1. The Relationship between Leadership Effectiveness, Organizational Culture,
and Program Focus
Larry McNeal, PhD
University of Memphis
Joris Ray, EdD
Memphis City Schools
This study investigated the relationships between leadership effectiveness, culture,
program focus, and job satisfaction. A survey was distributed to 850 principals, teachers,
and educational support staff in public alternative schools in Tennessee. Of that number,
388 (45.6%) responded. The study yielded several findings. First, staff educational levels
were related to perceptions of leadership effectiveness. Second, the ethnicity of some staff
corresponded with perceptions about school focus. Third, professional status and
experience were related to culture. Fourth, culture and leadership effective culture were
related. Finally, a relationship existed between leadership effectiveness, culture, program
focus, and job satisfaction.
Key words: role of principals; leadership effectiveness; education level; ethnic groups
The role of today’s school principal is significantly different from that of the principals of
two decades ago (York, Barr, & Duke, 2004). Today, schools contain a myriad of problems,
including violence, fewer resources, higher absenteeism, increasing dropout rates, reduction in
academic performance, complexity of student needs, influence of gangs and gang behavior, and
reduced graduation rates (Kearney, 2008). These issues have influenced the public’s expectations
of the principalship.
Public expectations of the principalship have increased beyond the professional task of
being the instructional leader (Bauer, Haydel, & Cody, 2005; York et al., 2004). Principals must
not only possess strong instructional skills but also be capable of managing a variety of
responsibilities and duties, such as building schools that promote teaching and learning for all
students (McCain & Jukes, 2001). Schools that promote powerful teaching and learning
environments develop a culture that supports these efforts and have a clearly articulated program
According to Marzano (2003), developing culture involves the creation of cooperative
environments among staff within the context of a shared sense of purpose together with the
execution of other responsibilities. Deal and Peterson (1994) note that the most effective change
2. in culture happens when principals, teachers, and students model the values and beliefs most
important to the institution. Principals who act with care and concern for others are more likely
to facilitate the development of a culture that reflects these values and promotes job satisfaction
(Srivastava & Pratap, 1984).
Such facilitative leadership exercises power through others, not over them (Huffman &
Jacobson as cited in Williams, 2006). The issues of leadership effectiveness, culture, program
focus, and job satisfaction pose some fundamental questions for educators. For instance these
questions emerge: What is the relationship between leadership effectiveness and culture? Are
these two variables related to program focus? Is job satisfaction also related to leadership
effectiveness, culture, and program focus? This study investigates the relationship between the
four variables using a state-wide sample of school staff.
The variables in this study were school staff perceptions of the relationships between
leadership effectiveness, culture, program focus, and job satisfaction. The study used a
correlational research design method. Correlational research is a quantitative method in which
two or more variables from the same group of subjects are examined to determine if there is a
relationship between them (Creswell, 2009). If a relationship exists, then the significance of the
relationship is determined using correlational statistics.
The population for this study was members of the Tennessee Alternative Education
Association that represented the 119 school systems that operate at least one alternative school.
This diverse group includes urban, suburban, and rural school districts in West, Middle, and East
Tennessee. The sample was comprised of principals, teachers, and educational support staff. The
survey was sent to 850 principals, teachers, and support staff. Almost 46% (388) of staff
members responded. The demographics showed that most of the schools (N=16, 44%) came
from counties in the western part of the state, followed by the eastern (N=11, 31%), and middle
(N=9, 25%) parts of the state. The largest number of schools were rural (N=29, 88%) with
suburban (N=4, 11%) and urban (N=3, 8%) schools representing a much smaller portion. The
ethnicity of respondents varied with Whites being the largest group (N=155, 50%), respectively
followed by African-Americans (N=136, 44%), Asian Americans (N=9, 3%), Multi-Racial and
Others (N=5, 2%), and Hispanic/Latino (N=3, 1%). Females were the largest group of
respondents (N=182, 59%) followed by males (N=126, 44%). A number of respondents had both
a bachelor’s and master’s degree (N=108, 35%), but others had a master’s +45 hours (N=58,
19%), or educational specialist degrees, (N=27, 9%) with a smaller number holding a doctorate
degree (N=6, 2%). The overwhelming majority were teachers (N=236, 77%), followed by
principals (N=44, 14%), assistant principals (N=7, 2%), and others (N=21, 7%) which consisted
of counselors, librarians, program coordinators, and other support personnel. The typical
respondent had slightly more than 13 years of experience with 6 years of that in an alternative
school setting and almost 5 years at their current school.
