Teacher leadership has been the studied in academic literature; however, the study of how teacher leaders come to develop teacher leadership competencies is scarce. Leadership competency models have been developed in corporate settings and have been found to contribute significantly to the internal environment and external success of corporations. This paper explores existing leadership competency models in and outside of the K-12 educational context, and offers research recommendations for further developing knowledge which contributes to teacher leadership competency development.
Keywords: teacher leader, teacher leadership development, leadership competency model
Leadership has been the study of much academic literature (Day, 2018; Oliver, Church, Lewis, & Desrosiers, 2009; Park, Jeong, Jang, Yoon, & Lim, 2018). Additionally, in the field of leadership, competency models have been increasingly discussed over the last decade, including calls to unify global leadership competency models (De Meuse, Dai, Swisher, Eichinger, & Lombardo, 2012; Hazucha, Sloan, & Storfer, 2012; Kim & McLean, 2015; Prastacos, Soderquist, & Vakola, 2007). Leadership competency models have been developed in corporate settings and have been found to contribute significantly to the internal environment and external success of corporations (Inceoglu, Thomas, Chu, Plans, & Gerbasi, 2018; Lombardo & Eichinger, 2000). It would follow, then, that effective leadership competency models would have similar success in application in other industries, including K-12 educational settings.
Teacher leadership is imperative to the success of schools. Teacher leadership has been shown to have a positive impact on teachers’ career attitudes and decision making, school improvement, improved teaching, and improved student learning (Smylie & Eckert, 2018); interschool collaboration (Boylan, 2018); professional learning of peers, improving best practices, teacher collaboration, and school reform (Wenner & Campbell, 2017); and professionalism, organizational capacity, instructional improvement, and recruitment and retention of quality talent (York-Barr & Duke, 2004). Because teacher leadership affects so many aspects of a successful education system, efforts which focus on teacher leadership competency development could be key to sustainability of quality teachers and education systems as a whole.
Despite growing calls and interest in teacher leadership development, (Smylie & Eckert, 2018), there have been limited attempts to develop a teacher leadership competency model, particularly in the United States. Teacher leadership development is “the intentional, systematic, systemic development of teachers’ capacity for leadership and teacher’s leadership practice” (Smylie & Eckert, 2018, p. 557). In reference to K-12 education and leadership, much of the work has been centered around administrators’ leadership impact in their schools, and there are significant gaps in providing teacher leadership (Cosenza, 2015). One study has attempted a consolidated effort for a Teacher Leadership Competency Scale in Malaysia (Kho, Yusof, & Mohamad, 2016), and one literature review produced a model for teacher leadership development (Smylie & Eckert, 2018).
Leadership competency models are useful to determine what leadership competencies are necessary for a particular job role or function. These competencies are vital for performance, and in corporations have a direct impact on the bottom line (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2000). In education, the importance is not on revenue, but rather on career attitudes and decision making, school improvement, improved teaching, and improved student learning (Smylie & Eckert, 2018). For example, leadership competencies have a role in improving classroom management and instruction, and how well teachers involve and relate to parents.
Leadership development practice has focused on traits, behaviors, and least frequently, competencies (Ferry, 2014). It is also important to note the distinction between teacher leadership and teacher leadership development. Smylie & Eckert (2018) cited several resources that called for an increase in teacher leadership development opportunities, and noted that teacher leadership development, defined as “the intentional, systematic, systemic development of teachers’ capacity for leadership and teachers’ leadership practice” (p. 557), was also sparse. Cumberland, Herd, Alagaraja, and Kerrick (2016) confirmed the lack of focus on assessments and development of leadership competencies.
In a practitioner research study of more than 7000 competency assessments, less than 1 percent of participants were reflective of the Education & Social Services industry combined (Dai, Tang, & De Meuse, 2009, p. 7), further illustrating the need for teacher leadership competency development.
