Addressing Equity Through Transformational Leadership

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State investments and higher education policies play a critical role in creating equity in both access and completion. These levers are driven by leadership, and to make a real difference we must have the right leadership. Increasing success for students of color requires a specific leadership style. This leadership style must be transformational.

Transformational leadership means working with teams to identify needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration and executing change in tandem with other important stakeholders. These qualities are an integral part of the Full Range Leadership Model (FRLM).

The FRLM is a general leadership theory focusing on the behavior of leaders in different workforce situations. It relates transactional and transformational leadership styles with laissez-faire leadership styles. Unlike transformational leaders, those using the transactional approach are not looking to change the future, they look to keep things the same. Whereas, laissez-faire leadership, also known as delegative leadership, is a type of leadership style in which leaders are hands-off and allow group members to make the decisions.

Transformational leadership enhances the motivation, morale and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to a project and to the collective identity of the organization, being a role model for followers in order to inspire them and to raise their interest in the project, challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers and aligning followers with tasks that enhance their performance. It is also important to understand the qualities transformational leadership can bring to an organization. Transformational leaders are strong in their abilities to adapt to different situations, share a collective consciousness, self-manage and be inspirational while leading a group of followers.

  1. Transformational leaders decide to have a choice and power to affect change, starting with change within themselves (accountability).
  2. Transformational leaders focus on their own values which makes them more courageous, confident and resilient (strengths, purpose and values).
  3. Transformational leaders experiment with new behaviors and take action (action-oriented).
  4. Transformational leaders have an open mindset rather than a judgmental one (openness).
  5. Transformational leaders look for the opportunity in change (change agent).

With these practices in mind, leaders at every level must work with higher education providers to increase postsecondary attainment and tackle the heightened equity imperative. They have the opportunity and responsibility to craft policies that promote participation for ethnically diverse and underserved populations and provide appropriate supports for them. Helping more students of color attain credentials of value will afford greater economic stability and upward social mobility. Transformational leadership is critical to achieving equity in postsecondary attainment to positively change the trajectory for future generations. Moreover, economic growth will be spurred as the citizenry becomes more educated, benefiting states and the nation. As we continue to address equity as a critical lever in reaching attainment goals, we must reflect on whether our present leadership style helps or hinders this focus.




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