As we have seen, the head should play a critical and determining
role in achieving the central purpose of a school. The extent
to which a head succeeds in attaining the school objectives
and fulfilling the principles included in the philosophy or
mission statement depends on how skilfully a suitable management
style is developed and used in a specific context. A successful
management style will depend largely on the head's own personality,
as well as on his/her training to realise that there is a range
of ways of working with people. It should be remembered that
the particular style of management will affect the school's
tone either adversely or positively.
The aim of this unit is to explain the various styles of
management that the head can develop and use.
Individual study time: 3 hours
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
explain various styles of management
identify the strengths and weaknesses of each style
describe the circumstances in which various styles
of management may be best developed and used
appreciate that there is not 'one best' style of management
understand the importance of varying the style of management
depending on the circumstances.
Styles of management
For you to be an effective head a knowledge of different styles
of management that may help you to achieve the school objectives
will certainly be useful.
(1) From your own experiences, how would you describe your own
everyday style of management?
(2) Considering your line-manager (perhaps the District Education
Officer), how would you describe his or her everyday style of
No two managers have exactly the same way of doing things;
life would become too predictable and dull if they did. If
a manager is regarded as successful by those whom he or she
is managing as well as by society at large, then perhaps we
might excuse almost any form of management style. Although
management textbooks may argue for particular styles, in fact
if you study famous leaders from within your own country you
may well find that they display characteristics of less favoured
styles. As you read the following descriptions, see if you
can name people known to you, perhaps through the media, who
fit each description. Note that we have included arguments
both for and against each style.
The head who subscribes to this style of management determines
school policy alone and assigns duties to staff without consulting
them. Directives are issued and must be carried out without
question and in the prescribed manner.
Where people are coerced, controlled, directed and threatened,
individual initiative may be stifled and self-motivation may
be discouraged. This style involves very little sense of the
leader being accountable to anyone; he or she may do very
much what they like. In schools it may lead to low morale
amongst both staff and pupils which may, in turn, become the
root cause of strikes, riots, and staff turnover.
On the other hand, an autocratic style may provide a degree
of certainty for those beneath the leader. They may feel safe
because they do not have to be involved in solving problems.
The autocratic leader usually has great self-confidence, a
clear vision of what needs to be done, and the political skills
to get things done. Many great figures in world history have
In theory, the head who uses this style of management believes
that there should be no rules and regulations since everyone
has an 'inborn sense of responsibility'. Such a situation
may well exist amongst mature, experienced teachers, but how
would it work with new, young teachers fresh from the 'freedom
years' of university or college? This style of management
(or maybe mismanagement), where the head sits back and allows
everyone to do as they please, might lead to anarchy and chaos,
which would hardly be conducive to the provision of quality
But as the laissez-faire (literally let-do) style is opposite
to the autocratic style, many of the criticisms of the latter
become arguments in favour of the former. Thus individuals
have to think for themselves and individual initiative and
hard work may be well rewarded. A laissez-faire environment
may be more creative amd fulfilling for those involved.
In this style, the head believes that the staff should be
involved in decision-making processes. Decisions are arrived
at after consultation with the staff, and even with the pupils.
A democratic style allows freedom of thought and action within
the framework of the mission and objectives of the school.
Available skills and talents can be used optimally through
delegation and a sense of belonging, as well as promoting
creativity and a higher degree of staff morale. This style
is based on the belief that where people are committed to
the service of ideas which they have helped to frame, they
will exercise self-control, self-direction and be motivated.
All these ideas will promote job interest and encourage both
staff and students to set their own targets and find the best
way of achieving them.
But democracy may not always work very well, when, for example,
there is a lack of clarity as to how binding decisions will
be reached. For example, in multi-party states where there
are too many parties (or one party states where there are
too many factions), it may be extremely difficult to reach
a consensus. You might also like to consider how a democratic
style differs from a laissez-faire style, and why clear leadership
is still essential.
It has been argued that the transactional style (or Nomothetic-Idiographic
in some textbooks) may be the most effective style since it
seeks a compromise between stressing organisational demands
or goals and individual needs.
The head who subscribes to this style appreciates the need
to achieve organisational goals while at the same time ensuring
that the individual needs of staff members are not ignored.
Although the head sticks to the rules and procedures, he or
she also aims at achieving school objectives without upsetting
people too much in terms of their needs.
It may sound as though achieving this balance between the
needs of the organisation and those of the individual is quite
simple. In fact, heads have to make decisions like this many
times every day. For example: Should Teacher A be allowed
time off in order to chase up a personnel matter with the
registry? Should the money raised by the PTA be used to purchase
more textbooks or to renovate the place where food snacks
are sold? Only by analysing many decisions like this will
you be able to see whether he or she inclines more towards
the needs of the organisation or the individuals, or achieves
a true balance between them.
One important function of the head is to communicate effectively
to the staff the philosophy and objectives of the school and
thus to gain their commitment to them. The head needs to realise
that effectiveness in management depends on being able to
diagnose and adapt to the dynamics of ever-changing situations.
A contingency management style is where the head 'rides the
waves', or deals with each problem as it arises.
