Transformational and Passive Leadership: An Initial Investigation of University Instructors as Leaders in a Virtual Learning Environment

Ronit Bogler, Avner Caspi, Sonia Roccas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study investigated whether students perceive their university instructors in a virtual learning environment as leaders. Referring to the full range leadership theory (FRLT), we examined the effects of transformational and passive leadership styles of university instructors on students' satisfaction and learning outcomes. Completed web-based questionnaires were obtained from 1270 students who enrolled in large academic courses led by instructors in web-based instructional environments. Data analyses confirmed the validity of the multifactor leadership questionnaire (MLQ) in the virtual asynchronous communication setting with three second-order factors model composed of transformational, active management-by-exception and passive leadership. Leadership styles correlated with student satisfaction: the more the students attributed transformational leadership style to the instructor and the less they attributed a passive leadership style, the more satisfied they were. The attributed leadership style was not related to the actual participation of the students in the virtual discussions or to their academic achievements. The findings suggest that subordinates' satisfaction might be tied more strongly to their perception of the leader than to the actual tangible benefits the leader can provide. Moreover, the study shows that the FRLT is applied to the asynchronous, web-based, instructional environment which is being increasingly adopted in higher education institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-392
Number of pages21
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • full range leadership theory
  • higher education
  • instructors
  • satisfaction
  • transformational leadership
  • web-based environment


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