The purpose of this literature review is to synthesize current research on teacher leadership and leadership competency models in K-12 education. This article also explores gaps in leadership competency models and provides recommendations for future research. This article attempts to answer the following research question:
The significance of this research could establish a teacher leadership competency model that is minimally represented in the literature to support the development of leadership competencies for K-12 educators; could offer clear pathways through which teacher leaders could access teacher leadership development; and could offer practical applications for practitioners who provide leadership development for teacher leaders.
To address the research question, an integrative literature review was conducted, which consisted of identifying and justifying a key topic, accessing, analyzing and critiquing relevant literature, and synthesizing the literature to produce new understanding of a particular topic (Torraco, 2005). Following Callahan’s (2014) 6 W’s methodology for an integrative literature review, the search was conducted between September 2018 and October 2018. Academic databases on the LSU Library Catalog (lib.lsu.edu), PsychINFO, ERIC, and Google Scholar were searched for the following keywords and keyword combinations, including searching truncated terms of teacher and competency(ies) to ensure the most comprehensive search terms as possible: teach* leadership, leadership competenc*, leadership competenc* AND teach*, leadership competenc* AND education, leadership competency models AND teach*, professional development AND teacher leadership, leadership competenc* models, leadership competenc* model AND development, competenc* models, and competency models AND leadership. As recent as 2004, York-Barr and Duke (2004) is considered to be the seminal literature review in teacher leadership (Wenner and Campbell, 2017, p. 134). All articles yielded in this search were published within the last 15 years, and therefore no date exclusions were used. The search was limited to peer reviewed journal articles. Snowball sampling was used to search reference sections of relevant articles to find additional articles pertinent to the research question.
Journal articles which included general information on teacher leadership were included to provide a basis of information, practice, and implications. Three primary articles emerged as relevant, two literature reviews on teacher leadership (York-Barr & Duke, 2004; Wenner & Campbell, 2016), and one article related to teachers leading professional development (Boylan, 2018). One article was found to include a model for teacher leadership (Smylie & Eckert, 2018).
Journals were narrowed also by the relevance to teacher leadership competency models, only one of which was found (Kho, Yusof, & Mohamad, 2016). The search was then expanded to attempt to discover more general leadership competency models that could be compared and considered for teacher leadership, but also yielded very few results in peer-reviewed journals, primarily referencing the LEADERSHIP ARCHITECT ® Leadership Competencies (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2003), and one article that offered a cometency based model for youth leadership (Seemiller, 2018). Seven total articles were considered relevant to the scope of the research question.
Teacher leadership is relatively new in the literature, with the seminal literature review conducted in 2004 (York-Barr & Duke, 2004). Less is known about teacher leadership development although one promising model does provide a framework for approaching teacher leadership development inputs, processes, and outcomes (Smylie & Eckert, 2018). Only one article emerged in this literature review offering a teacher leadership competency model, although leadership competency models exist in other industries that could be explored as a model for developing a robust leadership competency model for K-12 educators. Findings are arranged from general to specific, beginning with teacher leadership findings, leadership competency models across industries, and finally teacher leadership competency models.
York-Barr and Duke (2004) and Wenner and Campbell (2017) offer the most prominent and comprehensive reviews regarding teacher leadership. York-Barr and Duke (2004) found that the effects of teacher leadership on school systems fall into three categories: “effects on teacher leaders, effects on colleagues (including relationships, classroom practices and school-level effects), and effects on students” (p. 282). Wenner and Campbell (2017) expanded the knowledge base by adding research questions related to factors that facilitate or inhibit teacher leadership as well as issues of diversity and equity.
Teacher Leadership Development
Boylan (2018) reiterates the call necessary to develop tools that can be applied to leadership as a key professional development activity for teachers. He further writes that when teachers have access to shared professional development experiences that enable teachers to enhance their network, their leadership skills improve as a byproduct of this type of participation and offers four aspects of adaptive leadership relevant to developing teacher leadership competencies: leaders as innovators, responsive and purposeful, networkers, and systems workers (Boylan, 2018, p. 91-92).
