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Transforming the Currency of Educational Leadership into Cultural and

Social Capital as Transformational Leadership

RoSusan D. Bartee, PhD
University of Mississippi

What we know and what we must be able to do remains a simply stated, yet
complex endeavor for the educational system of leadership in 21 st century schools. The
currency of educational leadership and its capacity to exchange into effective educational
leadership become indicative of what transpires within the context of schools irrespective of
the backgrounds of students and stakeholders. In effect, transformational leadership uses
the R2 of resources as cultural capital and relationships as social capital to produce the
results of a transferable model of leadership practices for 21st century schools.
Key Words: transformational leadership, cultural and social capital

What we know and what we must be able to do remains a simply stated, yet complex
endeavor for the educational system of leadership in 21 st century schools. The what we knows
of leadership are grounded in theoretical constructs that offer frameworks for understanding
multi-faceted dynamics of educational leadership. Theoretical constructs of educational
leadership are based upon historical and contemporary perspectives, demonstrating how
leadership functions within institutional roles and relationships, as well as individual behaviors
and boundaries (Hoy & Miskel, 2008; Howell & Costley, 2006). The what we must be able to
dos of educational leadership are practical, evidence-based approaches used to address emerging
issues or emanate challenges in school contexts. Particularly, given the era of NCLB, educational
leaders subscribe to empirically-based practices for achieving desired student outcomes.
In many ways, the successful integration of theory and practice is exemplary in
transformational leadership, given its capacity to foster selfless commitment toward a collective
cause irrespective of critical differences between the stakeholders and the cause being served.
The transferable currency or embodied capital of transformational leadership, in essence,
demonstrates how our [educational leaders] role goes beyond the bounded organizational
context and extends into the wider social context within which schools are located and from
which our students come (Shields, 2006, p. 64).
Accordingly, this conceptual paper on transformational leadership for 21st century schools
examines how traditional models of leadership inhibit the capacity to change or recreate school
contexts. It also examines how transformational leadership uses the R 2 of resources and
relationships, with resources as cultural capital and relationships as social capital to produce a
transferable model for leadership practices for 21st century schools.


Conceptual Perspectives on Educational Leadership as Policy and Practice:

21st Century Schools and Capital Forms
The role of leadership is fundamental to the administration and governance of organizational
contexts. Hoy and Miskel (2008) suggest the following definition of leadership:
Leadership is a social process in which a member or members of a group or organization
influence the interpretation of internal and external events, the choice of goals or desired
outcomes, organization of work activities, individual motivation and abilities, power
relations, and shared orientations. Moreover, as a specialized role and social influence
process, leadership is comprised of both rational and emotional elements with no
assumptions about the purpose or outcome of the influence efforts.
Leadership or, rather, the effectiveness of leadership is linked to the influence occurring on
macro- and/or micro-levels. From the macro levels of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy and
procedures to the micro-levels of interactions and interests of students, parents, teachers, and
other primary stakeholders, educational leadership becomes the symbiotic representation of
people, policy, and precedent. The process-oriented nature of leadership positions it as being
more complex than an educational system, based upon inputs and outputs.
Fundamental assumptions of traditional leadership, nonetheless, posture leadership as an
organizational function which is both rational and technical in its conception and projection (Hoy
& Miskel, 2008; Shields, 2006; Cline & Necochea, 2000; Fullan, 1999). More specifically, Day
(1990) indicates how power with versus power over becomes a challenge for top-down
approaches of leadership (p. 58). Such assumption negates consideration about the impact of
institutional or organizational factors upon individual attainment or performance outcomes.
Other fundamental assumptions of traditional leadership indicate a focus on inherited values and
human nature (Gorton & Alston, 2009; Fairholm 2000). Such assumptions emphasize subjective
components of leadership driven by personality and not the demands of the position.
Recognizing the significance, status-quo theoretical perspectives of traditional leadership
become critical to understanding the implications of transformational leadership within 21 st
century schools.
A fundamental question in this discussion on leadership practices for 21 st century schools
is: What are 21st century schools? The role of 21st century schools is to prepare students
holistically in cognitive, affective, and social ways to meet societal demands (Helm, Turckes, &
Hinton, 2010; Rotherham & Willingham, 2009; Manthey, 2008; Hardy, 2007). Thematic
implications of knowledge, skills, and dispositions become the shared characteristics of the
holistic approach to achieve desired outcomes. Bassett (2005) situates 21 st century schools as
espousing a leadership vision for proficiency, fluency, multicultural literacy, and high-quality
performance for students in various areas. Proficiency is represented in the type of curriculum;
fluency is represented in areas beyond technical competencies into the non-technical areas of
leadership, decision-making, and ethics; multicultural literacy is inclusive of those individuals
who are familiar with the history and experiences of diverse groups, and high-quality
performance involves commitment to extracurricular activities (Bassett, 2005). The leadership
vision is inclusive of those non-academic, un-traditional, and in-formal factors which exclusively
impact the educational process. A synthesis of these major components can be found in
Watermans (2009) report, 21st Century schools: A world class education for every child. The
report, issued by the Great Britain Department for Children, School, and Families, provides a


