Leadership and Its Role in Teacher Turnover

Subject: Education
Pages: 7
Words: 1938
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: PhD


Teacher turnover as the rate at which teachers leave their educational institutions is a problem characteristic for many countries over the world, and this problem is also typical for the United States because researchers indicate the increase in the teacher turnover rates during the recent two decades (Chepkemboi, Kiriago, & Iravo, 2013, p. 207; Mampane, 2012, p. 74). High rates of teacher turnover are directly associated with new entrants to the profession, and this fact significantly influences the quality of the education in the U.S. schools (Jackson, 2012, p. 877; Schutz & Lee, 2014, p. 169). Researchers’ findings in the field demonstrate that there are many factors associated with the teachers’ intentions to leave schools. The main factors include the lack of job satisfaction, inappropriate work conditions, the emotional exhaustion, and the ineffective leadership associated with the organization and management at schools (Mampane, 2012, p. 74; Sadasa, 2013, p. 1637).

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Traditionally, researchers linked the teacher turnover mainly with the aspects of the profession and interactions with students (Mampane, 2012). However, recent researches on the topic are focused on the aspect of leadership as one of the key factors to influence teachers’ decisions regarding leaving a school or a profession (Branch, Hanushek, & Rivkin, 2013; Hui, Jenatabadi, Noor, & Radzi, 2013). According to the series of recent studies, leaders at school can cause or prevent the teacher turnover while focusing on motivating teachers or creating the conditions and atmospheres that are inappropriate for the effective work of the teaching staff (Hui et al., 2013). The presence or absence of strong motivation in teachers as a result of the principals’ impact can also influence their vision of their profession (Jackson, 2012).

Statement of the Problem

In spite of the fact that teacher turnover is often discussed in association with the role of leadership in educational institutions the research on this topic is rather general and non-complete. The reason is that researchers are inclined to discuss the role of leadership in its connection with the other important factors and without focusing on leadership as the separate influential factor (Chepkemboi et al., 2013). Nevertheless, the communication between principals and teachers is the important factor to influence their job satisfaction and professional performance (Jackson, 2012).

The problem is also in the fact that the primary perspective from which researchers discuss the problem of teacher turnover is organizational, with the focus on the role of a leader in organizing the work of the teaching staff because the absence of the effective leadership leads to problems in the school management and then to teacher turnover (Mampane, 2012). As a result, the role of interaction between leaders and teachers is mentioned in studies, but the actual importance of leadership to influence teacher turnover is not discussed.

In this case, teacher turnover should be discussed from the point of the teachers’ individual perception of their principals’ leadership styles (Kabungaidze, Mahlatshana, & Ngirande, 2013; Sadasa, 2013). Therefore, the additional research on the relationship between leadership styles at school and teacher turnover is necessary because concentrating on the direct relationship between leaders’ effectiveness and teachers’ intention to leave the position or profession, it is possible to address the problem of teacher turnover while improving the approach to leadership.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this qualitative study is to identify aspects of leadership and leadership styles that influence the teachers’ intention to leave their position at schools or profession and lead to teacher turnover. The study aims to discuss the role of different leadership styles and associated leaders’ effectiveness for the teachers’ perception of their position and profession. Focusing on such a type of the qualitative research as the interview, it is important to identify what aspects of leadership and leadership styles are discussed as influential to make teachers leave their positions at school and profession. The factors can be identified with references to the answers of the teachers who changed the place of their job and the answers of persons who left teaching.

Research Questions

The following questions influenced the development of the research and the study of visions of those teachers who left their positions at schools or left the profession.

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  • What aspects of leadership can influence the teachers’ intention to leave their position at a school or profession?
  • What leadership styles provoke the teachers’ discussion of possibilities to leave their position at a school or profession?
  • What leaders could have done to improve the leadership and avoid teacher turnover?

Definition of Key Terms

Leadership style. In this study, leadership style is a specific combination of techniques, approaches, methods, means, and strategies used by a principal in order to manage the work of the teaching staff that is influenced by a principal’s attributes and attitudes (Hui et al., 2013, p. 176).

Teacher Turnover. In this study, teacher turnover is a collective term used to describe the process of leaving a school and the process of migration of teachers at schools (Kabungaidze et al., 2013, p. 53).

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical background of the research is associated with the aspects of the leadership theory. This theory belongs to a range of psychological theories that are used to discuss the relationship between leadership styles and employees’ reactions. Previously, the problem of teacher turnover was discussed from the perspective of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, according to which teacher turnover was discussed as associated with the problem of satisfaction of the staff’s needs (Mampane, 2012, p. 74).

Recent researches indicate the importance of the leadership theory in discussing the issue of teacher turnover because the main portion of this theory is the discussion of leadership styles, with the focus on transformational and transactional leadership. As a result, the leadership theory provides the lens to understand the nature of relations between principals and teachers within the school environment (Hui et al., 2013, p. 177).

Brief Review of the Literature

Recent researches in the field of education are focused on the discussion of the role of principals’ leadership styles and on the aspects of teachers’ job satisfaction as well as on the problem of teacher turnover.

Leadership Style

According to Hui and the group of researchers, the leadership style of a principal influences the job satisfaction (Hui et al., 2013, p. 177). However, the authors do not state how it is possible to influence the relationship in order to influence the phenomenon of teacher turnover. The research by Cheng adds to the discussion of the issue because the author has focused on the positive role of emotion-based leadership to increase teachers’ motivation and avoid the turnover (Cheng, 2013). In their research, Branch, Hanushek, and Rivkin also provide the general discussion of the role of leadership style for principals, and they state that it can be an influential factor to affect changes in the schools’ staff (Branch et al., 2013).

