The Transformational Leader

9 01 2010

Leading the way in uncertain times – a call to transformational leadership.        –By Dr. Mark Ellis

Just a brief look in the newspaper or a few minutes watching the evening news, anyone can tell that we are facing undeniable change — not only in America but also around the world. I would like to suggest that we have no greater time to demonstrate effective leadership during difficult times. What do you see? Problems, or opportunities? While challenges are undeniable, a transformational leader will face challenges head-on and bring about positive and profitable change – even in the midst of the most extreme circumstances.

What is a transformational leader?

The transformational leadership paradigm has been an established and highly recognized form effective leadership (Avolio & Bass, 1988; Bass, 1990; Yammarino & Bass, 1990; Bass & Avolio, 1993; Yammarino & Bass, 1993; Yammarino, Spangler, & Bass, 1993). The theory of transformational leadership was developed by Burns (1978) and further developed by Bass (1990). This theory came from a qualitative analysis of biographies of various political and military leaders.

Burns (1978) identified transformational leadership as significantly effective as the transformational leader has the ability to raise the consciousness of followers to higher ideals. Moreover, the literature suggests that the transformational leadership model has been identified as a key component in bringing change to organizations seeking to implement change and higher levels of performance. Transformational leadership has often been contrasted with transactional leadership (Burns, 1978; Yammarino & Bass, 1990).

Bass (1985) states that transactional leadership is based on contingent reinforcement of self-interest. However, Bass states that transactional leadership may be necessary in the preliminary stages of transformational leadership (1985). Avolio and Bass (1988) also identified three elements of transformational leadership: charisma, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration, while Burns (1978) claimed that transformational leadership brings social change (p. 4).

Moreover, transformational leadership brings about change and organizational effectiveness (Bass, 1985; Avolio, Waldman & Einstien, 1988; Yammarino & Bass, 1990). Moreover, subordinates are more willing to exert more effort when transformational leadership exists (Singer, 1985). Further, Burns (1978) also states that transformational leadership brings both leader and follower to a higher level of motivation and morality (p. 20). As such, transformational leadership has the positive impact on organizations and subordinates that make it a desired form of leadership.

Wolfe (2001) states that leading change requires transformational leaders who can exemplify skill which will overcome resistance in an organization undergoing change. Further, Kouzes and Posner (2005) describe transformational leaders as being future oriented, open-minded, dynamic, and concerned about strategic planning (Harris, 1985). Further, transformational leaders focus on transforming employees causing them to have a higher level of commitment to the organization (Roberts, 1985). Bass (1985) suggests that transformational leaders have the ability to transform followers into becoming leaders themselves. This phenomenon is caused by the transformational leader in developing the follower to the point where they are willing to think beyond themselves and become high performers (p. 155).

The literature also shows that transformational leaders utilize idealized influence, individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation to induce change, enhancing employees’ capacity to be innovative, make strategic decisions, and develop their leadership skills. Further, transformational leaders seek to unite organizations that consist of many departments, employees, cultures and subcultures, encouraging them to make the organization’s vision a reality (Bryman, 1992).

As suggested by the literature presented above, the transformational leader can have a positive impact on any organization, business entity, or society as a whole. As a business entrepreneur, organizational, or community leader, consider the transformational leadership model as your approach to leadership. Never before has there been a greater need for transformational leaders in the global marketplace who have the ability to challenge followers to raise their expectations, perform at a higher standard, and pave the way toward a greater future.

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