2. Literature Review
2.1. Path–Goal Theory and Principal Leadership
Drawing heavily on the leadership literature, the path–goal theory (PGT) of leadership first appeared in the 1970s in the works of Evans [4
], House [5
], House and Dessler [6
], and House et al. [7
], and it was revised in the work of House [8
] in 1996 [1
]. The theory originally consisted of four styles of leadership (directive, participative, supportive, and achievement-oriented leadership). The overview of these leadership styles, according to Northouse [1
], is as follows. Directive leaders provide task directions and instructions to their followers that incorporate what their expectations are, how to follow them, and when to complete them. Furthermore, he added that performance standards, rules, and regulations are outlined to followers. The directive leadership style is favorable in a high-pressure work environment where followers need to achieve challenging targets and goals. Principals must have friendly and approachable relationships with teachers while adopting a directive style of leadership. Healthy and pleasant relationships with teachers form respective and promising work environments. Such auspicious factors create more effective directive leadership.
] describes supportive leadership as friendly and approachable leadership. It emphasizes followers’ human needs, well-being (especially the development of pleasant working conditions), equal treatment, respect, and recognition. For this, teachers may give suggestions and ideas to principals to boost the effectiveness of their level of learning and teaching, or they may participate in major policy-making, decision-making, and execution processes. Northouse states that participative leadership empowers shared decision-making, where followers are consulted such that their ideas and suggestions are incorporated into policy-making. To obtain all or some of the required benefits from this leadership style, principals need to encourage teachers’ continuous improvement. Furthermore, principals need to have confidence in the competencies of teachers so that they can achieve established challenging goals.
Achievement-oriented leaders let their followers know their expectations. They regularly set clear goals with potential high-performance standards, they trust in the capabilities of their subordinates, and they encourage continued performance improvement [1
In a nutshell, directive principals generally provide task directions and do not involve teachers in policy-making or major administrative decision-making in schools. Therefore, supportive leadership effectively informs and strengthens directive leadership. Supportive leadership develops favorable work settings that foster high morale and job integrity, feelings of dignity, and more to meet ambitious objectives and goals. Thus, achievement-oriented leadership helps principals to set such objectives and goals, which make teachers active, energetic, and motivated.
The participation of teachers qualifies when they successfully perform their job based on criteria. The participative leadership style amalgamates teachers’ expertise and creativity to reach solutions to problems by integrating opinions, ideas, and suggestions. At the same time, principals must somehow provide relief for teachers regarding their slips, negligence, or acts concerned with the nonperformance of businesses or subjects.
2.2. Teacher Job Performance Standards
Teaching and learning are the fundamental ambitions of schools. They provide the foundation of society for youth development. School principals direct and guide teachers to perform their duties to achieve this ultimate ambition. The advancement of teacher efforts is under the specific authority of principal leadership to advocate teaching and learning in a school [9
To strengthen the process, it is crucial to segment teachers’ jobs into subcategories of planned goal frameworks, multidimensional job performance constructs, teacher performance factors, competence standards, and KPIs, to manage and measure job performance [11
], such as teaching planning, classroom organization, monitoring and evaluation, classroom atmosphere and discipline, and teacher leadership [3
Teaching planning involves drafting lesson plans, class activities, and sets of activities that are carried out while teaching and/or in a classroom [15
]. Classroom organization involves arranging the placement of classroom furniture and student seating plans, learning the core material, being aware of the physical circumstances of the classroom, and involving students in learning [16
]. Student learning assessment methods include exams, tests, homework checking, and all associated judgment procedures, known as monitoring and evaluation [18
]. Classroom atmosphere and discipline consists of maintaining a safe, healthy, friendly, and fair classroom environment for optimal learning and appropriate and conducive communication [19
]. Student motivation, guidance, mentoring, and positive influence comprise teacher leadership, the fifth construct of job performance [21
2.3. Principal Leadership and Teacher Job Performance
Pragmatically, school principals and educational leaders are problem solvers and facilitators [23
]. Specifically, principals play an especially significant role in promoting teacher job performance at private secondary schools. Hamilton [25
] stated that school leaders have a significant effect on school performance. School principals directly or indirectly affect the performance of teachers by means of their style of leadership. Sustaining curricular standards, assessing teaching methods, keeping an eye on student achievements, facilitating teachers, and making arrangements to create an encouraging and achievement-oriented environment to attain challenging goals are some key roles and functions of principalship. Eliminating obstacles and clarifying paths for teachers to perform their job are salient aspects of PGT effectiveness [1
] and effective leadership.
