Monday, April 6, 2009


Michael N. Phan,
University of Phoenix School of Advance Studies

Transformational Leadership

Common leadership studies mainly focuses on how to lead a given team smoothly and efficiently, which is often called transactional leadership. These leaders can be very popular but bring little innovation. Applying a common saying, these people may be able to change the way the Titanic deck chairs are arranged, but cannot save the sinking ship. Sadly in most of the organizations, the ratio of the transactional leaders to transformational leaders is high. Therefore these organizations face negative growth due to large gap between how things are done and how things should be done. (Transformational Leadership Primer, 2008)

Transformational Leadership is about innovation which means new thoughts are derived and put into practice. James Mc Gregor Burns first used the term transactional leadership in 1978. According to him “transforming leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality by transforming leadership which ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspirations of both the leader and led and, thus, has a transforming effect on both.” These leaders welcome changes and constantly bring about changes in themselves and those around them. In history we find both types of transformational leaders- reputed leaders and notorious leaders. (Transformational Leadership Primer, 2008)

Bass is a modern leadership theorist who wrote in his book improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership, the four basic theoretical qualities that a transformational leader should possess. The four qualities are charisma—a quality that is difficult to describe and which is something you know only from experience. Charisma results in the followers being identified with the leader, vision—a quality with which the leader draws a clear picture about the future of the team years ahead which includes all the people around him such that they feel motivated to work for a common objective, and this motivation induces dedication and a victorious feeling in them, intellectual stimulation—wherein transformational leaders enable the followers to exercise a different approach to older problems and break the barriers of conventional thinking and inspiration—a quality which demands a fair knowledge of human mind and behavior. Legatee is a leadership—training center, which describes the four core strengths a transformational leader should possess. They are the ability to control oneself, an attitude, which welcomes constant changes, the ability to create an impact on others and the ability to build skills. (Transformational Leadership Primer, 2008)

The transformational leader works with such a style that the followers are highly motivated and enjoys the work. The transformational leaders give their percent into everything they do. They are people oriented and therefore they consider the people and crave for their victory. The working steps of a transformational leader are as follows. 1) Transformational leaders develop a vision, which is capable of motivating and bringing about changes in the followers. 2) The vision developed should be accepted by the followers. Very few people accept the sudden change while most people slowly welcome the change, therefore a leader should possess great dedication and energy and to sell the vision. Also to develop followers, the leader should be cautious in building faith. 3) The path to reach the goal. Some leaders may know the path to the goal and the followers should just follow him while some others would not have but would lead the team with pleasure. Though sometimes the path may not be known, with a well-defined vision, the path is clear. 4) The final aspect is that the transformational leader should be in the front leading the team. They shoulder the responsibility of leading the team to success. They remain as roll model for the whole team. They induce enthusiasm in the team constantly motivating all with effective communication. Sometimes it appears that the goal is only a tantalizing dream very far from realty. But with their incessant dedication, the leaders keep the procession going. Transformational leaders also arrange celebrations, religious functions and get together to boost the morale of the team. Also even insignificant changes get a huge applause by which the transformational leader gathers trust from the followers. The transformational leader parallely focuses both on the team progress and morale boosting of the team members because Transformational leaders do know that only motivated team members brings success to the team. (Transformational Leadership, 2008)

Of late there is an increase in the interest for implementing transformational leadership in organizations. The term transformational leadership was evolved by the political philosopher James McGregor Burns in 1978 who defined it as a leadership which happens when one or more individual participate with others and the associations creates a situation where the leaders and followers appraise each other to higher standards of motivation and morality. The outcome of transformational leadership is the boosting of morale whereby the conduct of individuals and ethical aspiration of leaders and followers improve, and there is a resultant transformational effect on both. The significant aspect of transformational leadership is the resultant relationship between the leader and the led. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

Transformational leaders have the ability to recognize their own capability and the ability of other employees at workplace, which enables them to guide their performance and thereby indulge in shared activity by creating a conscious atmosphere where behavior and task is adjudged. Transformational leaders have unlimited power in them and this power is distributed to all workers around the leaders. These types of leaders in an organization give importance to substance and empower all who surround the leader’s professional activity. From the business perspective, transformational leaders envisage involvement in the long run with all parties concerned with the business like customers, shareholders, communities, employees and suppliers. When equals importance is given for the opportunities of all concerned shareholders and stakeholders also enjoy the advantages of transformational leadership. The implementation of transformational leadership enhances the level of performance in any industry. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

