Confucius as transformational leader

lessons for ESL leadership

Leilei Bi*, John Ehrich, Lisa C. Ehrich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to explore the leadership values and practices of Confucius in the light of transformational leadership theory. Design/methodology/approach: This paper is literature based. Findings: The paper discusses four key dimensions of transformational leadership theory: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration and uses these as a framework for exploring the values of and teaching approach used by Confucius. The key message of the paper is that educational leaders have much to learn from a Confucian leadership style that is fundamentally transformational in nature and encompasses moral/ethical, socially critical, and democratic dimensions. Practical implications: The paper presents a case study of an English as a second language (ESL) school and identifies several practical suggestions for ESL leaders to consider if they are to follow the tenets of Confucius's teachings. Originality/value: The paper is original as it links the values and practices of Confucius to transformational leadership theory and considers how this theory might look in practice for leaders within a contemporary ESL school context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-402
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • confucius
  • transformational leadership
  • leadership
  • English language schools

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