The Role of Transformational Leadership in Addressing Job Satisfaction Issues among Secondary School Teachers


Transformational leadership among school principals is believed to influence the level of job satisfaction among their subordinates. This report discusses transformational leadership among secondary school principals, and explores the relationship between transformational leadership and satisfaction among teachers. This paper also explains the practices of transformational leadership among secondary school principals. An analysis of teachers’ job satisfaction is based upon the Two Herzberg Factors (Herzberg et al., 1959): A motivational factor and a hygiene factor. This report outlines a qualitative study which employed document analysis as its methodology. The findings indicate that transformational leadership has a significant impact on the level of job satisfaction among teachers. This study also considers the implications of these findings for the Ministry of Education, and how they might affect school management systems, school leaders and teachers, and the motivation and professionalism of secondary school teachers.

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Basar, Z. , Mansor, A. and Hamid, A. (2021) The Role of Transformational Leadership in Addressing Job Satisfaction Issues among Secondary School Teachers. Creative Education, 12, 1939-1948. doi: 10.4236/ce.2021.128148.

1. Introduction

The Malaysian Educational Development Plan or known as PPPM (Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia, 2013) has been designed to produce Malaysian citizens capable of competing on a global level. PPPM has also established a number of new approaches to transform Malaysia’s education system and improve its quality. Therefore, school leaders are responsible for ensuring that their institution keeps pace with progress in the field of education. Leaders are people who are in a position of trust and are responsible for managing an organisation.

Leaders determine the goals and vision of the organisation they lead. Additionally, leaders may also change an organisation’s strategies in order to achieve their objectives (Vijian & Wahab, 2020). A leader’s success is influenced by their leadership model, and this includes their ability to interact with other leaders and institutions. Therefore, a school principal must ensure continuity in the structure and system of the school, and the teachers to change so that the school is more sensitive and cooperative at addressing the current issues within the education system.

Teachers are valuable assets in the education system. In developed countries, the role of teachers is particularly important because teacher excellence is considered a determining factor in the quality of an education system. Teachers are crucial to achieving a school’s overall objectives, and determine the success of the teaching and learning experience. Employees’ job satisfaction is crucial in an organisation, because it encourages individuals to maintain their current roles. Therefore, employers should be aware of what they should do in order to ensure that employees are satisfied with their jobs (Jaafar & Isa, 2019).

Paulik (2012) defines job satisfaction as the process by which employees cognitively assess their employment situation, and account for positive and negative factors. Teachers’ job satisfaction has a significant impact on the delivery of a positive teaching style. Moreover, if teacher stress is unaddressed, a teacher’s performance may affect students in the long term. In order for an institution to have greater productivity, job satisfaction needs to be increased. If staff are contented in their work, a high level of efficiency will be achieved.

A principal’s leadership style is often associated with teachers’ job satisfaction. Effective leadership styles arguably contribute to high levels of job satisfaction, and vice versa. Job satisfaction is related to employee behaviour (Davis and Nestrom, 1985). Job satisfaction reflects an employee’s feelings of success about their performance in the workplace. More specifically, it is considered to be related to the individual’s productivity and well-being. According to Parveen and Bano (2019), job satisfaction is different for each individual. Within their study, Parveen and Bano (2019) divide job satisfaction into three categories: an effective commitment (one’s emotion towards their work), the cognitive component (a person’s confidence in their work), and the components of behaviour (one’s behaviour towards their work).

2. Background

2.1. Transformational Leadership

The concept of transformational leadership was first introduced by Burns (1978), and subsequently developed by Bass (1985). He describes transformational leadership as an ability to support employees’ awareness of the organisation’s interests and help employees to develop their own personal interests. According to Avolio (1999), transformational leaders are those who always give encouragement, are capable of effective delivery, and can set standards of behaviour for subordinates to emulate. Transformational leaders are proactive and encourage their employees to further their potential and strive for greater achievements. Transformational leadership comprises four elements: intellectual stimulus, individual consideration, charisma, and motivational inspiration (Bass, 1999).

