education, with a focus on lecturing behaviours and student outcomes such as psychological need satisfaction, internalisation, effort, engagement, efficacy, satisfaction and performance. Chapter 1 reviewed the literature on transformational leadership and education and centered on the conceptualisation and measurement of transformational leadership, the theoretical approaches to transformational leadership (i.e., global versus differentiated approaches to leadership behaviours), and the contextual nature of leadership, with specific reference to higher education. Taken together, the literature reveals that little is known about what constitutes transformational leadership in higher education lecturing and how to measure transformational leadership in this context. Moreover, it remains unclear whether developing lecturers’ transformational leadership can positively impact on lecturing and student outcomes. Chapter 2 detailed a two-phase examination of student and lecturer perceptions of lecturing behaviours in higher education. In Phase 1, a purposive sample of 29 students participated in focus groups examining their perceptions of transformational higher education lecturing. In Phase 2, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 6 lecturers nominated by students in Phase 1 as being ‘transformational’. Results indicated that six behaviours from the differentiated model of transformational leadership (Hardy et al., 2010) can be employed to conceptualise lecturing behaviours (i.e., inspirational motivation, individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, high performance expectations, appropriate role modelling, and contingent reward). The behaviour of fostering acceptance of group goals did not emerge as a contextually relevant transformational behaviour. Furthermore, ‘sense of humour’ and ‘self-belief’ emerged as contextually relevant behaviours that have not been previously conceptualised as transformational leadership behaviours in the literature. Chapter 3 described three studies detailing the development and validation of a differentiated transformational leadership inventory for higher education (DTLI-E). Developing questionnaire items from the qualitative results in Chapter 2, Study 1 (n=349) used confirmatory factor analysis to assess the structure of the inventory, resulting in a 30-item, eight factor model. In Study 2, with a different sample, (n=241) the factor structure of the inventory was re-confirmed. Finally, Study 3 employed a longitudinal design with the participants from Study 1 and examined the concurrent and predictive validity of the inventory. Results revealed that the eight factors were correlated with established measures of learning climate and transformational teaching. In addition, the leadership behaviours predicted psychological need satisfaction, behavioural regulation, student engagement, leader inspired extra effort, academic efficacy, student satisfaction, and academic performance. In Chapter 4, an experimental design was employed to examine the effectiveness of a transformational leadership intervention. A total of 5 lecturers and 127 students participated in this study. A mixed method approach combining qualitative and quantitative methods was employed to evaluate the intervention. After controlling for baseline variables, students of lecturers in the intervention group rated their lecturers as displaying significantly higher levels of transformational leadership that the control group. In addition, students of lecturers in the intervention group reported significantly greater levels of psychological need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, academic engagement, academic efficacy and student satisfaction than the control group. Chapter 5 discusses the findings emanating from this thesis, the strengths and limitations of the thesis and provides suggestions for future research.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date26 May 2013