Thesis: Transformational Leadership a Leadership Style That Bring the Best of People

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Transformational Leadership, a leadership style that bring the best of people

Transformational Leadership

The issue of leadership and leadership effectiveness has become a focus of much debate in the past two decades. This has resulted in two central trajectories of thought on leadership, particularly in the business and organizational world. A central line of inquiry into what makes an effective leader has led to the transformational approach or school of thought on leadership. This refers to "….the identification and examination of those leader behaviors that influence followers' values and aspirations, activate their higher-order needs, and arouse them to transcend their own self-interests for the sake of the organization. ( Bass, 1985 in Podsakoff, 1996)

The transformational or charismatic type of leadership ability is seen for a number of theoretical perspectives. Transformational leadership is seen for instance as an augmentation or continuation of the qualities that are ascribed to the transactional leadership style. On the other hand there is also the view that these two leadership styles are different and require different personalities and leadership abilities. Both these categories of leadership will be discussed in this paper. The central thesis that will be explored is that the transformational model of leadership is one that tends to promote and motivate the best cooperation and involvement from employees or from members of the organization.

General Overview of Leadership

There are certain common assumptions made about Transformational Leadership. These refer to the fact that the transformational leader will be one who inspires and motivated through vision and example. However, in order to understand the significance of transformational leadership at a deeper level, one has to briefly discuss the meaning and the criteria of good leadership as a concept.

Leadership is a quality that is notoriously difficult to definitively define. However there are a number of central characteristics that can be seen to identify the qualities of a good leader. One of these is the ability to communicate one's thoughts, feelings and ideas. A good leader must be able to perceive and understand the feelings and aspirations of others in the organization and also be able to convey his or her views, ideas and vision to those whom he or she leads. These two aspects of communicative ability and vision are essential foundations for good leadership.

In understanding the contemporary prerequisites of good leadership and how this relates to the concept of transformational leadership, one must also take into account the modern trends in leadership theory and, in particular, the intersection between leadership and management and the relational model of leadership. This is in contradistinction to the conventional model of leadership which emphasizes an authoritarian leadership that stresses a 'top-down' structure. As will be discussed, these tendencies in contemporary thinking refer to the differences between transactional and transformational leadership styles.

Another aspect that appears often in the literature is the term the 'dimensionality" of leadership. This refers to the fact that leadership is a complex and difficult to define concept within the organizational environment. Stefano and Wasylyshyn (2005) add to the debate about the qualities of leadership that are essential in organizational leadership. These are integrity, courage, and empathy (ICE). (Stefano & Wasylyshyn, 2005)

Williams (2005) elaborates on the meaning of good leadership in a contemporary context as follows;

Leadership, especially, is very much about doing what is right for the situation and the people involved in it. Underlying such flexibility and differentiation of response, however, must be a consistency of values and ground rules, if the leader's professional credibility is to remain the crucial source of influence.

(Williams, 2005, p. 1)

Credibility and integrity have become prominent aspects of the good leader. As Williams states, "…in today's world, personal integrity, too, is coming to be regarded as a critical factor, as the triple bottom line of profitability, concern for the environment and, thirdly, social responsibility, becomes an established business imperative. (Williams, 2005, p. 1)

Other aspects of good leadership qualities include, close engagement with others and a wide contextual perspective that enables a more holistic understanding of the organizational environment and its potential problem areas. (Williams, 2005, p. 3) These attributes can be seen in relation to the debate between transactional and transformative theories of leadership and leadership styles.

From this assessment of the different qualities of leadership two central views or perspectives have been developed -- although it should also be noted that they sometimes are considered to intersect. These are the authoritarian or autocratic and the participative or democratic styles. In brief, the authoritative style is the more traditional style of leadership where the leader instructs his or her employees about what should be done and how it must be accomplished. However, this style has been compared with the more democratic style of leadership. These two styles are referred to by Bass and Stodgill as the "two overarching clusters of leadership styles" (Ascher & Hirschfelder-Ascher, 2005, p. 100). The democratic style of leadership is aligned with participative leadership styles, and with transformational leadership.

It is against this background that we can consider the meaning of transformational leadership as opposed to other leadership styles.

Definition of Transformational Leadership

A succinct definition of a transformational leadership is a "Style of leadership in which the leader identifies the needed change, creates a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executes the change with the commitment of the members of the group"( Transformational Leadership). In essence, this leadership style refers to a leader who inspires his or her team constantly with a shared vision of the future. Transformational leaders are highly visible, and are usually individuals who are continually communicating with those around themselves. An important aspect of this model is that the leader would not necessarily lead from a position of authority or in terms of a direct hierarchy but would tend to delegate responsibility.

The transformational model of leadership is in line with modern theoretical and practical tendencies which emphasize a more interactive style of leadership. This is a style that tends to emphasize the involvement of employees and staff in the process of management. In this regard Wilmot (1987) emphasizes the aspect of receptivity and the understanding of similar points-of-view which are essential components in motivating staff.

"We gain information from transactions that is not available from simple knowledge of attitude similarity or dissimilarity, [such as] (a) the way the other sees us, (b) the degree of receptivity the other has to our own perspectives and points-of-view, and (c) the intentions of the other regarding us."

(Wilmot, 1987, p. 95)

In essence, the transformational model of leadership focuses on the response to the needs the members or subordinates in the organization in order to create a dynamic and interactive working environment. Furthermore, an important aspect of this type of leadership model is that it is intended to, "…transform relationships within the institution in order to orient followers to "higher" objectives that transcend their personal interests." (Ascher & Hirschfelder-Ascher, 2005, p. 101) As will be discussed, this is a different ethos and emphasis to that of transactional model of leadership. As Tyler (2005) states, in transactional leadership there is a one dimension hierarchy of needs and requirements. Transactional theory suggests that, …people will follow those leaders that they feel can solve group problems in a way that will lead to personal gain for group members. Similarly, transactional theories of leadership suggest that leader-follower relations depend on resources received from leaders in the past or expected in the future.

(Tyler, 2005, p. 179)

Transactional vs. Transformative

As was discussed briefly above, there is an essential and primary difference between transactional and transformational types of leadership. The main difference lies in the interactive and relational approach to leadership in the latter, as opposed to the more conventional model of the former, which sees leadership in terms of needs and dependencies or as a form of transaction. The question that begs to be answered is whether these two styles of leadership or truly distinct or whether there are areas of congruence.

In the transactional model the leader will tend to focus more on the "here and now" and on contingent rewards for staff and management. This style also tends to focus on problems and the rectification of mistakes. (Firth-Cozens and Mowbray, 2001). On the other hand, "Transformational leadership looks for ways to motivate followers with a view to engaging them more intimately in the process of work -- it is "performance beyond expectations." (Firth-Cozens and D. Mowbray). In other words, this form of leadership is more capable in terms of dealing with change and in energizing employees. The employees or members of staff are "Keen to go beyond the evidence to build something new. They are entrepreneurial, take risks, and are often informal in their relationships, always seeking to develop individuals and respond to their needs and interests. " (Firth-Cozens and Mowbray, 2001)

Transactional leadership on the one hand refers to the more traditional view that the leader should have a certain power and authority over… [END OF PREVIEW]

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