3. Data Collection
The Tennessee Alternative School Questionnaire (TASQ) survey instrument was used in
the study. The TASQ was based on the earlier research of Cameron, Quinn, DeGraff, & Thakor
(2006) who developed the Leadership Effectiveness Assessment Device (LEAD). This identifies
observable behaviors and maps such behaviors into a comprehensive model of organizational
and leadership effectiveness called the Competing Values Framework (CVF). In addition, the
Competing Values Culture Instrument (CVCI) presents a set of questions related to a school’s
culture (Quinn, 1988).
The Competing Values Framework was based on statistical analyses of a comprehensive
list of effectiveness indicators which were grouped into two major dimensions (Quinn &
Rohrbaugh, 1983). The first dimension is related to organizational focus from an internal
emphasis on the well-being and development of people in the organization toward an external
focus on the well-being and development of the organization itself. The second dimension
differentiates the organizational preference for structure and represents the contrast between
stability and control and flexibility and change. Together, the two dimensions form four
Each quadrant represents one of four major models or organizational and management
theories (Quinn, 1988). The Human Relations Model places emphasis on flexibility and internal
focus. It stresses cohesion, morale, and human resources development as criteria for
effectiveness. The Open Systems Model emphasizes flexibility and external focus and stresses
readiness, growth, resources acquisition, and external support. The Rational Goal Model
emphasizes control and an external focus. It regards planning, goal setting, productivity, and
efficiency as being effective. Finally, the Internal Process Model emphasizes control and internal
focus, and it stresses the role of information and management, communication, stability, and
The Tennessee Alternative School Questionnaire (TASQ) was developed to gather
demographic, leadership effectiveness, school culture, program focus (academic or behavior),
and job satisfaction data. The initial version of the questionnaire was developed by researchers
from the University of Memphis (Allen, Franceschini & Lowther, 2010). Specific behavioral
items aligned with the CVF and leadership were identified. To establish content validity, the
researchers used principals and professors versed in educational leadership and CVF literature.
The items were also tested for structural validity by a panel of teachers who were not versed in
leadership or CVF literature. Related items were sorted into eight groups. The panel grouped
75% (six out of eight items per role) of the items. The remaining 25% were incorrectly grouped
but were identified with a CVF role and were edited for greater clarity (Allen, Franceshini, &
Lowther, 2010). The instrument was first used in a study of school leadership in implementing
technology in K-12 school settings in Michigan in 2008.
Demographic items (geographical region, school type, ethnicity, educational level,
professional status, and experience) were added to the questionnaire. The TASQ was distributed
to staff in 119 school systems. The sample was comprised of principals, teachers, and
educational support staff of Tennessee alternative schools. The survey was distributed to 850
principals, teachers, and educational support staff. Almost 46% (388) returned a survey.
In order to understand how each subgroup category impacts ratings of leadership
effectiveness, a multiple regression analysis was performed. The tested model included seven
independent variables (ethnicity, gender, education level, professional status, total educational
experience, alternative school experience, and experience at present alternative school). The
seven variables were put into the model at the same time, using the ENTER method. The table
includes beta weights, standard errors, and t-values for the demographic variables. All together,
the seven category variables accounted for almost 9% of the variance in perception of leadership
= 0.088). Results for the model are in Table 1.
The extent to which staff members perceived their schools to be academically or
behaviorally focused by gender, professional status, educational level, ethnicity, and experience
was also tested using a regression model. Again, the ENTER method was used; however, the
seven categories only accounted for approximately 6% of the variance in respondents’ ratings of
school orientation (R2
= 0.055). The only category showing a significant impact on ratings of
school orientation was ethnicity (t = -3.47, p <.001). Results for this model are in Table 2.