There are four behavioral aspects that contribute to the formation of a transformational leadership. They are intellectual stimulation, charisma, individualized concern and inspiration. Charisma is explained as the ability, which leaders have to stimulate emotion in followers that will lead to a strong recognition of the followers with the leader. The charisma evokes the vision of the leaders and gains the trust and respect of the followers. The transformational leader has the ability to gain the inspiration of colleagues and subordinates by exhibiting good behavior while speaking about high performance, the utilization of symbols to acquire the attention of followers and acts as a role model for appropriate behavior. Individualized concern is exhibited whereby the transformational leader gives personal care and guidance to followers and gives recognition for outstanding performance and creates self-confidence in the person. Intellectual stimulation deals with knowledge transfer and promotion of intelligence and rationality, which enables followers to develop skill to find creative solution for complex problems. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

The positive behavioral traits of the transformational leader will influence the followers by lifting their morale which leaders to better performance and self development instead of working for the sake of the organization leading to overall security. However, the disadvantage of this concept is the assumption that leadership is a position where the leader is portrayed as the boss. The modern concept of transformational leadership paves way for an improved level of performance. In this concept all concerned work towards a common goal and works towards a future objective. This concept also all concerned to question and deal with problems with a new outlook. Therefore, the application of transformational leadership requires the implementation primarily among board of direction. The application of this leadership in board of direction will lead to the success of the organization irrespective of the size and geographical location in the world. Transformational leadership should be executed in a way that is comfortable for the followers. The implementation of this strategy may instigate an attitude of threatening in certain circumstances especially when the new policy involves cooperation, people may feel their individuality is being questioned. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

Transformation leadership starts with varying ideologies about the self and people around the person. The initial change occurs when the leadership views the task from the perspective of being and not as a job. The second change occurs when the ideology has a difference from the past policy of power and control over subordinates and associates. The latest leadership strategy is to enable associate to recognize his or her own ability and leadership capability. In the past, leadership meant that human resources conducted their task according to the direction of the leader according to the leader’s aspiration but the recent trend of leadership is mutual recognition where both parties can transcend their limitations of performance for a reasonable cause and exhibit their attitude with good moral, enthusiasm, courage, trust and integrity. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

In certain organizations, transformational leadership can pose a challenge. This is because organizations give importance for human resource policies in the short run and are more interest in reducing cost and increasing target to keep in pace with the changes in the world. The purpose and objective of every business in today’s world is transformation. Transformation requires new objectives and renewed perspective that is above the current myopic managerial culture that hinders the required qualification for execution of work. According to Kotter, the association of cultures that block change and mangers who are advised to handle transition in recent times is lethal. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

The requirement of leadership after ten years will be more than change. It will be of transformation that can be obtained through learning rather than training. The training and orientation provided for functional skills will be inefficient. Transformational leaders should be appointed by a company’s board of directors by taking risk because they differ from conventional manager. Thus transformational leadership should be chosen within the organization because the management will have a better idea about the quality and conduct of the individuals. The person should preferably be a person who has a good working experience. The present day working environment requires transformational leadership since this adds to the morale and raises the standard of human attitude and performance and aspiration of all involved in the process. It has a diversified effect on all involved and the participants seem to contribute rather than work according to directions. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

Transformational leaderships give importance to the ethical part of work to consumers and customers. Women usually follow this type of leadership and it is time for organizations to follow this method as the basic leadership policy. The survival and efficiency of organizations have a longstanding evidence and association with transformational leadership. Transformational orientation gives individuals the opportunity to conduct self-examination and then evaluate their conduct based on present values and prospective high value actions in the organization for total improvement. The efficiency of a transformational leader can be improved by conducting retreats at regular intervals in a year with a relevant party or institution. Retreats give opportunities for business executives to revive their present plan and apply critical transformation policy and would enable them to use them in their further conduct in the organization and bring novel strata of success to the company. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

It is important for the transformational manager to find a connection between management and leadership that effect business transformation and finally leads to better results. The management of a company is more systematic and formal when compared to leadership. Managerial policies and procedures are evolved from globally accepted skills like planning, controlling and budgeting. Further management relies on accepted tools and techniques arrived through testing and reason that can be applied to various situations. This is in contrast to leadership, which revolves around the vision of taking the organization to a pre-determined goal. The basic requirements of leadership is teamwork and cooperation from a large group of individuals by maintaining the key personnel in that group motivated so that the predetermined goal is achieved as a result of the correct transformational outcome. There are various guidelines, which can help a person to become a transformational leader. A person should develop a vision, which is understandable and acceptable to followers. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