Overall, school principals provide support in both academic and administrative spheres through sets of directions and instructions to perform duties and achieve challenging goals, as facilitators and problem solvers. Effective leadership involves providing a set of directions that include action plans; for instance, how and when to implement, motivating followers, setting challenging goals, maintaining friendly relationships, and so on.
Much empirical research has been published on PGT effectiveness to validate the direct effects of the four styles of school principals on teacher job performance. However, these submissions provided only a partial consensus, because they documented teacher job performance holistically. In simple words, earlier studies measured teacher job performance as one component or variable and did not go far enough into the subcategories mentioned above.
For instance, Imhangbe et al. [26
] examined the influence of principal leadership styles on teacher job performance in public senior secondary schools in Edo, Nigeria. They conducted a survey of principals and teachers and found a relatively significant influence of democratic leadership style on teacher job performance. Similarly, Atsebeha [3
] found a relatively significant influence of supportive leadership on job performance in primary schools in Tigray, Ethiopia. Several other investigations were conducted on this striking phenomenon [27
Notably, all the studies computed teacher job performance KPIs into a single performance factor. Therefore, school leaders, including principals, would be unable to identify problematic aspects of the effect of principal leadership on teacher job performance. Consequently, teachers’ efficiency and productivity could decrease due to low job performance. Low performance and productivity would lead to a high employee turnover rate, demotivation, and job dissatisfaction [32
]. Eventually, school aims would not be achieved and overall school performance, especially yield, would decline.
Thus, there is a need to shed light on the effects of PGT principal leadership styles on each domain of teacher job performance, because these effects will provide comprehensive understanding and assistance to school leaders, principals, coordinators, and supervisors to deal with the problematic aspects of various leadership styles. As a result, teachers’ job performance and efficiency will improve.
Although previous studies are enlightening, they ignored the perspective of school middle management personnel. Middle management acts as a bridge between senior leadership and forefront staff, and translates the vision of the school [34
]. Additionally, these employees interpret and communicate institutional aims, implement policies, and closely supervise teachers’ work [36
Therefore, the school middle management perspective is crucial to take into account. Thus, this research addresses the dearth of knowledge. Likewise, prior studies did not adopt advanced analytical models, e.g., confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling [38
]. Hence, this research contributes to the current literature.
2.4. Research Question
What are the effects of PGT leadership styles on teacher job performance in private secondary schools in Pakistan?
3. Materials and Methods
3.1. Procedure and Participants
To achieve the study’s purpose, 106 urban private co-education secondary schools were deliberately selected for this empirical research in Lahore, Pakistan. In order to successfully achieve the research aims, middle management was chosen as the sample of the study. A total of 292 copies of the questionnaire were given to middle management personnel of private secondary schools under the consent of the head office and school principals during the period of the annual teacher appraisal process of early 2019.
Middle management was limited to vice principals, section heads, and coordinators, who were responsible for supervising teachers and appraising their job performance. Teacher supervisors and appraisers participated in the present study to address the aforementioned research gap regarding the perspective of middle management. Middle management acts as a bridge, liaison, or disseminator; these employees interpret school aims, and goals, and execute management through various objectives (MBOs), and all the required information passes through this channel [34
The 261 questionnaires were returned from the sample of 52% females and 48% males. Among the returned copies, 8 were treated as invalid because unengaged responses were found throughout them. The resulting 253 questionnaires represented an effective response rate of 89%.
Two instruments, Indvik’s [41
] path-goal leadership questionnaire (PGTQ) and Atsebeha’s [3
] teacher job performance questionnaire (TJPQ), were adapted for this study. PGTQ includes 4 styles of PGT leadership: directive, participative, supportive, and achievement-oriented; all constructs include 5 items each. The second instrument was designed to evaluate 5 components of teacher job performance. The original TJPQ contained a total of 34 items: teaching planning (7 items), classroom organization (6 items), monitoring and evaluation (7 items), classroom atmosphere and discipline (7 items), and teacher leadership (7 items).
As an adaption of the instruments, all statements of PGLQ items were slightly changed from “I” to “our principal” and “followers” to “teachers,” such as “I let followers know what is expected of them” to “Our principal lets the teachers know what is expected of them,” with the rest remaining the same. TJPQ items 5, 6, 9, and 13 had amendments to some extent, such as “establishes the guidelines and maintains order and discipline in the classroom” to “teachers talk from time to time about positive language usage, ethics, and norms for continued classroom discipline.”