Perhaps the most significant finding in this literature search is a conceptual-theoretical model for teacher leadership development (see Figure 2) proposed by Smylie & Eckert (2018). This model lays out the necessary contexts, antecedents, moderating factors, processes, anticipated outcomes for a robust and effective teacher leadership model, and focuses on the development process previously missing in literature.
The antecedents necessary to promote effective leaders and leadership development include “principle support for teacher leadership development, capacity for leadership, elements of leadership work, resources, and school organizational conditions (i.e. structure, culture, social conditions, and politics” (Smylie & Eckert, 2018, p. 562). Activities and experiences in this model include “systems of multiple, mutually-reinforcing activities” offered in contextual, on the job settings that allow connection with others learning similar competencies, e.g. “training programs, 360-degree feedback, coaching, stretch assignments, action learning, and assessment centers” (Smylie & Eckert, 2018, p. 565-66). This model also highlights the importance on leadership across the organization, not just focus in individual leaders.
Leadership Competency Models
Only two leadership competency models emerged in the literature across all sectors (Dai, Tang & De Meuse, 2009; Seemiller, 2018), although three global leadership competency frameworks emerged in the search, which could also be considered relevant when attempting to develop a teacher leadership competency framework (Cumberland, Herd, Alagaraja, & Kerrick, 2016; Kim & McLean, 2015; Park, Jeong, Jang, Yoon, and Lim, 2018).
The first model, the Korn Ferry Leadership Architect®, is the most relevant. This leadership competency model defines competencies as the “skills and behaviors required for success that can be observed (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2009). The Korn Ferry Leadership Architect® consists of 67 leadership competencies develop on the following criteria: skills relevant for performance, relevant for 21st Century, globally valid, simple and user friendly, and maps across processes including” selection, development, performance, and competency modeling” (Korn Ferry, 2014, p. 25). A teacher leadership competency model in the US could be well-suited to follow this highly developed library and process.
A second competency-based model for leadership development emerged in the literature review, this one focused on youth leadership (Seemiller, 2018). The Youth Leadership Development model was an integrative approach from existing youth leadership programs. This article was considered for its process as well as it’s end product. However, because there are no existing teacher leadership models to integrate, this model was deemed not as relevant as the Leadership Architect ®. The final version of this model, however, could be an example of which to follow for teacher leadership.
Teacher Leadership Competency Models
The only article in the literature review that yielded a direct contribution to teacher leadership competency modeling includes an empirical, quantitative study that offers a Teacher Leadership Competency Scale (Kho, Yusof, & Mohamad, 2016). This validated scale offers a way to assess 21 key teacher leadership competencies, citing the most important competencies as follows: “fostering a collaborative culture, facilitating improvements and establishing standards, modeling leadership attributes and skills, and performing as referral leader” (Kho, Yusof, & Mohamad, 2016, p. 63). Further investigation is needed to explore whether this process and scale is valid and can be generalized to contexts outside of Malaysia.
As laid out in the findings, there is a significant gap in literature about teacher leadership development in general, and even more so for leadership competency development models in K-12 education settings, as well as other industries. Smylie & Eckert (2018) offer a promising model from which to build a leadership competency development approach, as well as a focus on the development process. Two leadership competency models were found outside the context of teacher leadership, however only one is relevant enough for consideration of replication in an educational context. Due to the limited number of articles published on relevant leadership competency models, an integrative approach proved unsuccessful for this paper, although there is still much to be learned from this effort, especially regarding potential implications.
Theoretical / Practical Implications
Corporations who have focused on affording employees’ access to leadership competency development report significantly improved outcomes over their peers (De Meuse et al, 2012). The Korn Ferry Leadership Architect® is the most studied and validated leadership competency model that emerged in the literature, citing more than 7000 norming pieces of data. The Leadership Architect® could be a leadership competency model to adapt for K-12 education. This model already provides a leadership competency library, individual and 360-degree assessment and process design, and a comprehensive development curriculum to help individuals further develop competencies.