Teacher Turnover

Following Jackson’s findings, the employment stability of teachers is associated in a way with the approaches used by principals to manage schools (Jackson, 2012). The researchers are inclined to discuss the organizational problem and the aspects of administration as the causes of teacher turnover (Chepkemboi et al., 2013; Jackson, 2012; Kabungaidze et al., 2013). Mampane also indicates that the organizational culture is even more influential factor to affect the job satisfaction and then, the desire to leave the position at a school (Mampane, 2012). In contrast to the focus on organization and administration as affecting turnover, Sadasa focuses on the individual position of a leader in influencing turnover at schools (Sadasa, 2013, p. 1637).

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Although the recent researches include the general discussion of the relationship between the leadership style and teachers’ decisions to leave their positions at schools, there is a gap in the research on what leadership styles can be used to prevent teacher turnover and what leadership styles are discussed as leading turnover.

Research Method

The study aims to utilize the qualitative method of research because of the necessity to focus on the teachers’ visions of the relationship between leadership styles and turnover expressed in texts. Qualitative studies are characterized by providing tools to explore and understand meanings related to certain phenomena (Creswell, 2009).

Thus, the advantages of the qualitative research are in possibilities to use the narratives reflecting the persons’ visions in order to research a certain phenomenon in detail. From this point, the qualitative research approach is important for determining the teachers’ opinions regarding their principals’ leadership effectiveness and their ability to cause or prevent the teacher turnover.

The qualitative research is chosen for the study because it allows the understanding of the teachers’ visions of the negative and positive effects of leadership styles on turnover; provides the teachers with the opportunity to describe their specific experiences; and provides the researcher with an opportunity to compare teachers’ visions to answer the research questions (Turner, 2010). The qualitative data will be collected with the help of face-to-face interviews based on a developed questionnaire. The interview was selected as the data collection method because of the necessity to focus on the actual teachers’ visions and attitudes toward the role of leadership in teacher turnover. The questionnaire is based on the list of questions used in the previous researches on the problem of teacher turnover and the problem of leadership at schools because of the necessity to address the principle of credibility and refer to the experts’ opinions on the topic.


The qualitative data will be collected from the interviews with 15 participants. The potential participants of the study will be selected using the convenience sampling method from the teachers working in the state. The main inclusive criteria are the situation of leaving the position at a school by the teacher or the situation of leaving the profession.

The questionnaire to conduct the interview will be designed depending on the existing questionnaires on the topic, and it will include 10 open-ended questions. The questions in the questionnaire will ask about the information on the leadership styles of the teachers’ former leaders at school, on the teachers’ visions of the relationship between their decision to leave and the principals’ leadership styles, and on the areas for the improvement of the principals’ leadership approach.

The collected data will be analyzed with the help of coding and identification of specific thematic patterns in the participants’ answers to the interview questions because of the reliability of this data analysis method used in qualitative researches (Turner, 2010). The identified themes representing the teachers’ vision of the relationship will be used to conclude about the correlation between leadership and teacher turnover.

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The purpose of this research is to state what aspects of leadership and leadership styles can influence the teachers’ intention to leave their position at a school or profession and to research how these aspects can be related to teacher turnover. The research questions are aligned with the purpose of the research. The necessity of the research is supported with the identification of the gap in the current research on the topic presented in the literature review. The theoretical framework for the study is identified. A qualitative research is selected for the study because it is effective to examine teachers’ visions regarding the correlation between the former principals’ leadership styles and their desires to leave the position of teacher. The qualitative research is planned to be conducted with the focus on interviewing teachers leaving their position at schools or profession. The qualitative data is planned to be analyzed with the focus on coding the teachers’ responses and identifying the themes regarding their visions of their desire to leave, the general problem of teacher turnover, and principals’ leadership style.


Branch, G., Hanushek, E., & Rivkin, S. (2013). School leaders matter. Education Next, 13(1), 24-35.

Cheng, J. (2013). The effect of kindergarten principals’ leadership behaviors on teacher work performance. Social Behavior and Personality, 41(2), 251-262.

Chepkemboi, J., Kiriago, A., & Iravo, A. (2013). Factors influencing teacher’s employees, turnover in West Pokot District, Kenya. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 3(9), 206-213.

Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Hui, H., Jenatabadi, H., Noor, A., & Radzi, C. (2013). Principal’s leadership style and teacher job satisfaction: A case study in China. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 5(4), 175-184.

Jackson, K. (2012). Influence matters: The link between principal and teacher influence over school policy and teacher turnover. Journal of School Leadership, 22(1), 875-901.

Kabungaidze, T., Mahlatshana, N., & Ngirande, H. (2013). The impact of job satisfaction and some demographic variables on employee turnover intentions. International Journal of Business Administration, 4(1), 53-62.

Mampane, P. (2012). The teacher turnover crisis: Evidence from South Africa. Business Education & Accreditation, 4(2), 73-83.

Sadasa, K. (2013). The influence of organizational culture, leadership behavior, and job satisfaction towards teacher job performance. Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing, 4(9), 1637-1642.

Schutz, P., & Lee, M. (2014). Teacher emotion, emotional labor and teacher identity. Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication, 27(1), 169-186.

Turner, D. (2010). Qualitative interview design: A practical guide for novice investigators. The Qualitative Report, 15(3), 754-760.