January 2005: The Influence of the Transformational Leader
The Influence of the Transformational Leader
January 26, 2005
"Transformational Leadership is a popular theory in the leadership arena. James MacGregor Burns' seminal study (1978) provided initial definitions of transformational leadership by drawing a distinction between transformational and transactional leadership styles. According to Tracey and Hinkin (1998), transformational leadership is a process that motivates people by appealing to higher ideas and moral values, defining and articulating a vision of the future and forming a base of credibility.
The difference between transformational and transactional leadership styles can be defined by denoting the transformational style as a leader of innovation and the transactional style as a manager of planning and policy (King, 1994). Ackoff (1999) provided a helpful summary of the findings of three areas often associated with leaders. First, he defined administration as directing others in carrying out the will of a third party using means selected by that party. Second he stipulated that management consists of directing others in the pursuit of an end by use of means selected by the manager himself. And Third, Ackoff specified that leadership consists of guiding, encouraging, and facilitating others in the pursuit of an end by the use of means that the followers have either selected or approved. Given these definitions, Ackoff then defined a transformational leader as one who formulates an inspiring vision, facilitates the vision, encourages short-term sacrifices, and makes pursuing the vision a fulfilling venture.
Tracey and Hinkin (1998), who correlated their findings with the work of Bass and Avolio (1990, 1994a), observed that characteristics of transformational leadership follow clear themes. The first characteristic of transformational leaders is questing assumptions and promoting non-traditional thinking. The second theme is a focus on follower development.
Leader descriptions often focus on behaviors. Leaders must experience personal transformation within themselves before they can truly help to transform other people. Personal renewal and reflection are important ways that leaders change their innerselves (Herrington, Bonem, & Furr, 2000). Dixon (1998) discovered inner characteristics of transformational leaders that produce effective behaviors. The leader's behavior motivates and creates an impression that the leader has competence and vision to achieve success (Keller, 1992). The transformational leader's internal, external, and relational context of behavior connects with the followers' own sense of internal motivation.
According to Burns (1978), transformational leaders provide change and movement in an organization. Transformational leaders emphasize new possibilities and promote a compelling vision of the future. Transformational leaders manifest passionate inspiration (Hersey & Blanchard, 1996) and visibly model appropriate behaviors (Kouzes & Posner, 1987).
Transformational leaders focus on change, progress and development. Transformational leaders emphasize the need for understanding change as a process. Two events can become catalysts for change: 1) a fresh look at trends and 2) feedback from front-line people (Herrington, Bonem, & Furr, 2000). Covey (1991) noted that transformational leaders are preoccupied with purposes, values, morals, and ethics.
Leaders must recognize the importance of considering and influencing the culture in their organizations (Bass & Avolio, 1993, 1994b; Inkson & Moss, 1993). The culture in transformational organizations inculcates a sense of purpose, long-term commitments, and mutual interests.
Transformational organizations operate from the inside out. Mink (1992) admonished leaders to 'get inside' the people they are trying to help and develop. The energy from within the individual follower meets the energy from other followers to produce change at a higher level (Bass & Avolio, 1997). The followers respond and new behaviors develop (Seltzer & Bass, 1990).
Transformational leaders affect the culture among the people through teams, innovation, and productivity. Many years ago, Bass (1985) observed a correlation between transformational leaders and team effectiveness. Transformational innovation brings higher productivity (Bass & Avolio, 1997). Productivity and innovation improve when transformational leaders emphasize culture and values in an organization (Niehoff, Enz, & Grover, 1990).
Transformational leaders not only influence the culture among their followers, but their influence also extends beyond the organization to the outside culture. As the world beyond the organization changes, transformational leaders help the existing organization adapt to the developing environment (Smith, 1990).
Transformational leadership carries the potential for abuse (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999; conger & Kanungo, 1998). The potential dangers lie within the leader-follower interactions that arise from social power responses (Clements & Washbush, 1999). Keeley (1995) went so far as to question the validity of transformational leadership in leading organizations because of its potential for abuse. However, Bass and Steidlmeier (1999) answered this kind of charge by grounding the effectiveness of genuine transformational leadership in three essential pillars: 1) moral character, 2) ethical values, and 3) the morality of the processes of ethical choices.
A leader's use of power reflects integrity. Leaders who lack integrity can rely upon deceitful and manipulative methods to get people to follow their agendas for the leader's benefit alone. Power becomes a potential danger if leaders have their focus on themselves or on building resources alone rather than on building their followers (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999). Two of the most obvious perils in leadership are pride and egotism (Sanders, 1994).
In addition to personal factors, there can be organizational factors that lead to dangers in transformational leadership. Leaders must become aware of the organizational factors that perpetuate negative forces among the people and take steps to eliminate such problems. Leaders and organizations can recognize the hiding places of the dark forces that undermine genuine transformational leadership. They can institute safeguards that benefit and protect everyone. The personal and organizational factors will never be totally eliminated. As a result, healthy transformational leaders can benefit organizations.
Organizations need transformational leaders. Such leaders focus on organizational change, which is imperative in an every-changing world. Leaders and organizations must maintain accountability to insure that leaders stay within certain boundaries. Aspiring leaders should seek to learn the skills necessary to become transformational leaders. Transformational leaders provide new direction, new inspiration, and new behaviors for their organizations (Tucker & Russell, 2004, p. 103-111)."
Reference: Tucker, B. A., Russell, R.F., (2004). The Influence of the Transformational Leader. The Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 10, No. 4.
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Created: 2007-08-28, Updated: 2009-02-17