Should a similar model be developed for K-12 education, this could provide a comprehensive model and process through which teachers could develop key leadership competencies necessary for the classroom. Findings indicate that teacher leadership development has a significance positive impact on teacher career and attitudes including retention and burnout, both of which have significant implications for school budgets. Smylie and Eckert (2018) also note that “teacher leadership contributes to classroom and school improvement and student learning” (p. 558). When teachers have enhanced leadership competencies, student learning can be improved. In today’s expanding globalized economy, student learning and performance is key for United States companies to acquire and retain top talent and stay competitive in a global market.
Improved school climate could also result from an effective teacher leadership competency development model. If more teachers had leadership competencies developed, their increased capacity for leadership skills and behavior modeling could impact systemic change in schools, possibly even improving school climate to the point of mitigating negative student thoughts and behaviors, such as stress, bullying, suicide, and gun violence. This could have significant impact on the rising rates of youth suicide, and possibly help stay the gun violence that now occurs weekly in the United States.
Expand research on teacher leadership development practices, including antecedents, processes, and effects. Given the sparsity in teacher leadership development research to date, a call to action for rigorous research designs is necessary to further understand and expand teacher leadership development practice. More is needed to understand the antecedents which lead to an effective environment for teachers to develop necessary leadership skills. Given that Smylie & Eckert’s model for teacher leadership development only emerged in 2018, further research and validation of the model could contribute significantly to our understanding of the necessary components of developing teacher leaders.
More studies are also necessary to understand the impact of teacher leadership development has on school systems, environments, teacher career attitudes and retention, and student achievement. Dai, Tang, & De Meuse (2009) offer significant findings of the Leadership Architect® competency model, however given that only 0.01 percent of their participants were in the fields of Education and Social Sciences, further research is necessary to understand whether the impact of their model transfer to teacher leaders as opposed to the corporate environment.
Develop a leadership competency model specific to education. Although Dai, Tang, & De Meuse (2009) offered a well-validated model that could be used as a guide to replicate in the field of education, a grounded theory approach may be more appropriate to effectively capture the nuances required for effective teacher leadership. Several nuances in education could skew a direct application of the Leadership Architect®, leaving out some key competencies that are vital in today’s education systems and classrooms. Additional competencies should be considered, such as crisis response skills to school violence, trauma informed teaching approaches, and diversity and inclusion in classrooms.
Kho, Yusof, & Mohamad (2016) offered a teacher leadership competency scale (TLCS) which was found to be a fit and reliable model in 58 high performing Malaysian secondary schools. Given the cultural context in which this model was developed, further research is necessary to consider whether the scale would be valid and reliable in a United States K-12 education system. For example, the United States educational system is based on standardized testing as a primary means of measuring effectiveness and performance. The survey was also conducted in only state-run schools in Malaysia. Several different types of schools exist in the United States (public, private, magnet, charter, co-operative, etc). Further research would need to examine the nuances of the varying United States school systems to ascertain whether the TLCS would apply in all United States contexts. Kho, Yusof, & Mohamad (2016) also noted that teachers’ perceptions of leadership could impact the determination of findings, and should be considered in future research.
Teacher leadership has been emerging more significantly since 2004 in the academic literature; however, the study of how teacher leaders come to develop teacher leadership competencies remains scarce. Leadership competency models have been developed in corporate settings and have been found to contribute significantly to the internal environment and external success of corporations. The research indicates that if more teachers were to have the opportunity to develop leadership competencies, they could significantly improve their skillsets in the classroom. These improvements could result in positive social changes in classroom settings, individual students and teachers, and systemic changes in the K-12 education systems.
This literature review yielded only seven relevant articles, only one of which provided a leadership competency model for education. A call for further research is necessary to validate a competency model that is specific, valid, and reliable in the United States educational system. Should a comprehensive and effective teacher leadership competency development model be designed, positive implications for United States school systems could drastically enhance the student and teachers’ experiences with major implications for society as a whole.
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