Characteristics Of A Transformational Leader Management Essay

In the past decade there has been a lot of unrest in many countries due to lack of a good leader. When we talk about situation in Iraq we can say that the citizens of the country suffered because their leader did not work well for the country but for his selfish needs. He failed to set a vision for the country and for its people. Scholars have defined leadership either as transformational or transactional. Both these leadership style have become popular in the recent times. According to Bernard M Bass(1998)”Transformational leaders help followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual follower’s needs by empowering them and by aligning the objectives and goals of the individual followers, the leader, the group and the larger organization.”(p.5).

2. Main Body

In transformational leadership, leaders create a vision, when fulfilling this vision they motivate their subordinates or employees and help to develop themselves. In this style of leadership, a leader gives importance to his follower. He listens to them and pays attention to their needs. He believes in achieving goals through motivation and inspiration rather than through force and deadlines. Transformational Leaders believe in leading through inspiration. They are admired and respected by their followers as they become role models for them.

Richard Branson, who is the famous British entrepreneur and leader of the Virgin group, encourages his employees to give new ideas in several brain storming sessions and encourages them to implement the idea if feasible. This way the employees feel much more part of the organization they work for. Even if the idea doesn’t work, he allows his employees to learn from the mistakes. He often narrates his own success and failure stories.

2.1 Characteristics of a Transformational Leader

The two most important characteristics of a Transformational Leader is Morality and Virtue. The concept of moral leadership is proposed as a means for leaders to take responsibility for their leadership and to aspire to satisfy the needs of the followers. Burns’ position is that leaders are neither born nor made; instead, leaders evolve from a structure of motivation, values, and goals. The result of this leadership is a mutual relationship that converts followers to leaders and leaders into moral agents. Transforming leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with one another with high levels of motivation and morality. Burns also contends that leadership is a moral undertaking and a response to human wants as they are expressed in human values. On the other hand, moral life rests upon foundations of individual virtue and that the individually virtuous person transformed others as well as the social environment (Schwartz, 1985; Lin, Rosemont & Ames, 1995). It is the presence of virtue in an individual that brings about personal and social transformations. The moral person in each tradition would sacrifice anything for the sake of virtue. As Confucius said,

“Wealth and honor are what every person desires. But if they have been obtained in violation of moral principles, they must not be kept. Poverty and humble station are what every person dislikes. But if they can be avoided only in violation of moral principles, they must not be avoided. If a superior person departs from humanity (ren), how can s/he fulfill that name? A superior person never abandons ren, even for the lapse of a single meal. In moments of haste, one acts according to it. In times of difficulty or confusion, one acts according to it.”

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2.2 In support of Transformational Leadership

I stand for Transformational leadership as there have been such transformational leaders in History and even today who have been tremendously successful in achieving their vision and goal. Mahatma Gandhi the leader for India’s Freedom battle was truly a transformational leader. When others in the country sought to violence he preached non violence (Ahimsa). Followers of Ahimsa grew day by day and finally with the help of his followers Mahatma Gandhi was able to free his country. He preached his people “you need to be the change you seek to see in the world”.

Another example is of Ratan Tata the owner of the TATA industries in India had a long lived dream to build a car that almost everyone in India could afford to have. Though there were several constraints to fulfill this dream he was able to convince his team of workers and employees that this goal was achievable. He told them this could be an opportunity where his employees could innovate. He instilled a vision in his employees and gave them the confidence to achieve it. His dream has finally come true and he has fulfilled his promise he made to millions of Indians. Other examples could be Bill gates of Microsoft and Michael dell of Dell computers.

Transformational leaders are trusted by their followers whereas this is not the case when it comes to transactional leadership where the leader is mainly concerned about his own goals and vision without any concern for his subordinate’s needs. Such leaders are not trusted. They are not inspiring to many as they fail to motivate employees. What is offered in return for achieving the goal is mostly monetary in nature like bonus , increase in pay, promotion etc . Transformational leaders on the other hand, focus more on the intrinsic needs like the development of employees by motivating them and inspiring them to do a job effectively and efficiently. One of the most important feature of transformational Leadership is the relationship between the leaders and the followers. Transactional leaders are not popular among their followers due to lack of empathy. They do not recognize the need to know what their followers want. This style of leadership may be successful for attaining short term goals but in the long run employees do not trust such leaders. Such leaders are not able to delegate most of the responsibility to their subordinates due to which employees may not feel as a part of the organization or as a part of a team working towards a common goal. There has been enough evidence to support that the transformational leadership is better than transactional leadership in attaining higher job satisfaction for employees and higher productivity (Robbins And Coulter 1999, P.534)

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Due to the emergence of the internet and companies going global business carried out in recent times has changed drastically. Business environment is constantly changing hence organizations need to change leaders who can foster such change. Most people are reluctant to accept change, they prefer to stick to regular routine, and they fear change. Organizations should have managers and leaders who can influence people in the organization in a positive way and make them towards that change and accept the change. Transformational leaders are capable of doing that.