description of the features of 21st century schools based on standards and stakeholder
responsibilities, individually and collectively. A graphic description of these components appears

On an individual basis, the illustration suggests that 21 st century schools require specialized
curricular and pedagogical approaches to enhance the teaching and learning process. On a
collective basis, the graphic indicates that standardized approaches for teaching and learning
from the realms of educational policy and practice must be established.
Conceptions of diverse forms of capital, nonetheless, become useful for understanding
the role of 21st century schools and their capacity to effect transformative change. Bartee and
Brown (2007) assert the following: Distribution of capital in home and school settings affects
the types of educational outcomes and the quality of lifelong opportunities individuals are able to
enjoy (p. 1). In essence, capital is valuable in meaningful ways, unique internally and externally
to the school context. The form of cultural capital consists of acquired knowledge that stems
from affiliations with particular traditions (Bartee & Brown, 2007, p. 53). Cultural capital is
essentially acquired through the academic curriculum provided by the schools and the
nonacademic experiences provided by the home. The form of social capital is comprised of
networks and associations through which access is made available (Bartee & Brown, 2007;
Bourdieu, 1984; Bourdieu, 1990; Coleman 1988). Social capital is acquired as a human resource
which personal or professional relationships offer.
In light of NCLB, the policy and practice of educational leadership demand strategic and
deliberate approaches to attain accountability and achievement without compromising the
integrity of the student learner. Elmore (2003) indicates the need for a shared approach toward
leadership among system-level administrators to address macro- and micro-levels involving
school improvement; five parameters are suggested for consideration:
1) Internal accountability precedes external accountabilityEducators are usually people
to whom things happen, not people who make things happen. (p. 9)
2) Improvement is a developmental process that proceeds in stages; it is not a linear
processWe learn in part by tearing down old preconceptions, trying out new ideas and


practices, and working hard to incorporate these new ideas and practices into our
operating model of the world. (pp. 9-10)
3) Leadership is a cultural practiceLeaders understand that improving school
performance requires transforming a fundamentally weak instructional core and the
culture that surrounds it into a strong explicit body of knowledge about powerful teaching
and learning that is accessible to those who are willing to learn it. (p. 10)
4) Powerful leadership is distributed because the work of instructional improvement is
distributedSchools that are improving seldom, if ever, engage exclusively in role-based
professional development, that is, professional learning in which people in different roles
are segregated from one another. Instead, learning takes place across roles. Improving
schools pay attention to who knows what and how that knowledge can strengthen the
organization. (p. 10)
5) Knowledge is not necessarily where you think it isMost of the knowledge about
improvements is in the schools where improvement is occurring, and most of those
schools are, by definition, schools with a history of low performance. (p. 10)
These views regarding school improvement efforts mirror characteristics of transformational
leadership. Transformational leadership is not status quo: Followers become leaders and leaders
become change agents and ultimately transform the organization (Hoy & Miskel, 2009, p. 448).
Traditional leadership maintains the status quo. Transformational leadership is not stagnant, but
comprised of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and
individualized consideration, the four Is (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Traditional leadership
reproduces similar outcomes. The intersection of educational leadership and diverse forms of
capital within 21st century schools provides the framework for examining the implications of
currency of exchange leadership for transforming school contexts.
Intersection of Transformational Leadership and Cultural Capital
An important uniqueness about 21st century schools and their leadership practices
is the shared focus on knowledge and the inherent value it possesses. Knowledge is either
considered academically-generated (school) or non-academically-generated (experience).
Irrespective of the source, acquired knowledge informs capacities to think, reason, analyze, and
decide. In both cases, transformational leaders understand the need for diversified curricula
toward improving student outcomes (Sanchez, 2003; Wagner et. al, 2006). Such (non)academic
knowledge becomes a resource of cultural capital for students and currency valued within the
(ex) change of educational leadership.
Diversified curricula prepare students with the requisite cultural capital to be informed
about legitimate content matters acquired from school. Sanchez (2003) asserts the following:
academic programs must compel students to go beyond memorizing a hodgepodge of facts.
Schools must help students become independent learners who thinkapply their knowledge,
reflect on their learning...schools must help our children create, findoverwhelming amounts of
knowledge and information... (p. 31). There is a clear recognition of the need to be informed
about traditional content knowledge which, in essence, aligns with the rational, traditional
approach of leadership toward maintaining status quo. What becomes different, however, is the
approach taken in the dissemination of the knowledge. Bass and Riggio (2006) view
transformational leadership as intellectual stimulation that encourages the delivery of content and


