The Role of Leadership in Teacher Turnover

Subject: Education
Pages: 7
Words: 3961
Reading time:
15 min
Study level: PhD

Using a minimum of five peer-reviewed articles from you specialization education leadership, compared and contrast at least three theories applicable to your specialization. Using one of the theories discussed above, select five additional peer-reviewed sources ad explain how theory adds or may add to our understanding of your specialization. Include a discussion of controversy or unanswered questions related to the theory.


People’s intentions to remain employed in a given school are critical to ensuring a stable education system. Turnover refers to the process of renouncing a given job. The decision to quit or renounce a given job may be voluntary or involuntary. According to Ghamrawi and Jamma (2013), voluntary turnover is detrimental to any organization. In the education sector, it causes schools to lose the most talented and skilled teachers. Involuntary turnover serves functional purposes. It ensures that schools get rid of underperforming teachers (Ghamrawi & Jamma, 2013). Research documents evidence on the applicability of leadership in influencing followers’ turnover intentions. Practical examples and research can aid in setting additional insights on the conditions under which leadership can mitigate or induce people’s decision to leave schools that have employed them. In this paper, it is hypothesized that leadership styles and characteristics influence how teachers (followers) arrive at decisions to work without considering leaving educational institutions with the aim of achieving common organizational goals and objectives as set out by their leaders.

In only 3 hours we’ll deliver a custom The Role of Leadership in Teacher Turnover essay written 100% from scratch Get help

This paper reviews the literature on the role of leadership in reducing teachers’ turnover. While educational theories document many leadership theories that are applicable in both primary and secondary schools, it only uses peer-reviewed scholarly articles to investigate the contribution of transformational, transactional, and contingency leadership theories in reducing teacher turnover. In the discussion section, the appropriate criticism of the three educational theories is offered to make recommendations on the most effective leadership theory for reducing teacher turnover to facilitate high teacher retention in schools.

Literature Review

Research on government employee turnover emphasizes the utilization of public management theoretical paradigms. For instance, Lee and Hong (2011) study the impacts of various family-friendly policies that address turnover reduction among federal agencies. They find that incorporating child-care subsidies plays a significant role in its reduction. Effective turnover management proves particularly important in the education sector, especially for primary and secondary schools akin to their labor intensiveness, which leads to burnout (Ghamrawi & Jamma, 2013). The prevailing turnover impairs the functioning of a school in comparison with the retirement of teachers or enrollment of students. Ryu and Lee (2013) report that in the US, among the 3,380,300 teachers who worked in public schools in 2007 and 2008, 84.5%were retained in their schools, 7.6% shifted to other schools, while 8% left the teaching profession. How can this high prevalence of teacher turnover reduce? An appropriate leadership style can help in resolving organizational problems such as worker turnover.

Leadership involves influencing other people to facilitate the achievement of a given goal. Leaders plan, control, direct, and guide other people towards the attainment of common mutual objectives and goals. Leadership occurs through the interaction of three main contexts, namely leaders, followers, and situations that prompt the deployment of leadership skills (Ryu & Lee, 2013). In the education industry settings, and consistently with the objective of this research, leaders may include district education chiefs, principals, and headteachers. The followers include teachers while the leadership situation is the teacher turnover. Leadership on its own is another controversial issue, which has attracted much interest as evidenced by theories that have been put forward to explain and guide how leadership should be undertaken. Depending on the followed theory, leadership styles and outcomes may differ significantly. In the following sections, three important leadership theories are analyzed deeply with a clear goal of understanding their respective tenets, which will then be compared and contrasted to shed light on how each of the theories relates to the others and consequently paving a way for the selection of one theory for further analysis and application in an educational environment.

Contingency Theory

Leadership is a complex discipline. Hence, it is difficult to grasp in its entirety as the contingency theory upholds. This theory reveals that no best approach to leadership can consistently achieve the best outcomes at all times in terms of decision-making or leading an organization. Instead, the theory views leadership from a situational approach whereby several variables are always in play in informing leadership approaches. In this case, leadership is highly dependent on both internal and external situations of an organization. According to Cruz, Nunes, and Pinheiro (2011), the task, employee-employee or employee-employer relations, and motivation in an organization are highly dependent or contingent on whether the leader can control or predict with accuracy a group’s outcomes. This situation is referred to as situational favorability. The situational favorability depends on three aspects of assessments, which include:

  1. The leader perception of cooperative relations with followers (leader-follower relations)
  2. The task structure in terms of standardization of procedures and measures for adequate performance (task structure)
  3. The leader’s authority on whether it is based on punishment or reward (position power).

