Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison


  • Natalie Khan Athabasca University



higher education, reform, adaptive leadership, transactional leadership, motivation


Higher education institutions operate in a complex environment that includes influence from external factors, new technologies for teaching and learning, globalization, and changing student demographics to name a few. Maneuvering such complexity and change requires a leadership strategy that is flexible and supportive. This paper reviews two leadership theories in reference to this need: adaptive leadership theory and transactional leadership theory. Three conceptual categories of environmental readiness, leadership complexity, and followers’ motivation are used as points of comparison for each theory. A recommendation is made for leadership strategy in higher education institutions based on this comparison.

Author Biography

Natalie Khan, Athabasca University

Natalie Khan completed her Master of Education degree at Athabasca University and currently lives in Toronto, Canada. She has experience in the corporate world and in Japan teaching English to both adults and children, where she fell in love with teaching. She has aspirations of completing a Doctorate in Education and opening an online English tutoring school. 



How to Cite

Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(3).



Notes From Leadership in Open and Distance Learning