Organizations need to thrive in an environment characterized by uncertainty and unpredictability as a result of constant technological, social, political and economic changes which demand continuous change of path, modification and adaptation.
In such situation, the responsibility of an effective leadership is to guide the business through changes that are likely to become difficult for the organization. In order to sustain their successes and to face stiff competition, businesses need more than mere incremental modifications to their strategy - a vital transformation to reinvent themselves.
Transformational leadership is about renovating an organization; it is about transmuting the firm following a new vision which will lead to business success through the evolution of the organization’s culture.
Leadership expert James McGregor Burns introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, “Leadership.” He defined transformational leadership as a process where “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.”
Unlike in the transactional approach, it is not based on a “give and take” relationship, but on the leader’s personality, traits and ability to make a change through example, articulation of an energizing vision and challenging goals. Transforming leaders are idealized in the sense that they are a moral exemplar of working towards the benefit of the team, organization and/or community.
While transactional leaders do not strive for a cultural change in the organization, transformational leaders focus is to shift organizational culture to a different plateau. Burns theorized that transforming and transactional leadership were mutually exclusive styles. Hence Transformational leaders rely heavily on their rhetorical skills in order to articulate a vision and create meaning for their followers. While the leader’s message is important, the process by which it is communicated appears to be just as significant.
Bernard Bass extended the work of Burns that underlie transforming and transactional leadership. In contrast to Burns, Bass suggested that leadership can simultaneously display both transformational and transactional leadership. He introduced the term “transformational” in place of “transforming.” Bass added to the initial concepts of Burns to help explain how transformational leadership could be measured, as well as how it impacts follower motivation and performance. According to Bass (1990), transformational leadership is characterized by several patterns of behavior.
a. Idealized influence – Charisma is that rare personal quality in a leader that inspires followers to align enthusiastically. Charisma helps leaders to gain the respect and trust of stakeholders and to instill pride in the latter. In addition, charisma underlines the provision of a common vision and sense of mission necessary for the transformation.
b. Inspirational motivation – The degree to which the leader articulates a vision that is appealing and inspiring to followers. Followers need to have a strong sense of purpose if they are to be motivated to act.
Leaders with inspirational motivation challenge followers with high standards, communicate optimism about future goals, and provide meaning for the task at hand. The visionary aspects of leadership are supported by communication skills that make the vision understandable, precise, powerful and engaging. The followers are willing to invest more effort in their tasks; they are encouraged and optimistic about the future and believe in their abilities.
c. Intellectual stimulation – The degree, to which the leader challenges assumptions, takes risks and solicits followers’ ideas. Leaders with this style stimulate and encourage creativity in their followers. They nurture and develop people who think independently. For such a leader, learning is a value and unexpected situations are seen as opportunities to learn. The followers ask questions, think deeply about things and figure out better ways to execute their tasks.
d. Individualized consideration – The degree to which the leader attends to each follower’s needs, acts as a mentor or coach to the follower and listens to the follower’s concerns and needs. The leader gives empathy and support, keeps communication open and places challenges before the followers. This also encompasses the need for respect and celebrates the individual contribution that each follower can make to the team. The followers have a will and aspirations for self-development and have intrinsic motivation for their tasks.
As a development tool, transformational leadership has spread already in all sectors of western societies, including governmental organizations. As an example, the Finnish Defense Forces is using widely Deep Lead Model based on the theory of transformational leadership as basic solution of its leadership training and development. It should be noted that any leadership theory comes with its own limitations and constraints. Transformational leadership theory comes with following positive and negative attributes.
1. Transformational leadership model facilitates an enthusiastic work environment and drives the organization through innovations and changes. Since the individuals are working through self-motivation will particularly guarantee higher efficiency and output.
2. Facilitate developing future leaders from a pool of followers.
3. Despite of tangible and monetary benefits, individuals will work for the leader as they are inspired and motivated by his vision.
4. The legacy of transformation leaders will create a line of mentor-protégés which leads innovative waves in the business.
5. Leaders arouse emotions toward their followers that motivate them to act beyond the framework of what may be described as exchange relations.
6. It forms new expectations in followers since leadership is proactive.
7. It motivates followers to work for their goals that certainly go beyond their self-interest.
1. Assumes Follower Motivation - does not incorporate situational dynamics and assumes that followers want to work together toward a larger goal.
True transformational leadership includes ethics, character, values and a commitment to the common good and help to raise followers to higher levels of morality and motivation
2. Time-Consuming - Transformational leaders must invest time and energy building trust and convincing followers to believe in a shared vision.
3. Depends on the Individual Transformational leadership might be out of reach for those who lack inspirational communication skills and charisma even if they possess the skills and experience necessary to be in charge.
4. Lacks Application Details - Transformational leadership theory explains the “what” but lacks details about the “how.”
5. Potential for Abuse - Transformational leadership is powerful but not always used morally. Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden are examples of pseudo-transformational leaders.
(This is the sixteenth article under the Leadership series. The writer Eng. Gamini Nanda Gunawardana B.Sc. Eng. (Hons.); M.B.A.; C.Eng.; F.I.E. (SL); M.C.S. (SL); M.I.D.P.M. (UK); F.I.A.P. (UK); M.B.C.S. (UK) Management, HR, OD & ICT Consultant, Corporate Trainer, Executive Coach Consultant – HRD- Goodhope Asia Holdings Ltd. He could be contacted via E Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org)