From the above assessment criteria, it is evident that leadership in the contingency approaches is highly dependent on the three key factors of situational favorability. Consequently, a leader needs to consider these factors to have good leadership in place. For example, in leader-follower relations, the leader needs to put in place an open-door policy and feedback approaches, which will ensure that teachers’ concerns and contributions in the school setup are heard and acted upon accordingly. Good working relations are important in ensuring that leaders and teachers have shared goals and aspirations for the instructors and the institution. In addition to good leader-follower relations, it is important to have good task structures, which have no ambiguities, which can affect the understanding of the expected outcomes. Teachers want to feel that they know what is expected of them and/or what the performance indicators to achieve are. Hence, they will focus more on their teaching activities to ensure that they feel accountable for the actions as guided by the performance indicators. Lastly, the position of power is very important. A leader must establish the position of power based on reward where teachers will feel appreciated for their efforts towards better teaching outcomes in the institutions. When teachers’ concerns are addressed and that teachers are given a more significant role to feel as key stakeholders in the institution, they are likely to have increased job satisfaction and motivation, which will consequently lead to high teacher retention.

Ryu and Lee (2013) suggest that contingency leadership theory can help in the effective management of turnover in both primary and secondary schools. Cruz, Nunes, and Pinheiro (2011) assert that the contingency theory proposes that the performance and efficiency of work teams are a function of leadership styles that are deployed while interacting with followers. They also determine the extent of control and influence of leaders in leadership situations. This situation implies that the functioning of schools may be enhanced when situations such as turnover are controlled through the influence of leaders. Therefore, consistent with contingency theory, leadership plays a key role in turnover management through leadership orientation in building relationships and enhancing performance. Ryu and Lee (2013) support these roles by claiming that the contingency leadership approach can help in inducing the desired organizational outcomes such as decreasing turnover and/or maximizing performance. Ghamrawi and Jamma (2013) add that a reduction of teacher turnover depends on how the principal, as the leader, handles teachers’ issues based on various situations and personal traits.

Academic experts
We will write a custom Education essay specifically for you for only $16.00 $11/page Learn more

Although contingency theory as proposed by Ryu and Lee (2013) and Cruz et al. (2011) may find applications in educational settings, it has some weaknesses. For effective use of contingency or situational theory in reducing turnover, schools that suffer from high prevalence levels of the problem need to recruit leaders who are well experienced in dealing with turnover. However, situations that lead to turnover vary. Therefore, developing an appropriate leadership style to match a particular situation that leads to high turnover is a key step in addressing the issue of teacher turnover. This strategy only reduces turnover management as a reactive approach, as opposed to a proactive approach to school leadership. Contingency theory does not explain how leaders can use the leadership theory to prevent the occurrence of situations that correlate negatively with organizational performance or efficiency of work teams.

Transformational Theory

The transformational theory of leadership is based on the concept of the leader being an inspiration to the followers and working together on shared vision and goals towards the achievement of organizational goals. A transformational leader is at the forefront in identifying the required changes in an organization, creating a vision that is shared by the members to guide the change through inspiration, and lastly, working together with committed members who believe in the change process. A transformational leader inspires the members in four important ways, which include intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, idealized influence, and individualized consideration. In terms of intellectual stimulation, the leader encourages and supports followers to be innovative and creative. In addition, through inspirational motivation, the leader is consistent in supporting and pushing for a shared vision and mission of the organization. In the idealized influence, the leader sets an example by following the philosophies that he or she believes, hence ensuring that the followers can believe in them as well. Lastly, through individualized consideration, the leader is in touch with each follower’s needs. Hence, he or she acts as a mentor towards performance, self-esteem, and increased job satisfaction.

Transformational leadership encourages trust and the confidence in the leader confidence in a leader. Basri, Rusdi, and Sulaeman (2014) observe that the leadership theory aims at changing internal work values and structures to build faith to elicit increased work proficiencies. To this extent, it may find application in teacher turnover management by addressing the possible causes of the situation. Ghamrawi and Jamma (2013) observe a high prevalence of labor turnover in educational institutions due to burnout. Deployment of transformational leadership theory to change the internal structures of an education system may foster the fair distribution of tasks. The move may reduce issues such as work strain and stress, which lead to burnout.

