Ideological leadership in public schools

Date02 April 2020
Publication Date02 April 2020
AuthorOri Eyal,Talya R. Schwartz,Izhak Berkovich
SubjectEducation,Administration & policy in education,School administration/policy,Educational administration,Leadership in education
Ideological leadership in
public schools
Ori Eyal
Department of Graduate Division of Policy,
Administration and Leadership in Education, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, Israel
Talya R. Schwartz
Teachers Pay Teachers, New York, New York, USA, and
Izhak Berkovich
Department of Education and Psychology, Open University of Israel, Raanana, Israel
Purpose This study aims to explore the conception and construct of ideological leadership (IL) as it
relates to public organizations, such as public schools, and to validate a tool for its measurement in this
Design/methodology/approachData was collected from 633 teachers working at 69 randomly-sampled
Israeli public schools. In each school, an average of nine (SD 52) randomly-sampled teachers completed
questionnaires that measure IL, transformational leadership, organizational commitment, leader-member
exchange and motivational factors. The data underwent validity and hypotheses tests.
Findings The hypothesized presence of the personalized and socialized IL orientations among public-school
principals has been confirmed. Only personalized IL predicted teachersoutcomes above and beyond
transformational leadership, affecting measures of organizational commitment, leader-member exchange and
controlled motivation.
Originality/value New evidence supports the validity of this proposed measurement tool. New evidence
also suggests that although ideology has been known to be a factor of charismatic leadership, IL in close public-
school settings accentuates practices of control, rather than proselytizing coherent worldviews to teachers.
This, in turn, may have a deleterious influence on work outcomes and outweigh the possible benefits of IL.
Accordingly, it is suggested that school leaders should critically consider the desirability of embracing
ideological zeal as part of their leadership tools.
Keywords Ideological leadership, Educational administration, Close/Distant leaders, Public schools,
Work outcome variables, Transformational leadership
Paper type Research paper
Scholars have demonstrated the influence of ideology on public organizationsmission,
service paradigms, structure, management practices and decision-making (Lavertu et al.,
2013;Rabovsky and Rutherford, 2016).Th isb egs an investigation of ideological leadership
(IL) among leaders in public schools to better understand how ideology is manifested in
these settings. IL can be described as a form of vision-based leadership that inspires
followers with an unwavering commitment toward a comprehensive set of ideals (Lovelace
et al., 2019). However, the research on IL is still in its preliminary stages. First, the corpus of
studies is small. Second, research has focused mostly on the emergence of IL among grand
historical protagonists, such as presidents, and world leaders (Griffith et al., 2018). Finally,
IL has not been studied in close organizational settings (those with a considerable degree of
proximity between leaders and followers, both hierarchical and physical), and neither has a
scale for its measurement been developed (Lovelace et al., 2019). Thus, this study aims to
explore the conce ption of IL as it rel ates to public scho ols, and to validat e a tool for its
measurement in this setting.
leadership in
public schools
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 3 August 2019
Revised 4 November 2019
26 December 2019
8 January 2020
Accepted 8 January 2020
Journal of Educational
Vol. 58 No. 3, 2020
pp. 303-320
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JEA-08-2019-0131
Ideological leadership of grand leaders
Historical studies of notable grand figures (such as social movement leaders and presidents)
have found that ideological leaders promote a coherent belief system and value structure
(Lovelace et al., 2019). They offer a vision of closely linked goals and causes, and use it to
interpret and legitimize past, present and future events as well as conduct (Griffith et al.,
2018). This dedication to ideological vision leads leaders to surround themselves with a small
group of loyal followers (believers) and to monitor and prevent social deviation (Griffith et al.,
2018;Mumford et al., 2007;Strange and Mumford, 2002). This in turn reduces disagreement or
debate within the close team and repels others, increasing in-group conformity and hindering
reflective and critical thinking, potentially leading to extremism (Lovelace et al., 2019;
Mumford et al., 2007).
The literature discusses two orientations of IL that share such ideological zeal (Lovelace
et al., 2019;Strange and Mumford, 2002): Socialized IL and Personalized IL. Socialized IL
emphasizes the importance of beliefs and values in pursuit of a greater world order, and does
not demand conformity or display intolerance toward others who disagreed with their values
(Anderson and Sun, 2017;Strange and Mumford, 2002). By contrast, personalized IL
embodies extremism, dogmatism and power-seeking by means of punitive and manipulative
behaviors, reflecting the notion that ideology is more important than the individual
(Anderson and Sun, 2017;Strange and Mumford, 2002).
Ideological leadership of common public-service managers
Few studies have explored IL among common leaders, such as in the workplace (Lovelace
et al., 2019). It has been suggested that IL is more likely to emerge in political or public-service
organizations than in business or military organizations (Mumford et al., 2006). Scholars have
claimed that these relatively less structured domains, where the relation between causes and
goals are uncertain, give precedence to ideological leaders (Bedell-Avers et al., 2009). These
features are relevant not only to the contexts of grand public leaders, but also to the
organizational contexts in which common public school principals operate. Marion (2008)
argues that the organizational environment of the twenty-first century possesses drama and
unpredictability(p. 2). Todays information age is accompanied by economic, social
and technological complexities that challenge traditional organizational prevalent ideas and
practices (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). This challenge of traditional organization is increasingly
identified in schooling (Buddeberg and Hornberg, 2017). While transitions in schooling ideals
and practices may lead some principals to social anomie and ultimately impinge on their
organizational performance, others may benefit from these circumstances. The latter take
advantage of this contingency to promote their worldviews and ideological creed, as a
response to chaotic tendencies, and/or as a strategic opportunity to expand and consolidate
their leadership and influence in the school.
Bringing IL into the exploration of common leaders requires some discussion of the
differences between grand leaders and common leaders in terms of psychological and social
distance from their followers. Distant leaders attempt to preserve certain leadership qualities
(also identified with IL), such as rhetoric, symbolic actions, and presenting an idealized image
of themselves and of the world (Berson et al., 2015); however, close leaders cannot effectively
utilize rhetoric or symbolic actions for ideological purposes because their frequent
interpersonal interactions allow followers to identify inconsistencies between their actions
and ideology (Shamir, 1995). Thus, it can be speculated that personalized and socialized IL
will manifest differently in close leadership settings than in distant settings:
H1. IL among public school principals will comprise two dimensions: socialized and
personalized leadership behaviors.

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