2.3 Criticism

Where there are fans and followers of transformational leadership, there have been serious critics of the ideology as well. One such critics are Evers & Lakomski (1996), who suggest that transformational models rely too heavily on the transformational skills of the leader; instead, the organization should develop feedback loops to learn from its mistakes. In this way, instead of empowering select individuals, the organization becomes empowered as a collective unit. Leithwood and Bass both acknowledge the difficulty they experienced in providing evidence for transformational leadership. They state, “We can really only tell the difference if we know the nature of the purposes and their effects which, of course, now depend on how people interpret what they see” (p. 77). Evers and Lakomski add, “If there is no principled way of telling one leader behaviour from another, then any claim to have empirically identified transformational leadership effects is not justified. In the absence of justification, however, claims to leadership are nothing more than personal belief or opinion, which does not carry any empirical status, no matter how many empirical studies are conducted” (p. 79).

Gronn (1995) went to the extent of charging transformational leadership with being paternalistic, gender exclusive, exaggerated, having aristocratic pretensions and social-class bias, as well as having an eccentric conception of human agency and causality. Gronn outlines numerous shortcomings of transformational leadership: a lack of empirically documented case examples of transformational leaders; a narrow methodological base; no causal connection between leadership and desired organizational outcomes; and the unresolved question as to whether leadership is learnable.

Transformational leadership however is not always positive it can have its adverse effects as well. When on one hand we talk about successful transformational leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Richard Branson and Lee Loccoca who saved Chrysler Corporation when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, whereas on the other hand we have leaders like Hitler who influenced great number of people to follow him to pursue his personal goals and motives to set up the Nazi camps. Some leaders may believe in manipulation and leading by force. These leaders influence in a way that may not be positive but detrimental to moral values.

Transformational Leadership can also be of two types – Authentic and Pseudotransformational Leadership. Many leaders can be manipulative in their efforts to make inspiring appeals, to maintain the enthusiasm and morale of followers. They are secretive about disclosing information to their followers and disclose such information when it is in the best interest of the matter. They would publicly support and privately oppose proposals. These leaders may appear to be transformational leaders, but inwardly they work for personal benefits rather than the benefit of the followers. This is pseudotransformational leadership. On the other hand, Authentic Transformational Leaders are those who follow the four components of authentic transformational leadership – idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. They persuade others on the merits of the matter. They openly bring about changes in followers’ values by the merit and relevancy of the leader’s ideas and mission to their followers’ ultimate benefit and satisfaction (Howell,1988).

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While we talked about the authentic transformational leaders like Gandhi and Ratan TATA, there are several Pseudo Transformational Leaders who have left their footprints in the annuls of history. One such leader was Adolf Hitler. He encouraged fantasy and magic in his vision of an attractive future while putting the lives of hundreds and thousand of Germans at stake by sending them to war to fulfill his personal motives. He welcomed blind obedience while maintaining distance between himself and his followers. He was a Narcissistic pseudotransformational leader who manipulated arguments about political choices with a “twist that achieves the desired responses” (Bass, l989, p.45). He used power primarily for self-glorification. He was a deceptive, domineering, egotistical demagogue while his public image portrayed him as a savior. He claimed he was right and good; and others are wrong and bad. Instead of earning idealized influence from his followers, he seek to become the idol (rather than the ideal) of his followers (Howell & Avolio, 1992). Another such intellectually stimulating,

inspirational leader known for his self-aggrandizing, inconsiderate, abusive and abrasive behavior (Polmar & Allen, 1982) was Hyman Rickover, who transformed the U.S. Navy into the nuclear age.

One of the issues with transformational leadership is that it is believed that women can be better transformational leaders than men. They are more caring to individual needs. Judy Rosener in her research published in Harvard Business Review found that women are better transformational leaders than men. Men were more transactional in nature than transformational. She also concluded that women are more caring and sensitive than men. Therefore transformational leadership is not much popular among men.

3. Conclusion

Whether it is transactional or transformational leadership, leaders are known by their followers hence for a leader to succeed it is important that he has followers. Every leader should be able to create a vision, inspire subordinates, communicate well with subordinates, should have the required knowledge, should be able develop team spirit when working in teams and build trust among members. It is well suited in organiations with instability and uncertainty today. Transformational Leadership gives an opportunity for an individual to innovate and develop where by an individual is trained to deal with a more complex situation in future. They are trained to be future leaders of the organization. Successful leaders are able to influence followers to obtain the objective set.

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