A useful contingency approach is that of the Path-Goal Model,
which states that an effective manager clarifies the means
or paths by which subordinates can achieve both a high performance
and job satisfaction. The motivation may be an appropriate
reward and a focusing on paths or behaviours which can lead
to successful job completion. This suggests that if some of
the hurdles and barriers to motivation can be removed, a better
performance by subordinates will result. Whatever approach
is adopted will depend on individual employee characteristics
(for example, ability, self-confidence and needs) and the
task characteristics (for example, the objectives and targets
In more simple terms, this style suggests that because we
know that heads and teachers will be faced by problems and
issues every day, what we need to plan is how best to equip
them to be able to handle these issues confidently and with
a minimum of stress.
Here we want you to review how a teacher in your school might
improve his or her performance. Consider a representative teacher
in your school.
(1) List some of the hurdles and barriers faced by this teacher.
(2) Suggest six actions you could realistically take to enable
the teacher become more effective in the school.
Everyone is faced with hurdles and barriers every day. Perhaps
the best thing we can do is to develop in ourselves and our
staff (and the pupils) skills to be able to handle many different
types of situation. Thus developing oral and writing skills,
and interpersonal skills (relating and working with other
people) should give us more confidence to handle difficulties
and to be more effective. Of course, you will also need to
help both individual teachers and the staff as a whole with
personal welfare and employment matters and in their professional
Consider yourself and each of the five management styles considered
(1) For each style give an example of a recent occasion when
you have behaved in a style similar to the description.
(2) Place the five styles in a rank order which reflects your
own preferred approach to management. You might compare your
answer with someone else who has done this exercise.
(3) Get a colleague to tell you what style or styles he or she
thinks you display.
You will probably find that you display elements of each style.
It would be wrong to suggest that any one style is right and
another wrong, since each may work in a particular situation.
You might be surprised by the difference between how you perceive
yourself and how others perceive you!
Read carefully through the case study below:
Pleasantways High School
Pleasantways is a middle to high income co-educational high
school located in a low-density residential suburb of a large
city. The grounds cover 25 hectares and there are 32 classrooms,
ten science laboratories and eight technical/vocational rooms.
There is an administration block with all the usual offices
and incorporating a staffroom, hall and library.
There are 45 members on the teaching staff including the
head and his deputy, senior master and senior lady and they
are all graduates. The support staff comprises a bursar, two
typist/clerks, four office orderlies/messengers and 20 general
workers, who are directly supervised by a caretaker. Only
20 of these staff live in the local area, the rest travelling
up to 20km to reach the school.
The student body numbers 1056 and are drawn not only from
the local area (53 per cent) but also from two satellite high-density
(low to middle income) areas up to 20km away. Students from
the satellite zones are served by the city's bus company.
Buses, however, do not enter the school grounds, instead they
drop and collect students at a bus stop on an extremely busy
There is a prefect body to assist in the smooth running of
the school. They are led by a head boy and girl and are entrusted
with certain duties, delegated by the school executive, with
whom they meet once a fortnight.
The academic week is five days of eight 35 minute periods.
Every student does a core course of English, Local Language,
History, Geography, Mathematics, Science (either general or
specific discipline) as well as one subject from Art, Technical
Graphics, Woodwork, Food and Nutrition or Fashion and Fabrics.
There are ministry-appointed heads of department for each
subject except the technical/vocational group where there
is one each for Technical Subjects and Home Economics. The
number of periods to be taught per week for each subject/year
group is laid down by the ministry.
The head expects every staff member and student to participate
in the co-curricular programme by enrolling for one sport
and one club option. Sports options include (in the appropriate
season) Cricket, Soccer, Rugby Football, Hockey, Tennis, Volleyball,
Basketball, Badminton, Table Tennis, Athletics, Swimming and
Netball. Club options include Needlework, Music, Chess, First
Aid, Debate, Current Affairs, Drama, Art, Science, Woodwork,
Weightlifting, Fitness and Gymnastics. Sports practices are
held on two afternoons each week as are clubs, and inter-school
fixtures for sport occur each week.
Assembly for the whole school is held three times a week
in the hall, conducted in rotation by two members of the executive,
who only enter the hall once the staff and student bodies
have assembled. Attendance is compulsory for all.
Many management decisions are needed to ensure that Pleasantways
High School runs smoothly and effectively:
(1) Which style of management would you use to reach decisions
on the following components of decision-making in the school:
- the timetable;
- the co-curricular programmes;
- a fire in one of the laboratories;
- homework policies;
- the prefects' duties;
- a bus strike?
(2) Why would you use the particular style you have selected
in each case?
We are not going to suggest a particular answer here, since
the answers will vary with the initiative and the personality
of the individual. In all these areas clear policies are needed.
The way in which you decide to form them will depend on such
your own expertise in each area
the extent to which other people (whether individuals
or groups) have a vested interest in the policy
the level of expertise of these people and their ability
to communicate effectively
the degree of urgency of the task.
From the above discussions and activities on management styles,
you should now be able to see that no single style can solve
or be a cure for all problems arising in management situations.
Problems do not arise so much from a 'bad' style of management
but rather from the wrong choice of style for that occasion.
Success in the management of a school by a head will be more
certainly assured if the appropriate style of management for
a particular situation is used.