Charisma involves being the best example for subordinates, encouraging employees to “do the right thing”, and a readiness to take risks for the good of the organisation (Vijian and Wahab, 2020). The charismatic leader is respected and trusted by their followers. Leaders hope to be thought of as an example by their followers. Leaders of this type always put the interest of their followers before self-interest, and are willing to share risks with followers (Bass, 1999).

The second dimension of transformational leadership involves consideration of each employee’s characteristics. Transformational leaders account for their employees’ uniqueness and respect the differences among their followers (Bass, 1999). Individual consideration refers to the process of understanding each employee, sharing their problems, and addressing their individual needs (Vijian and Wahab, 2020). In other words, principals enhance, expand and develop teachers’ potential (Vijian and Wahab, 2020).

Intellectual stimulus comprises the third element of transformational leadership, and involves creating an environment that encourages employees to act creatively by engaging with their talents (Bass, 1999). Avolio and Bass (2004) believe that principals who encourage intellectual stimulation will allow teachers to ask new questions and alter their values and beliefs. This practice removes outdated and inappropriate problem-solving methods, and employs new and more effective solutions.

Lastly, motivational inspiration describes the process by which leaders motivate their followers, encourage them to improve their performance, and allow them to achieve organisational goals (Vijian and Wahab, 2020). Leaders who inspire motivation demonstrate the way in which employees can complete a task more easily, and encourage shared goals concerning what is right and important. Using this approach, and by giving tasks meaning, leaders can inspire and motivate their followers to complete their tasks (Bass, 1999).

A transformational leader fosters a sense of purpose that exceeds short-term goals, is capable of influencing, inspiring, and becoming a mentor to their followers, and has a significant impact upon people’s attitudes (Bass, 1999). Followers will tend to believe, respect and understand the needs of their leaders. Transformational leadership is associated with the principal’s role as a leader when they make changes to an organisation. Simultaneously, transformational leadership changes the attitudes and behaviour of teachers within schools.

According to Putra (2019), transformational leadership describes a leader’s ability to generate ideas, motivate employees, and transform their subordinates’ abilities to secure exceptional achievements. A transformational leader has a more centralised focus than other forms of leadership, but still demonstrates individual concern for staff to build genuine relationships. Although the expectations of a transformational leader are high, their staff trust them and strive to achieve that which they previously considered impossible.

2.2. Theory of Two Herzberg Factors

Motivation is defined by one’s strength, direction and diligence in the process of achieving their purpose (Robbins and Judge, 2015). This report employs Herzberg’s Two Factor Motivational Theory which was pioneered by Frederick Herzberg in 1959. He was an influential thinker in the fields of management and motivation. Herzberg describes motivation as comprising “dissatisatisfier-satisfier”, “motivator-hygiene”, and “extrinsic-intrinsic” (Herzberg, 1966). Herzberg argues that job satisfaction is caused by intrinsic factors (motivational factors), while job dissatisfaction is induced by extrinsic factors (hygiene factors). Motivational factors describe that which stimulates feelings of interest when performing a job. The motivational factor consists of work assignments, responsibilities, achievements, appreciation and progress. Contrastingly, the hygiene factor influences the emergence of dissatisfaction when performing a job. Examples include the workplace, salary and administrative atmosphere.

This report uses motivational factors and hygiene factors to assess teachers’ levels of job satisfaction. To ensure that teachers can undertake their duties efficiently, teachers’ motivation should be given priority, as it has a significant influence on teachers’ work outcomes. Consequently, this will improve the quality of national education, as teachers are essential to the success of the national education system.

2.3. Effect of Transformational Leadership Role on Teachers’ Job Satisfaction

Transformational leadership has a positive effect on teachers’ job satisfaction and their commitment to their role. As the administrative leadership style becomes transformational, teachers’ job satisfaction and commitment will increase (Hasan, 2017). This observation is supported by Haji and Jubra (2016), who contend that an extensive implementation of transformational leadership within school administration increases teachers’ job satisfaction. There is a significant correlation between the principal’s transformational leadership and the teachers’ level of satisfaction with their work.

Transformational leadership originated in a study about corporate and political leadership, but gained popularity in an education context during the school restructuring movement in America in the 1990s. The characteristics of transformational leaders include focus upon academic missions, vision building and goal setting, and encouraging the continuous development of employee professionalism. These factors contribute to teachers’ job satisfaction. This supports the claims that transformational leadership is characterised by clarity and focus, and can lead to changes within an organisation to the betterment of its followers. Therefore, transformational leadership is suitable for secondary schools, and can enhance the career development of teachers and contribute to their job satisfaction (Anjilus et al., 2019).