Regression Analysis Summary of Respondent Demographic Variables Predicting School Orientation (N =
Variable B S.E.B. B t
Gender 0.07 0.16 0.03 0.47
Professional Status -0.06 0.23 -0.02 -0.26
Educational Level 0.07 0.11 0.04 0.67
Ethnic Group -0.55 0.16 -0.20 -3.47 ***
Educational Experience 0.00 0.01 -0.01 -0.20
Total Alternative School Experience 0.01 0.02 0.03 0.27
Experience at Present Alternative School 0.04 0.03 0.12 1.35
= 0.055, (p <.05)
*p <.05. **p <.01. ***p <.001
5. Table 2
Regression Analysis Summary of Respondent Demographic Variables Predicting Mean Leadership
Effectiveness (N = 308)
Variable B S.E.B. B t
Gender -0.04 0.10 -0.02 -0.38
Professional Status -0.01 0.15 0.00 -0.05
Educational Level 0.16 0.07 0.14 2.35 *
Ethnic Group -0.42 0.10 -0.23 -4.07 ***
Educational Experience -0.01 0.01 -0.09 -1.29
Total Alternative School Experience 0.02 0.02 0.12 1.31
Experience at Present Alternative School 0.00 0.02 0.02 0.19
= 0.088, (p <.001)
*p <.05. **p <.01. ***p <.001
To ascertain the extent to which staff perceived four different types of organizational
cultures to be represented at their schools by gender, professional status, educational level,
ethnicity and experience, scores were obtained on multiple measures of culture. Multivariate
Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was used to determine whether significant group differences
were obtained, first, in an overall or multivariate sense, and, second, for four measures of culture
individually examined or in a univariate sense. Displayed in Table 3 by gender, professional
status, educational level, and median experience are the various means and standard deviations.
6. Table 3
Means and Standard Deviations for Four Measures of Culture by Demographic Variables
n M SD M SD M SD M SD
Male 126 135.0 72.4 80.3 40.0 99.6 61.4 90.8 43.1
Female 182 144.8 72.1 80.3 43.3 92.8 64.5 87.9 46.7
Teachers/Others 257 136.3 68.2 81.0 42.8 96.9 62.7 90.8 43.7
Principals/Assistants 51 163.4 87.2 76.6 37.2 88.7 65.9 80.5 51.8
Bachelor’s 108 130.0 71.4 79.9 43.2 102.5 64.3 93.4 42.8
Master’s 108 144.5 68.9 81.0 44.4 94.3 62.4 88.8 49.6
Above Master’s 92 149.0 76.2 80.0 37.5 89.0 62.8 84.4 42.7
African-American 136 145.0 65.7 82.7 37.9 89.4 49.2 89.8 39.7
Others 172 137.4 77.0 78.4 44.9 100.5 72.1 88.5 49.3
Total Educational Experience
Less than Eleven Years 150 129.6 72.3 79.6 45.4 99.4 60.2 94.4 46.2
Eleven or More Years 158 151.4 70.8 80.9 38.4 92.0 65.9 84.0 43.9
Total Alternative School Experience
Less than Five Years 148 129.8 65.6 76.2 44.8 103.1 61.0 96.8 44.7
Five or More Years 160 151.0 76.6 84.1 38.8 88.6 64.5 81.9 44.7
Experience at Present Alternative School
Less than Three Years 117 129.7 69.0 75.5 42.1 102.8 57.9 96.6 44.8
Three or More Years 191 147.6 73.5 83.2 41.6 91.2 66.0 84.4 45.0
7. Shown in Table 4 are the results for the independent variables having exactly two levels,
and in Table 5 are the results for the independent variables having more than two levels. As
shown in the tables, neither multivariate nor univariate group differences were observed for the
independent variables, gender, ethnicity, and educational level. Although no multivariate group
differences were observed for professional status and median experience at present alternative
schools, univariate differences were observed for these two variables.
