Thursday, November 30, 2017

Invitational Leadership Theory and Intentionality: Powerful tools for neutralizing gender bias

The context of school leadership has been rapidly changing since the late 1980s, as reflected in numerous past and ongoing educational reforms and school restructuring movements in western countries and also in the Asia-Pacific Regions (Yin Cheong, 2010).  In response to these changing and amplified conditions of accountability, Burns and Martin (2010) reviewed numerous studies that examined diverse leadership models designed to meet the leadership needs of the past several decades (Hallinger & Heck, 1999; Kezar, 2000; Leithwood, Jantzi, & Steinbach, 2000; Sergiovanni, 2000; Spears & Lawrence, 2004; Yukl, 2006).  Although transformational and servant leadership models have served educational leaders for several decades, Burns and Martin identify one comprehensive model as having been created with the promise for providing a positive and encouraging structure to guide today’s leaders through complex times.  That relatively new model is invitational leadership.  As cited by Burns and Martin, “Invitational theory is a collection of assumptions that seek to explain phenomena and provide a means of intentionally summoning people to realize their relatively boundless potential in all areas of worthwhile human endeavor” (Purkey, 1992, p.5).  Furthermore, “The purpose of invitational leadership is to address the entire global nature of human existence and opportunity” (Purkey, 1992,p. 29).  Thus, this invitational leadership model provides a comprehensive design that is inclusive of many vital elements needed for the success of today’s educational organizations.
As quoted by Burns and Martin (2010, p. 30)  “the research on the effects of Invitational Education Theory in the educational administrative process is relatively new as compared to other theories pertaining to leadership” (Egley, 2003, p.57).  Burns and Martin (2010) believed their literature review, which included analysis of Aldridge, (2003); Jennings,(2003); Penner, (1981); Shapiro, (1990); and Stillion & Siegel, (2005) reinforces their premise that “contemporary leaders in education must face a new day requiring skills and knowledge beyond what needed to be exhibited by previous leaders” (p. 30).  The seminal work of Purkey and Siegel blended leadership qualities, values, and principles when developing the invitational leadership theory and model that invited success from all interested stakeholders (Burns & Martin, 2010).  “This model shifts from emphasizing control and dominance to one that focuses on connectedness, cooperation, and communication” (Purkey & Siegel, 2003, p.1).  Burns and Martin (2010) note “invitational leadership was created based upon four basic assumptions exemplifying invitational leaders: optimism, respect, trust, and intentionality” (p.31).  Combined with these four basic assumptions are five powerful factors: people, places, policies, programs, and processes, which Purkey and Siegel call the “five P’s” (p. 104), which have separate and combined influence on Invitational Leadership.  The combination of these five P’s and the four basic assumptions provide limitless opportunities for the Invitational Leader because the combination addresses the total culture of nearly every organization (Burns and Martin, 2010, p. 34).
Prior to the more recent Pew Research Center analysis of gender issues in leadership, Burns and Martin (2010) reviewed the related literature and found research supporting the premise that males are perceived to be more competent than females when considering work-related issues (Cleveland, Stockdale, & Murphy, (2000) and Stelter, (2002).  Additionally, research by Henderson (1994) found male supervisors were often preferred by both male and female workers because responding workers believed the male supervisor “possessed the characteristics of good managers such as emotional stability, ability to make correct decisions, analytic ability, and the like” (p.52).  Offering a clear contrast, Rosener’s (1990) extensive gender research established that women consistently strove to create positive interactions with fellow co-workers and followers.  Female leaders encouraged “participation, share power, and information, enhance other people’s self-worth, and get others excited about their work” (p. 120).  Burns and Martin (2010) concluded that perceptions of gender differences ranged from interpersonal relationships to social role expectations to differences in perception and styles.  Thus, given men and women indeed lead and follow differently, it should be generally agreed that men and women will naturally vary in their leadership styles (p. 36).  Did these differences exist where the invitational leadership model was utilized?
For their study of this question, Burns and Martin’s (2010) sampled 14 principals and 164 teachers employed in Missouri public schools.  The researchers employed a purposeful sampling method, consisting of a multi-tiered criteria process to select the schools.  The first criterion was geographic whereby the state was divided into quadrants.  To select principals from schools considered effective in meeting high accountability standards from each quadrant, the researchers identified all school districts based on their district’s performance in meeting Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) standards.  The next criterion was using districts in which the leadership of the school could be attributed to the characteristics of its current leader.  Therefore each selected school needed to have its principal serving in his or her current position for an average range of three to five years.  The final criterion applied by Burns and Martin (2010) was in consideration of gender.  This addressed the purpose of distinguishing between possible characteristic differences in leadership based on gender (p. 37).
Overall, 14 principal surveys were sent to participating schools and all 14 surveys were returned for a return rate of 100%.  Teachers at the participating schools were sent 252 teacher surveys and 164 were returned for a return rate of 65%.  To include qualitative aspects to the study, based on their indication of interest to participate in a follow-up interview, two female principals and two male principals were interviewed using eleven semi-structured, open-ended question protocol.  Five teachers were selected for the follow-up interview based on a stratified sample method.  For the surveys, Burns and Martin (2010) modified items found on Asbill’s (2000) leadership survey for teachers.  Their intent was to create a survey befitting the design of their study.  The result was a 44-item Likert type surveys titled, Teacher Perceptions of Leadership Practices (TPLP) (pp 52-55) and Principal Perceptions of Leadership Practices (PPLP).  Survey questions were selected based on the components of the invitational theory and the desire to identify perceived leadership effectiveness.
The researchers utilized several procedures for examining the quantitative and qualitative data aspects of the data.  The researchers collected raw data and prepared for analysis.  Each quantitative and qualitative research approach was initially analyzed separately and then merged in the discussion of the research findings based on the tenets of invitational leadership.  For the quantitative analysis, a multivariate analysis of variance method (MANOVA) was utilized to determine any statistical difference in each of the surveys’ subscales or whether dependent and independent variables existed between the two categories.  For the qualitative analysis, the researchers found the interviews contributed to an enriched description within the study by providing subsequent triangulation of documents.  Specific artifacts helped supplement their depth of understanding of the participating district’s organizational beliefs and priorities. (Burns and Martin, 2010, p. 39).
Compared to the perceived leadership at less effective schools, the effective schools, on average, were led by leaders who were perceived to demonstrate consistently higher attributes of effective invitational leadership qualities (Burns and Martin, 2010, p. 39).  Follow-up interviews with teachers and principals established that teachers believed that the invitational qualities of respect and trust were the most influential leadership qualities, while principals viewed “trust as the predominant influencing factor” (p. 29).  Their analysis identified significant differences between the usages of invitational leadership qualities in effective schools versus less effective schools.  Levels of significance were so compelling that the researchers found it reasonable to clearly conclude that principals leading “effective schools,” as identified through the MSIP process, regularly utilize invitational leadership behaviors.  Additionally, during interviews Burns and Martin found the perceptions of these leaders were consistently more positive and affirming than the perceptions of leaders in schools that were identified as less effective.  This analysis revealed that effective leadership behaviors prove effective, regardless of the gender of the leader. Participants in the follow-up interviews praised the efforts of effective leaders without regard to gender. Thus, effective leadership characteristics considered helpful in the creation of successful organizations were not based on the leader’s gender (p, 46). 