pedagogical realignment for teaching and learning. More specifically, Transformational leaders
stimulate followers to be innovative and creative by questioning old assumptions, traditions, and
beliefs; reframing problems; and approaching old situations in new ways (Hoy & Miskel, 2008,
p. 447).
Diversified curricula demonstrate the value of experiences acquired within the family
context as an acceptable form of knowledge. This type of (non)academic knowledge is to be
integrated into the learning process as a venue for bridging the knowledge gap between the home
and school. Neuman (2010) states the following:
High quality programs often involve students in project-based learning experiences that
give them opportunities to discover and reflect on phenomena in their real worlds and
communitiesSuch activities give voice to students need to engage in productive and
meaningful work. (p. 33)
Consequently, this approach authenticates the experiences of students from diverse backgrounds
which often get marginalized in the larger societal context. Bass and Riggio (2006) offer a
second dimension of transformational leadership that promotes individualized consideration with
its focus on the holistic needs of the students involved. Hoy and Miskel (2008) advance this
assumption as illustrated in the following: Individualized consideration means that
transformational leaders pay particular attention to each individuals needs for achievement and
growth (p. 447).
In many ways, the leadership model exemplified by Capital Preparatory Magnet School
in Hartford, Connecticut demonstrates how the cultivation of cultural capital becomes a
manifestation of the vision of building a community of change agents as espoused by the
visionary Dr. Steve Perry (Capital Preparatory Magnet School, 2010). The mission of Capital
Preparatory Magnet School is identified as a year round college preparatory school designed to
engage students in social justice themes exploring issues of equality, democracy, economic
opportunity, intellectual freedoms, environmental protection and human rights (Capital
Preparatory Magnet School, 2010). The focus of using knowledge as a form of social justice
informs the thought processes of the students and its stakeholders. Given that one of the major
graduation requirements is a research-based social justice project where students are required to
explore a problem through data collection and analysis, where students gain meaningful practical
experiences based upon their capacity to transfer their curricular, theory-generated model of
becoming skilled information processors, collaborators, empathetic and knowledgeable citizens,
and problem solvers into something meaningful (Capital Preparatory Magnet School, 2010).
Consequently, it is not surprising that Capital Preparatory Magnet School is being touted as one
of Americas Best High Schools, and its currency and capital transfer into sending every graduate
to a four-year college. Capital Preparatory Magnet School is transformational leadership in
Intersection of Transformational Leadership and Social Capital
Another characteristic of 21st century schools and their leadership practices is the
mutually reciprocating element involving relationships between institutions and individuals. Like
knowledge, (non)traditional skills are acquired through academic or nonacademic experiences
which provide technical competencies to perform a given task. The quality of relationships,