Multivariate and Univariate Analyses of Variance F Ratios for Four Measures of Culture by
Gender, Professional Status, Ethnicity, and Experience
F(4, 303) F(1, 306) F(1, 306) F(1, 306) F(1, 306)
Gender 0.43 1.37 0.00 0.86 0.30
Status 2.06 6.11* 0.46 0.73 2.18
Ethnicity 1.95 0.83 0.78 2.37 0.06
Total Experience 2.80* 7.09** 0.08 1.04 4.16*
2.44* 6.74* 2.77 4.06* 8.51**
1.95 4.52* 2.46 2.47 5.36*
*p <.05. **p <.01. ***p <.001
Multivariate and Univariate Analyses of Variance F Ratios for Four Measures of Culture by
F(8, 604) F(2, 305) F(2, 305) F(2, 305) F(2, 305)
Educational Level 0.88 1.94 0.02 1.17 0.98
Based on the data relative to perceptions of school leadership being effective by gender,
professional status, educational level, ethnicity, and experience, there were two categories that
showed significant relationships to leadership effectiveness. Both the educational levels and
ethnic groups of the respondents showed significant impact. This finding indicates that African-
Americans, more than any other ethnic group, rate leadership effectiveness higher. Literature is
silent about this kind of relationship. The data also shows that as the educational level of the
respondents increased, the higher the ratings were for leadership effectiveness. This revelation is
consistent with the literature (IEL, 2000; Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2008; Leithwood &
Staff’s perception of their schools being academically or behaviorally focused by gender,
professional status, educational level, ethnicity, and experience showed only one significant
finding. The only category showing a significant impact on the ratings of program focus was
ethnicity. African-Americans perceived alternative schools to be more academically focused than
did other ethnicities. Although research reflects little documentation on alternative schools and
program focus, the Tennessee Department of Education (2006) does encourage school districts to
provide more academically-based instructional programs for students in alternative education
settings, but this does not explain the ethnicity difference.
In regard to the staffs’ perceptions by gender, professional status, educational level,
ethnicity, and experience of the four different types of cultures being represented at their school,
the findings show four significant responses. These were all related to human relations: (1)
professional status, which had a significant impact on how respondents rated their schools in
terms of a human relations culture; (2) experience, which level had an impact on human relations
ratings; (3) experience with alternative schools, which had a significant impact on human
relations, and (4) for present alternative school experience, respondents with three or more years
had higher human relations ratings than did those with fewer than three years of experience. As
indicated by the data, perceptions of a human relations model triumphed over the other three
models. This model emphasizes building teamwork and cultivating employee’s skills and
competencies (Harris, 2001; Quinn & Rohrbaugh, 1983).
The results also show a relationship between culture and leadership effectiveness. The
human relations and open systems models were more closely aligned with leadership
effectiveness for reasons previously mentioned. In addition, results indicate a relationship among
leadership effectiveness, culture, program focus, and satisfaction. Respondents indicate that job
satisfaction was significantly related to all three variables. As leadership effectiveness increased,
so did reported job satisfaction levels. Human relations and open systems culture also showed
positive relationships with satisfaction; when the program focus was more academic, job
satisfaction increased. In addition, in schools where the program focus was staff who are more
academic, higher levels of job satisfaction were reported.
This study investigates the relationship between leadership effectiveness, school culture,
program focus, and job satisfaction. These relationships underpin efforts to improve teaching and
learning for all children. They are also concerns of educators as they ponder the task of
9. continued school reform. Lessons from this study provide some insight into the nature of
relationships and the importance of them for building successful schools. These relationships are
at the core of an ever changing educational environment where principals are expected to be
more than instructional leaders, teachers to do more than teach, and support staff to be more than
quiet cheerleaders on the sidelines. The new focus is on developing a professional learning
community where responsibility for teaching and learning is shared with all (DuFour & Eaker,
1998; Hord, 1997), and ownership of educational processes belongs to all stakeholders.
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Larry McNeal is Chair of the Department of Leadership at the University of Memphis.
Joris Ray is an administrator with the Memphis City Schools in Memphis, Tennessee.