The head offices ensured the modifications, overall appearance, and construct validity of the instruments. The head offices had legitimate power, prepared policies, SOPs to perform the tasks, and performance appraisal for teachers. A 4-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree, 4 = strongly agree) was used to measure the perspective of middle management on the research subject [26
3.3. Statistical Analytic Procedures
In the present research, Pearson correlation, t-test, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), and the structural equation modeling (SEM) analytic technique were mainly involved in analyzing the middle management perspective. SPSS and Amos were used to conduct the analysis. More to the point, the two models—first-order PGT leadership style (directive, participative, supportive, achievement-oriented) and second-order TJP (teaching planning, classroom organization, monitoring and evaluation, classroom atmosphere and discipline, teacher leadership)—had hierarchical directionality from first-order to second-order.
Thus, CFA was performed for both models, and good model fit measures can be seen in the model fit section. Concerning the ethics, the research supervisor on behalf of the ethical committee of Northeast Normal University, China, approved this research. The university’s ethical guidelines were completely considered. Secondly, the study participants took part in the research after providing their own consent. They were permitted to withdraw their consent at any stage of the study before publication. Thirdly, the personal information of participants and other related information were encrypted right after the write-up.
The application and effects of the leadership styles outlined in the path–goal theory, as articulated in [5
], have been found to vary from situation to situation [57
], particularly in non-Western developing countries. The present study explored the effects of principal leadership styles on teacher job performance in private secondary schools in Pakistan.
The study results not only show some characteristics of and relationships between leadership styles and job performance but also provide new evidence on the principal leadership styles of path–goal theory as used in a non-Western private education context.
Interestingly, the present study reveals the relatively negative and/or minimal effect of principal participative leadership on teacher job indicators. These findings are in contrast to previous studies, which showed a substantial positive association and effect of principal participative leadership on teacher job performance in general [3
Specifically, the participative leadership style had a negative effect on classroom organization and teacher leadership. Meanwhile, it had somewhat a positive effect on teaching planning, monitoring and evaluation, and classroom atmosphere and discipline. Participative leadership had the least effect on teacher job performance in any case, positive or negative. This finding is contrary to the study of Imhangbe, Okecha, and Obozuwa [26
], who found a largely positive effect of democratic leadership on teacher job performance in public schools in a non-Asian context. More to the point, participative leadership negatively correlated with teaching planning, classroom organization, classroom atmosphere and discipline, and teacher leadership aside from monitoring and evaluation. Both the correlations and mean value of principal participative leadership style were found to be low at the threshold [49
Possible reasons for this astonishing finding in the present research may be: (a) teachers’ job tasks are complex and ambiguous, and their performance goals are quite challenging; (b) principals have a personal obligation to complete tasks; and (c) teachers are required to complete their tasks according to their expected level of performance. Accordingly, teachers are bound to follow dogmatic SOPs circulated by the head office as indicated in the methodology, and principals provide the directions to perform the tasks. The literature supports this viewpoint, while Northouse [1
] stated that non-participative directive leadership functions well when subordinates need to follow dogmatic SOPs and tasks are ambiguous. It is the personal obligation of autocratic leaders to complete the tasks [62
Alongside these possible reasons, organizational framework, societal settings, culture, and other contextual factors impact principal leadership [64
]. In that sense, the context shapes principal leadership, styles, and standards, which become disparate across nations [65
]. As noted by Oplatka [69
], Western and non-Western contexts are dissimilar, and dissimilarities in the structure of educational systems across countries stem, “at least in part, from the cultural, national, and sociological contexts underpinning education within them” (p. 428).
Given the tremendous contextual and cultural diversity regarding schooling and education, there is an influence of principals’ leadership, behavioral norms, and values that is not similar to that of school leaders in other contexts [66
]. The roles and practices of principal leadership are different in developing countries than in developed countries. Teachers need work clarity and motivation promptly at every level of the job. Non-participative directive leadership efficiently provides instantaneous work clarity and motivation to teachers [70
]. This research was conducted in a non-Western developing country where directive leadership could improve teacher performance and professionalism because directive principals advance schools, facilitate teachers, and solve problems.