however, gets forged based upon the capacity at which the task involved is considered to be
acceptable or valued by the other party. Transformational leaders recognize the need for
establishing relationships with multiple stakeholders who may or may not fit the status quo
(Hoyle, 2001; Wagner et. al, 2006). Such un-traditional skills become useful in relationships
affording social capital for students and currency valued within the (ex) change of educational
The relationships established between the educational leaders and respective internal and
external stakeholders offer more access and opportunities for students to be involved. Walser in
Manthey (2008) indicates 21st century skills as the following: critical thinking, problem solving,
collaboration, written and oral communication, creativity, self-direction, leadership, adaptability,
responsibility, and global awareness (p. 15). From an internal perspective, these are skills which
need to be developed within the context of the relationships between the student and teacher,
student and administrator, and the student and other students. While traditional leadership
considers relationships as naturally evolving around personal interests, transformational leaders
consider internal relationships as goal-oriented and, therefore, investments must be made in
different ways to forge trust and buy-in. In transformational leadership, idealized influence, the
third dimension, serves as a motivating force to be part of something greater and larger than the
individual self (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Idealized influence builds trust and respect in followers
and provides the basis for accepting radical and fundamental changes in the ways individuals and
organizations do their work (p. 446).
From an external perspective, the relationships of social capital as established or inherited
by the educational leader, provide the venue to encourage involvement in extracurricular
activities. Extracurricular activities prepare students with skill sets that prepare them for life in
different ways. Sanchez (2003) asserts the following:
School must also help our children develop into well-adjusted individuals who can thrive
in a world that is increasingly characterized by difference, diversity, and rapid change.
Our children must be able to easily navigate this world of difference if theyre to
succeedFinally, if our children are to be prepared to succeed in this 21 st century world
and, in fact, to transform it into a good place in which to live and work, they must be both
socially and environmentally responsible; they must be team players of our communities
and society. So, we must help our children develop the communication, interaction and
civic skills to live in a world that is high touch as well as high tech: a world that is
characterized as much by interdependency as by diversity. (p. 32)
Extracurricular activities become the gateway for students to gain social capital and to get
a first-hand understanding about the importance of relationships and the skills in them. The
fourth dimension of transformation in the Bass and Riggio (2006) model, inspirational
motivation, encourages individuals to be involved because of their capacity to make a difference.
Transformational leaders energize people by projecting an attractive and optimistic future,
emphasizing ambitious goals, and creating idealized visions for the organization and clearly
communicating to followers that the vision is attainable (Hoy & Miskell, 2008, p. 447).
Many of the tenets of the transformational leadership model are demonstrated within the
vision of the Harlem Childrens Zone and the visionary Mr. Geoffrey Canada. The Harlem
Childrens Zone identifies best-practice programs for children of every age, through college. This
program illustrates the fundamental principles of helping students, in a sustained way, to have
access and start as early as possible to create a network of people who understand what it takes to


achieve (Harlem Childrens Zone, 2010). Social capital is embodied within this transformational
leadership approach since it integrates a (non)traditional skill of relationship building and
network access as part of its curricular approach. Through the cultivation of social capital, the
idea is that students will be surrounded with access to human resources who offer systems of
enduring support and quality information until a tipping point is reached (Harlem Childrens
Zone, 2010). The transformational leadership within the Harlem Childrens Zone shows how
significant concern for the followers beliefs and values are critical toward sustaining the buy-in
and inspiration of the followers, as well as the capacity to generate results. Such efforts have
received national attention from President Barack Obama as he encouraged the creation of
"Promise Neighborhoods" across the country, based on the comprehensive, data-driven approach
of the HCZ Project (Harlem Childrens Zone, 2010). Harlem Childrens Zone is a unique
intersection of social capital and transformational leadership as a twenty-first century school.
In this literature review, there are several implications of transformational leadership for
21 century schools. The conceptual perspectives on transformational leadership offer a useful
framework for examining nontraditional ways of approaching what we know and what we
must be able to do. The four Is, as articulated by Bass and Riggio (2006), influence,
inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration, need to be
integrated within the context of school in order to foster a teaching and learning environment
where all students can be successful. The integration of capital forms and transformational
leadership is unlike traditional forms of leadership, given its focus on expanding access to groups
who are non-traditional, who do not fit the status quo, and who do not have privilege to quality
networks and informational sources. Simply stated, what 21st century schools must know and be
able to do is understand how the currency of transformational leadership is transferable into
infrastructural capacities which generate cultural and social capital and thereby can be used as a
mechanism for improving educational outcomes for students and stakeholders alike.

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RoSusan D. Bartee is Associate Professor, Department of Leadership and Counselor Education,
School of Education, at the University of Mississippi.