A well-defined vision will enable followers to achieve the goal and sense something good in practicing a new method. A person should express a policy that can be applied as a vision to one’s life, which is precise and has a short way to achieve it. The vision should be promoted among others and it should have compelling voice with relevant anecdotes. The leaders should submit the proposed vision with confidence and optimism. If followers sense inadequate confidence in the leader, the chances of its achievement are less. The leader should also show confidence in the follower’s capability to achieve the vision. Confidence building is also required in a transformational leader. The level of confidence can be raised by giving recognition to accomplishment. If one set of employees are successful with the new vision it will serve as motivation for others and there will be added enthusiasm for hard work. Success and accomplishments are ought to be celebrated to create optimism and dedication. The role of transformational leader should include dramatic action to create waves in strategic organizational values. Employees should be able to understand the seriousness of vision from the actions of the leader, which include denial of poor quality work and the absolute rework requirement of work to ensure high standards are met. (Venkateswaran, 2007)

The transformational leader should focus on empowering subordinate and serve as an example for hard in order to transform a company’s work culture and trajectory. The path towards success is to challenge subordinates to improve their performance above the standard expectation of the company and acts as a stimulator for innovation and creativity to attain collective leadership capability. Transformational leadership is not applicable for people in the managerial level. It can be imbibed by individuals at all levels and in all circumstances. Hence leaders should make sure to develop leadership qualities among subordinates. This kind of leadership is applicable to people from all walks of life. This has application in school, sports, family, social change, etc. A change in ideology or opinion or culture can be effected by exchanging or assuring rewards. In business terms transactional leaders offer financial reward to motivate employees and increase productivity and deny increments for poor productivity. In the political scenario, politician ensures to provide jobs for votes or subsidies for assisting them through election campaign. (Bass & Riggio, 2005)

Transformational leaders lead the subordinate towards growth and development by paying attention to follower’s requirements and placing the objectives of the person, leader and the entire team and the organization at ease. In short, transformational leaders have the capacity to bring out an outcome that exceeds the requirement of the organization and enable followers to achieve better satisfaction and commitment towards the team and the organization. Transformational leadership has been a successful tool in the military. However, latest findings state that it is applicable to all sectors and every social circumstance. Psychology and economics go hand in hand when it comes to transformational leadership with personal motivation converting to financial rewards on the successful accomplishment of the mission. Transactional leadership ensures that the follower will be rewarded only for a specific outcome but transformational leadership ensures that the follower is comfortable with the idea and there is compliance and commitment and the vision engages the person and feels self worth. Therefore the basic idea of a transformational leader is to motivate other to increase performance or productivity. Transformational leadership can be either participative or directive. The charisma used by transformational leaders has turned havoc on followers in the case of charismatic leaders like Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden who exploit followers for personal and self-aggrandizing objectives. Authentic transformational leaders give more and exhibit high levels of involvement instead of imposing superiority. (Bass & Riggio, 2005)

An authentic transformational leader gives importance to challenges and persuasion by explaining the meaning of the challenge. They adorn the role of model followers, which creates interest for all associated with the leader. True leaders are respected, admired and trusted. Followers then identify themselves with the leader and would like to follow them by admiring extensive levels of capabilities, determination and persistence. This is called idealized influence. The level of follower’s commitment is measured through the nature of interaction, which the leader initiates. A collective enthusiasm is usually formed to achieve the mission and reassure the followers that hindrances can be overcome. Leaders who cast idealized influence have the willingness to take risk and have consistency in their approach. They are reliable and can be trusted for doing the right thing due their moral and ethical orientation. As an inspirational motivator, transformational leader evokes team spirit. (Bass & Riggio, 2005)

Optimism and enthusiasm are other positive traits. This enables leaders to attract followers to accomplish future objectives through clear communication and instill a feeling that followers will also require to meet the target. Since this is a shared vision all concerned should be demonstrated about the reason for achievement of a high set goal. Contingent reward is an aspect of constructive transaction that has resulted in good outcomes for higher performance and development levels. Contingent reward leaders assign work and take the consent of the follower for satisfactory performance of the task. This is a transactional reward but it will turn to be transformational when the reward is psychological when the follower is appreciated for the good work or improvement in productivity. (Bass & Riggio, 2005)