Educational leaders demonstrate transformational leadership through the possession of the capacity to set visions and inspirations that are necessary for the followers. Leaders who demonstrate transformational leadership skills assess situations of their educational institutions to facilitate the formulation of strategies for increasing growth and/or overcoming operational challenges (Sakiru & D’silva, 2013). The skills also enable leaders to ensure adequate and effective communication of success strategies and visions to all teachers. Communication is critical in building good relationships with educational institutions. Indeed, resolving operational challenges such as high teacher turnover requires good vertical and horizontal communication (Basri et al., 2014). This plan enables teachers to address their conflicts, which lead to their voluntary turnover.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is based on the assumption that people are motivated by incentives and chastisement. In this leadership approach, a leader establishes clear job structures, which identify the required followers’ expectations and the expected rewards for meeting the job/task requirements. While punishment is often not mentioned in this leadership approach, it is well understood that formal systems of punishment are usually in place. A good example or tenet of transactional leadership is the contract that is given at the beginning of work, which sets the precedence for the interaction between the leader and the follower. In this case, an employee is offered the agreed amount of rewards in terms of salary and other benefits in exchange for job performance and the achievement of specific deliverables during the period of the contract.

Transactional leadership calls for the deployment of incentives to induce higher performance. It aims at exchanging relationships among leaders and their followers. It depends on the employee cognitions and profiles of a given motivational model (Veysel, 2014). Teachers are aware of the circumstances that lead to making turnover decisions. Consequently, they are also cognizant of their desired changes in an institution to ensure their continued motivation in executing their tasks. Transactional leaders possess the capability to identify the circumstances and develop the appropriate motivational models that can ensure that teachers reverse their turnover intentions.

Transactional leaders approach followers intending to make tradeoffs. An effective mechanism for dealing with teacher turnover entails the identification of its causes and developing the appropriate institutional willingness to resolve problems that lead to high prevalence levels. From the context of causes of teacher turnover, this situation requires the making of certain tradeoffs. Chawla and Sondhi (2011) investigate organizational and personal factors that lead to teacher turnover. They identify the fairness of reward systems and organizational commitment as reliable predictors of turnover intentions. Among female teachers, work-family conflicts emerge as important predictors of their turnover. This research suggests the necessity of making tradeoffs such as reducing working hours or providing flexible working hours to allow female teachers to attend to familial responsibilities at the expense of retaining them. However, it fails to address the problem of turnover. Ensuring fairness in reward systems requires the commitment of more financial resources to induce teacher motivation. Nevertheless, this case introduces a tradeoff between the allocation of more resources to keep talented and experienced teachers in the school at the expense of low allocation of national resources to other sectors of development. Arriving at the appropriate tradeoff decision requires the input of transactional leaders in the education sector (Veysel, 2014).

15% OFF Get your very first custom-written academic paper with 15% off Get discount


In comparing and contrasting the three leadership theories, it is evident that although all of them are geared towards better employee performance and satisfaction, they have fundamental differences in the approaches that they use. For instance, comparing transactional and transformational leadership approaches, major differences are evident. For instance, transactional leadership is goal-oriented. It works within the established goals and boundaries in an organization. In other words, since it is based on reward and punishment, employees have to achieve specific performance and goal parameters to determine the reward or punishment. On the contrary, transformational leadership is more future-oriented. It is focused on ensuring consistent performance and the motivation to perform in employees. Another difference between the two is that transactional leadership focuses on organization, performance management, evaluation, and reward. The theory is a task and outcome-oriented leadership concept. On the contrary, while performance is equally important, transformation leadership focuses on the motivation and engagement of followers with eyes set on the vision of the organization. On the other hand, the contingency theory takes almost a passive wait-and-see approach where the leaders’ decisions and approaches are highly dependent on the situations at the time. In other words, contingency leadership differs significantly from the other presumptions since it leaves the door open for emerging issues and hence a very precautionary approach. However, regardless of the approach, one thing is clear. The goal is always aimed at achieving better organizational outcomes and performances, which can improve all areas that relate to working, including, but not limited to, employee satisfaction and performance, which can lead to low employee turnover, and hence more benefits for the organization. A gap in the literature on the role of leadership in teacher turnover management exists. Which hypothesis among transactional, transformational, and contingency theories or any other theory of leadership makes educational leaders best suited to address the problem of teacher turnover? This interrogative is addressed in the next section.