Given the researchers’ credentials, soundness of methodology, and thoroughness of their literature review, Burns and Martin’s contention that invitational leadership theory can be a process for improving schools is very sound.  As a result their stated implications are also valid.  For instance, one implication for practice would be encouraging school districts to attend to the tenets of invitational leadership, applying them accordingly to their educational setting, and considering the selection of leadership candidates based on their beliefs regarding invitational leadership theory (Burns and Martin, 2010, p. 47).  Based on the results from the study, the researchers believe principals have the power to positively create an effective learning organization.  Therefore, university-level leadership preparation programs should utilize invitational leadership theory during the training of aspiring leaders.  Another implication for future practice can be derived from the invitational leadership’s assumption of intentionality.  Citing Stillion and Siegel’s recommendation for all leaders becoming “well-versed in the issue of intentionality” (2005, p. 9), it is reasonable to advance the definition presented by Day, et. al., (2001), whereby intentionality is “a decision to purposely act in a certain way, to achieve and carry out a set goal” (p.34).

To Cite:
Anderson, C.J. (November 30, 2017) Invitational Leadership Theory and Intentionality: Powerful tools for
                neutralizing gender bias [Web log post] Retrieved from

Burns, G., & Martin, B. N. (2010). Examination of the Effectiveness of Male and Female
Educational Leaders Who Made Use of the Invitational Leadership Style of Leadership. Journal of Invitational Theory & Practice, 1629-55. Retrieved from EBSCOhost
Yin Cheong, C. (2010). A Topology of Three-Wave Models of Strategic Leadership in
Education. International Studies in Educational Administration (Commonwealth Council for Educational 
Administration & Management (CCEAM)), 38(1), 35-54. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. 

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