Transformational leadership can be better understood as a task involving development through delegation. The best methods of delegating work are learnt by a manger through practice and on the job experience. The manager should recognize the fact that learning is an outcome of the opportunities encountered during a job. This is the reason why people with more exposure and opportunities and people who have worked with a number of assignments during their career have the additional edge of developing and growing in a professional manner to evolve later into successful managers of their own. (Bass & Avolio, 1993)

Organizations can bestow opportunities on potential managers by rotating their task and by giving more opportunities in various departments for a particular period of time. The rotation of managers can also be used to evaluate their ability to function in various situations comprising different tasks and challenges. This gives room for conversion of latent talent into practical talent. The rotational strategy of the organization to tap the potential of transformational leadership is a short duration process and it may sometimes obstruct the flow of the organization’s function. Hence alternate methods are required to develop a leader within the organization. Delegation is a good tool to assign authority and it is frequently used by organizations worldwide. (Bass & Avolio, 1993)

Delegation is conceived to be a managerial tool which is also recognized as a decision making process or a method to get things done by others especially when performance is expected above the preconceived levels. Delegation is sometimes viewed as a narrow method of using the ability and potential of a person though it gives several opportunities for improving skills and increasing personal involvement. Transformational leader can be called as a development leader because the leader exchanges a value based idea, which involves the development of the follower with a need for negotiation for betterment. The objective of the leader is to correct an issue or to get into an agreement to increase the likelihood of achieving better outcomes. It includes the requirement for a change in the follower’s beliefs, need and value. (Bass & Avolio, 1993)

Transformational leadership gives importance to emotions, imagination and intellect of all concerned and gives opportunity to increase a person’s performance capability under pressure, challenging work atmosphere and deal with problems at work. Therefore the leadership aims to implement change by strengthening the ability of person by enhancing the interaction capability of a person in a complex situation to utilize creativity when there are obstacles and conflict for improvement. Behavioral change is one of the key factors for transformation of an individual. Conventional approach is replaced by exhilarating experience to identify the potential of a person where the learning of the person is directed towards an improved trajectory. The outcome of such training is a cycle of personalized experiences that penetrate into a person for deeper progress and results in powerful performance. Transformational leaders instill increased confidence, deeper insight, better understanding, increased understanding about capabilities, increased understanding about structural factors and a greater sense of individual authority in the followers. The followers will also be empowered to recognize and contribute their work with diversity in an informed and enriched working atmosphere, which results in better effectiveness of services. (“Breaking Through’s 'Transformational Leadership Programme’”, 2008)

Transformational leadership requires change to be implemented and sustained in an organization. Rather than demonstration, transformational leadership is learning and working together process where both the leader and follower involve in a particular task. The influence of the leader is more on the behavior, which results in the action of the subordinate and getting people to involve in their work especially in the case of multi-tasking. The word criticism does not hold well in transformational leaders for the mistake of a follower. The mistake or error in the performance is corrected by the leader’s involvement and guidance about how the work has to be performed. Encouragement is the most important part for followers who have already implemented the new policies while appreciation; praise and reward are the significant factor to sustain the performance of followers who have already accomplished the vision and mission of the transformational leader. This boosts confidence and instills credibility about the ideas and vision of the transformational leader. (Hellingsworth, Best, & Valence, 2002)

A transformation leader uses the inborn leadership quality to perceive leadership in followers. Self-schema is an important aspect of leaders who display a different trajectory in invoking leadership. The leader prototype is self-defining for followers wherein the experience of leaders in other settings stimulates the actions to influence action of followers. The action of leaders from different demographic regions varies and they display different leadership self-schema. Besides this, there are gender differences when it comes to transformational leadership. Male and female leaders manage followers from different perspectives. (Hogg & Tindale, 2001)

In conclusion, transformational leaders lead the change in an organization, society or group by implementing their self developed policies and the strategies they have arrived at from previous work experiences. The transformation leaders is not a boss who directs followers to implement actions, but the leader is a member of a group or team who instills confidence, improves intellect and functionality and builds confidence among the team members. By involving in the team, the leader finds better acceptance for new policies and procedures, which leads to the substantiation of the leader’s vision. The leader also gives opportunity for followers to discover their individuality and personal capability, which eventually leads to better performance and improvement in the assigned task that is beyond the expected level of performance. Therefore, a transformational leader lead the change in any set up and contributes to the overall improvement of performance.

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