Transformational leadership builds on the theoretical paradigms of the role of emotional intelligence (EI) in enhancing leadership. For instance, Mitrabinda, Hii, and Goo (2012) suggest that EI can predispose leaders to deploy behaviors that are transformational in their work environments. In educational settings, it implies that only leaders who possess a high degree of emotional intelligence can accurately perceive and evaluate the extent to which various anticipations of subordinates can be attained. This goal is achieved through the leadership sub-component of transformational motivation. Achieving the success that is enumerated in the missions and visions of transformational leaders requires help from detail-oriented organizational leadership teams. This claim implies that the incorporation of transactional aspects of leadership is critical in ensuring that the vision that is developed by transactional leaders moves in an appropriate direction. Little oversights have the capability of derailing the vision by taking a long time to develop and implement. Overreliance on elements such as passion and emotions introduces the demerit of transformational leadership since they (elements) make it overlook the reality and truthiness of a given situation such as the circumstances that lead to high teacher turnover. One of the major challenges of addressing turnover in any industry is how to enhance performance through motivation and commitment of work team members to the industry’s goals and objectives. Possession of transactional leadership skills helps to resolve these challenges. Such leaders motivate their followers by engaging them in exchange relationships to encourage employees who have turnover intentions to continue working in an educational institution.

Various scholars have delved into more studies on the importance and relevance of transformational leadership in the management of educational institutions. They have come up with important findings, which show the centrality of leadership approaches, especially transformational leadership, in not only managing teachers to minimize turnover but also in guaranteeing excellent performance in the whole institution. For instance, in their study titled, What Kind of International School Leaders are in Demand around the Work? A Test of Differences by Region and Stability over Time, Roberts and Mancuso (2014) studied 84 job advertisements for international school leaders between 2006 and 2012 in six continents. From their analysis, it was evident that of all the leadership traits that were required in these schools, transformational leadership traits were more emphasized than any other leadership approaches. The findings of the research indeed shed important light on the perceptions and trends in school management. The findings clearly show that transformational leadership is highly valued for its ability to promote better organizational culture and a highly motivated labor force that upholds the shared vision. Such a motivated labor force attracts and retains talent. The findings also indicate the focus on leadership in educational institutions across the world.

A study by Parco-Tropicales and de Guzman (2014) sought to study and devise a model for testing the impact of transformational leadership on the management development processes in Filipino Private Secondary School Principals. The was aimed at increasing knowledge in a field, which is currently growing rapidly in terms of putting in place important leadership impact measurement approaches in education institutions. Of the leadership approaches that were analyzed, transformational leadership styles and approaches emerged very important and highly preferred in educational institutions. In a country that has a high shortage of teachers and high teacher turnover, the study provides a good discussion, which helps to expand the knowledge on how to attract and retain not only qualified teachers but also ensure that they are highly motivated to perform their level best for the best outcomes for the students and the institution. The study sheds important light on the role of transformational leadership in managing educational institutions in Filipino secondary schools. The suggested model of measuring the effectiveness of the leadership model that is referred to as the Structural Equation Model (SEM) is indeed a move in the right direction in ensuring accountability at all leadership levels and consequently ensuring that leadership effectiveness can be measured and the findings used to improve leadership performance in general.

In his paper titled Transformational Leadership in Education Context: A Fantasy of Education Scholars. Editor’s Choice: Selected Keynote Speech, Hasan (2013) highlights important trends and facts that currently reflect education as experiencing difficult challenges more than any other time. According to Hasan (2013), the current demands of post-industrial society are varied. The variations coupled with the demand by teachers for better working conditions among others ensure that drastic measures must be taken to retain sanity in the sector. Hasan (2013) highlights the need for reforms, which demand leaders who are up to the task and ready to propel the transformative agendas. Such leaders must be aware of transformational leadership approaches, which will ensure that they are at the forefront in championing for the reforms so that the education sector can be responsive to the needs of the society, as well as the needs of teachers, who are also at the center of the transformation of the sector. The consideration of teachers in this process will ensure that their needs are addressed. The efforts will lead to their satisfaction, motivation, and their readiness to perform to their best.

Lastly, a study by Tesfaw (2014) investigated the relationship between the transformational leadership of school principals in public secondary schools and the job satisfaction of teachers in Ethiopia. The study, which involved a sample of 320 teachers, found a high correlation between job satisfaction and transformational leadership approaches that the principals applied. The transformational leadership theory and its approaches are very critical in ensuring a high level of job satisfaction and motivation for teachers.


In the education industry, different theories or styles of leadership apply to different extents, depending on the situation that requires leadership. Transformational leadership theory facilitates the framing of various teachers’ tasks in a manner that motivates them. This plan helps followers to articulate their professional work with their values. To achieve this goal, transformational education leaders exhibit behaviors such as motivation and intellectual stimulation. To this extent, transformational leadership helps in realigning an educational institution to ensure that it achieves a higher performance through people. It lacks a specific focus on a situation.