The work of Putra (2019), demonstrates the correlation between transformational leadership among headmasters and teachers’ overall levels of job satisfaction. Their study indicates that consideration of individuals, and inspirational motivation were predictive factors of transformational leadership that stimulated teachers’ satisfaction with their work. The report presented their findings as a guide for school leaders, and suggested that leaders should adopt transformational leadership patterns in order to improve professionalism and teachers’ job satisfaction.

Furthermore, principals that practise transformational leadership make teachers feel appreciated, because the principals establish flexible professional relationships with them. A deeper understanding of transformational leadership and its role in achieving success is crucial to the overall effectiveness of the school, and teachers’ satisfaction with their work.

3. The Importance of the Study

This report has sought to verify teachers’ levels of job satisfaction within secondary schools, and identify whether transformational leadership among principals can influence this. The transformational leadership approach is important to school reform, organisational development, vision sharing, and developing a school’s culture. It is also necessary to strengthen the education sector of the country.

Teachers’ job satisfaction and emotional well-being are crucial, as they affect the successful implementation of teaching and learning processes. In the light of this, stakeholders such as the District Education Office (PPD), State Education Department (NRD) and the Ministry of Education (KPM) can improve teacher training and education programmes. Furthermore, they can effectively plan other forms of training, to ensure that teachers can control their work-related stress, and take greater satisfaction from teaching in schools.

4. Issues and Challenges

Firstly, this section will discuss issues relating to teachers’ work assignments. This corresponds with work assignments and appreciation, as outlined in Herzberg’s Motivational Theory. The actions of misinformed administrators, who may not always understand and appreciate the work of teachers, cause stress. For example, the unbalanced division of duties among teachers causes teachers to feel angry, frustrated and dissatisfied. These feelings of dissatisfaction have different effects upon each individual. Factors that are stressful for one teacher may not affect another. This is supported by Ismail (2016), who observe that dissatisfaction cannot be resolved if an organisation does not attempt to overcome it.

Additionally, workplace atmosphere also affects job satisfaction among teachers. Colleague relationships involve mutual understanding that is maintained by teachers with principals, colleagues, and subordinates, or simply within the working group (Hong & Ismail, 2015; Ismail, 2016). Teachers may be unable to cooperate with fellow colleagues or administrators due to misunderstandings, they may feel pressured by pupil misconduct, the school environment may not be conducive to successful teaching, or they may experience limited resources and teaching aid facilities within schools.

Astuti’s (2017) study indicates that work environment and workload can have a positive influence on secondary school teachers’ performance. Creating a positive atmosphere in the workplace depends upon the leader’s wise management of the workplace and subordinates. Kavita and Hassan’s (2018) study suggests that several factors, including pupils’ misconduct, task load, time and resource constraints, and interpersonal relationships, influence teachers’ job satisfaction. Yet, these factors not only affect teachers’ satisfaction, but can also disrupt teaching and learning processes.

Despite implementing salary increases and professional ranks in the teaching profession, the Malaysian Ministry of Education has not addressed the implications of limited and slow career development upon job satisfaction among teachers (Arshad and Mustapha, 2017; Kesatuan Perkhidmatan Perguruan Kebangsaan, 2005). Salary satisfaction refers to teachers’ feelings that their salary is sufficient relative to the tasks that they perform. It includes teachers’ annual income, and manifests as a financial form of appreciation. Salary dissatisfaction can cause teachers to leave their jobs (Arshad and Mustapha, 2017).

This report accords with studies conducted by Antin et al. (2020) which suggest that teachers’ dissatisfaction with their jobs made them want to leave the profession. According to Hasan (2017) and Mihat et al. (2020), teachers’ job satisfaction is an important indicator for ensuring the well-being of both teachers and their students. It also encourages educators to retain positions, and become high-quality educators. Contrastingly, teachers who experience job dissatisfaction as a result of increasingly challenging workloads, assessment problems, psychological stress, and a lack of self-improvement, typically intend to leave the profession, take early retirement, or change careers (İpek et al., 2018; Boyle et al., 1995). Therefore, stakeholders should not take this issue lightly.