The present study provides new empirical evidence, as indicated by the SEM results and the correlation matrix, from a non-Western developing country such as Pakistan to support the claim that principals in such countries are “likely to employ autocratic, non-participative, summative evaluation” in contrast to the democratic spirit in the Western context [69
] specified that the principal is a school improvement agent and problem solver who facilitates teachers. As he found in a non-Western context, a principal had “no other choice but to be autocratic and adopt a task-oriented leadership style in order to make sure that students’ performance and teachers’ professional attitude would improve” (p. 108).
On the one hand, the current study shows the perspective of middle management on the specific effect of leadership PGT styles on teacher job performance within the particular context of private secondary schools by adopting a widely used PGT instrument and the TJP adapted questionnaires. The standpoint of private secondary school middle management was not clear as yet.
For this aspect, this research updates existing literature about the path–goal theory from the viewpoint of secondary school middle management. Middle management is premised on the belief that the principal’s abstract language, or strategic language, needs to be translated into operational language [71
] that provides support and redirects [34
] teachers toward successful job completion and concrete actions [72
Therefore, it was critically important to consider the middle management perspective. In essence, middle management acts as a bridge between top leadership and frontline staff [35
], such as principals and teachers. Middle management is responsible for closely supervising and rating the job performance of teachers, and implements the principal’s decisions in the given context.
On the other hand, there is a gap in the knowledge regarding the effects of PGT styles on the subconstructs of teacher job performance: teaching planning, classroom organization, monitoring and evaluation, classroom atmosphere and discipline, and teacher leadership.
The SEM findings of the present study provide new empirical evidence from private secondary schools that directive leadership overall had quite an influence on all constructs of teacher job performance, and it had the largest effect on teaching planning, then classroom organization, teacher leadership, classroom atmosphere and discipline, and monitoring and evaluation.
On the other hand, participative leadership was generally found to have the least effect from the middle management point of view; specifically, it had the least effect on classroom atmosphere and discipline. Achievement-oriented leadership was found to have a larger effect on each construct of teacher job performance than supportive leadership.
Directive leadership had the largest significantly positive effect on teacher performance in general. In the current study, the empirical findings corroborated this claim by providing two possible reasons for the relatively largest effect: (a) achievement-oriented principals consistently set challenging goals for teachers to accomplish, and (b) the supportive style of principals provides support to teachers to overcome problems preventing them from accomplishing their goals. Thus, directive principals provide directions for teachers to finish their jobs effectively. Northouse [1
] also supported this claim that directive leaders guide their followers on what to do and how to do it by giving explicit explanations.
The findings also contribute empirically to the present literature about PGT. The findings provide support for the close associations between PGT and teacher job performance constructs. First, middle management considered that directive leadership had the highest positive association with all five constructs used to determine teacher job performance, and emphasized the utility of directional leadership.
Second, middle management assigned a relatively low association between participative leadership and the performance constructs. Third, middle management made a higher association between achievement-oriented leadership and the performance constructs, and a moderate association between supportive leadership and teacher job performance constructs, indicating that school principals set quite challenging goals for teachers and provide support to accomplish them [1
] and for better performance.
Hence, this underpinning choice is linked to the directive attribute of PGT and provides new empirical substantiation to support the claim that challenging goals with supportive work directions by the principal leads teachers to complete their tasks successfully and have better performance.
The current investigation shows the effects of path–goal theory leadership styles on promoting teacher job performance from the viewpoint of the middle management of private secondary schools. The investigation yielded several encouraging findings. However, it is crucial to note that this study was limited to the private secondary school context in a non-Western developing country. Overall, the findings indicate that PGT styles of principals in private schools are predominantly characterized by directive, achievement-oriented, and supportive leadership, leading teachers to have better performance and complete their jobs successfully, including teaching planning, classroom organization, monitoring and evaluation, classroom atmosphere and discipline, and teacher leadership.
Although PGT styles were found to be effective in the given context, participative leadership was found to be either problematic or unhelpful for all constructs of teacher job performance. Therefore, training for principals on the useful practice of participative leadership functions could be productive.
While considering the effects of and relationships between principals’ leadership styles and teachers’ job performance, participative leadership should be constructively adopted, and teachers’ autonomy and independence should be particularly encouraged to lift their job performance enormously in secondary schools, because, as noted by Oplatka [69
] and Hallinger and Kantamara [73
], participative leadership promotes a family-like atmosphere in schools, and schools require mutual responsibility and teacher motivation in the long run.