Get your customised and 100% plagiarism-free paper on any subject done for only $16.00 $11/page Let us help you

Contingency leadership theory focuses on the adoption of appropriate leadership styles, depending on specific situations. For example, idealized influence capacitates leaders to act as role models who can portray exceptional capabilities concerning convicting their followers to the institutional vision and the behaviors that leaders want the followers to depict. For instance, in managing teacher turnover, teachers should visualize and analyze their decisions in a broad manner to arrive at well-informed decisions before quitting their profession or moving to different institutions. When schools’ leadership does not address some issues, teachers will ultimately leave. Hence, when bargaining for such issues, school heads need to possess emotional intelligence and a high degree of reasonableness. This requirement underlines the importance of motivation in enabling followers to develop compelling visions to handle workplace challenges. There is a need for teachers to provide a clear meaning and the desired goals of specific tasks that are allocated to them.

Similarly, an appropriate contingency leadership approach can be adopted to curb teacher turnover. What happens when several situations lead to turnover that has to be addressed? In the case of transformational leadership, contingency theory is incomplete by itself in managing teacher turnover. An alternative entails the use of transactional leadership in influencing teachers who have turnover intentions through appropriate incentives and/or making tradeoffs. This theory is recommended as a leadership style in managing teacher turnover. However, further research is required to ascertain its effectiveness either alone or when blended with other educational leadership theories.


Turnover has direct and indirect costs in any organization. In the education industry, turnover comprises one of the major challenges that lower school performance. It results in increased costs of recruitment and training of new teachers to fill the gaps left by the outgoing teachers. Labor turnover is controllable and unavoidable in some situations. However, the adoption of appropriate leadership theories can help in its management. The paper has discussed three of such theories, namely transactional, contingency, and transformational leadership presumptions. Although contingency theory is recommended as a hypothetically effective theory of managing teacher turnover, research is necessary to determine its effectiveness when used alone or in conjunction with other theories.


Basri, D., Rusdi, M., & Sulaeman, S. (2014). The Effects of Transformational Leadership on the Teacher Performance at Senior High School, Maros Regency. International Journal of Academic Research, 6(5), 61-66.

Chawla, D., & Sondhi, N. (2011). Assessing the role of organizational and personal factors in predicting turnover intentions: A case of schoolteachers and BPO employees. Decision, 38(2), 5-33.

Cruz, M., Nunes, A., & Pinheiro, P. (2011). Fiedler’s Contingency Theory: Practical Application of the Least Preferred Coworker Scale. The IUP Journal of Organizational Behavior, 10(4), 7-26.

Ghamrawi, N., & Jamma, K. (2013). Teachers Turnover: Impact of School Leadership and other Factors. International Journal of Education Research and Technology, 4(1), 68-78.

Hasan, S. (2013). Transformational Leadership in Educational Context: A Fantasy of Education Scholars. Editor’s Choice: Selected Keynote Speech. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 51(1), 1-6.

Lee, S., & Hong, J. (2011). Does family-friendly policy matter? Testing its impact on turnover and performance. Public Administration Review, 71(6), 870–879.

Mitrabinda, S., Hii, L., & Goo, L. (2012). Evaluating the correlation between Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Effective Leadership (EL) among managers in Miri Ship building Industry. Business and Marketing Management, 29(7), 122-128.

Parco-Tropicales, M., & de Guzman, B. (2014). A structural equation model (SEM) of the impact of transformational, visionary, charismatic and ethical leadership styles on the development of wise leadership among Filipino private secondary school principals. Asia Pacific Education Review, 15(4), 547-559.

Roberts, L., & Mancuso, V. (2014). What kind of international school leaders are in demand around the world? A test of differences by region and stability over time. Journal of Research in International Education, 13(2), 91-105.

Ryu, S., & Lee, Y. (2013). Examining the Roles of Management in Turnover: A Contingency Approach. Public Performance and Management Review, 37(1), 143-153.

Sakiru, K., & D’silva, L. (2013). Leadership Styles and Job Satisfaction among Employees in Small and Medium Enterprises. International Journal of Business and Management, 8(13), 34-41.

Tesfaw, T. (2014). The relationship between transformational leadership and job satisfaction: The case of government secondary school teachers in Ethiopia. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 42(6), 903-918.

Veysel, O. (2014). Relationship between Secondary School Administrators’ Transformational and Transactional Leadership Styles and Skills to Diversity Management in Schools. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 14(6), 2162-2174.