5. Suggestions to Addressing Issues and Challenges

In order to avoid the unequal division of tasks, principals must employ transformational leadership and consider individual employee requirements. According to Vijian and Wahab (2020), transformational leadership aims to inculcate moral values and motivate subordinates so that they contribute to the organisation. The leader should have a positive mindset and be receptive to staff difficulties in order to address employees’ problems. Principals should also act fairly, and treat each individual in accordance with their abilities. According to Astuti (2017), the degree of consideration given to individual employees affects their levels of job satisfaction. Thus, equitable treatment and a positive motivational attitude can stimulate teachers’ enthusiasm and lead them to contribute to the organisation.

Furthermore, issues with a workplace’s atmosphere can be overcome when principals enact ideal influence and conduct intellectual stimulation using transformational leadership. Principals that establish professional and flexible relationships with their subordinates will make teachers feel appreciated. In order to overcome issues with the work environment, the principal must act as a role model and influence his followers. Principals should tutor teachers to recognise their needs and make professional progress. Principals may provide ideas with which teachers can solve their problems. Consequently, the teacher will feel calm and more able to complete their work to a high standard. Using intellectual stimulation, principals should encourage teachers to use creativity and produce innovative teaching methods. In addition to providing teaching aids, principals can also encourage teachers to innovate and thereby make the lessons more attractive to students. As administrators’ leadership style also becomes transformational, teachers’ job satisfaction and commitment also increase (Hasan, 2017; Yashak et al., 2020).

Finally, issues surrounding salaries and professional ranking can be overcome when principals motivate and inspire their employees using transformational leadership (Ekawati & Jayanti, 2019). Principals must demonstrate charisma and confidence and have clear goals. Principals should always encourage their subordinates using motivational words and thereby diminish the significance of salaries and professional ranking to the evaluation of work performance. Additionally, principals and administrators should have clear aspirations to motivate subordinates, and alleviate any concerns about salaries. Principals can also encourage teachers to work in teams. In this way, teachers will feel dependent upon one another, and no longer view salaries and professional ranking as an issue. They will be disinclined to compete with one another. Moreover, principals can make judgements that consider individual employees. Principals and administrators can

Table 1. Issues and recommendations to resolve issues.

advise and support their subordinates by encouraging them to educate students for the national good, and discourage them from focusing on salaries and professional ranking as an issue that affects education. A great principal will always encourage his subordinates, and thereby allow them to succeed. Summary of the issues and recommendations in this study are made in Table 1 as above.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, previous studies have shown that there is a link between transformational leadership and job satisfaction among secondary school teachers. This report found that each issue can be solved by the elements comprising transformational leadership. Issues relating to the division of tasks can be resolved using a leader’s individual judgment. A poor work environment can be improved by a leader’s ideal influence and intellectual stimulation. Finally, employee dissatisfaction about salaries and ranking can be resolved using a leader’s motivational qualities, and their consideration of individual team members, as part of transformational leadership. Evidently, transformational leadership increases teachers’ job satisfaction. From a theoretical point of view, this report can contribute to the development of literature about transformational leadership, the school environment, and teachers’ job satisfaction, particularly in secondary schools. However, few studies on the effects of transformational leadership upon secondary school teachers’ job satisfaction exist. Therefore, this report is expected to stimulate further studies on the impact of transformational leadership upon secondary school teachers’ job satisfaction. Therefore, school leaders and stakeholders must ensure that the working environment is positive in order to avoid any negative impacts upon educational institutions. Therefore, studies in this field must increase, and be renewed frequently to keep pace with the development of the national education system. The motivational factors and hygiene factors are an important influence upon the teaching profession. In conclusion, further studies on principals’ leadership are necessary to ensure that effective leadership styles are practised. This includes instances in which principals change their style to improve a given situation. In this regard, data should be collected from teachers continuously to determine the most effective leadership style for developing a healthy school environment, and improving teachers’ job satisfaction.


This work was supported by Faculty of Education, The National University of Malaysia Research Grant GG2020-020 and GG2019-040.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.


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