In a recent article, proposed expert Richard Ingersoll attempts to explain the source of the present teacher shortage. The University of Pennsylvania provides well known information without a viable solution. Schools can eliminate their teacher shortage by utilizing school leaders who empower teachers.

According to the article, South Dakota school leaders blame low teacher salaries for the present teacher shortage. South Dakota teacher salaries rank the lowest in the nation. Ingersoll’s survey revealed that outgoing teachers cited job dissatisfaction as the primary reason why teachers continue to leave the teaching profession. In addition, teachers are leaving due to heavy work loads, excessive class size, and lack of time to accomplish the job.

One of the major contributors to the teacher shortage is the school’s culture. School administrators have the authority to direct the school culture. The fallacy is that many administrative leadership styles are counter productive to the school environment and therefore continues to contribute to the teacher shortage.

One leadership style that contributes to a school environment that continues to fuel the teacher shortage is transactional leadership.

What are the characteristics of a transactional leader who could contribute to the decline in the teacher shortage?

Transactional leaders require compliance from employees in exchange for expected rewards. Many school leaders expect for teachers to engage students in a learning process that fosters high student achievement. High student achievement requirements from parents, and community members develop the need for student achievement as the bottom-line productivity. Bottom-line productivity is consistent with transactional leadership characteristics. Transactional leadership receives support from bureaucratic authority. If a bureaucracy is to operate successfully, it must maintain an unusual level of conformity.

When teachers are unable to produce high student achievement, a transactional leader can use his or her bureaucratic authority by withholding monetary rewards. Bureaucratic authority empowers transactional leadership. One way bureaucracies grant authority is through the supervisory evaluation process to promote employee compliance.

Transactional leaders actively search for deviations from rules and intervene when standards are not met. Not meeting standards requires holding teachers accountable. This process includes monitoring teacher behavior for compliance. Transactional leadership is not as effective as other leadership theories.

What are the characteristics of a school leader who could improve the present teacher shortage status?

Effective school leaders exhibit a combination of leadership characteristics. Although transactional and transformational leadership can represent two discrete forms of leadership, effective principals exhibit characteristics of both types of leadership by maintaining short-term endeavors through transactional leadership and by inciting change as a transformational leader. Transformational leadership is positively associated with leadership satisfaction among office employees, schoolteachers, military personnel, hospital nurses, and sales people.

However, transformational leadership focuses on the organization while servant leadership focuses on the followers. By empowering followers and helping them grow and develop according to their needs rather than those in the organization, people use power ethically, and teams work collaboratively, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. Servant leadership focuses on followers by committing to their growth. Commitment to growth requires that school leaders must devise strategies that augment organizational achievement by empowering teachers.

Empowering teachers has several benefits that will help to eliminate the present teacher shortage. Empowering teachers enhances job satisfaction. It’s frustrating to a teacher to know what’s right, but feel powerless to do anything.  Giving teachers some decision-making ability will decrease frustration and improve teacher retention. Empowering teachers increases quality of work for several reasons. First, in organizations that provide employees with the freedom and flexibility to make a difference, employees feel empowered to deliver high quality work. Secondly, schools that provide teachers with the freedom and flexibility to be empowered can expect teachers to deliver higher levels of quality work.

Schools leaders who utilize the appropriate leadership styles which will improve the present condition of the teacher shortage by empowering teachers.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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