Sunday, October 26, 2014

What do Transformational Leaders Really Do?

Many organisations talk about believing in transformational leadership, but what should the landscape look like in an organisation with transformation leaders. How do you know if you are really being led by a transformational leader – or is it by someone who just likes the sound of the word ‘transformational’, but doesn’t really know what it means to be transformational in practice?
Some traits of a transformational leader include;
 1) Transformational leaders try to develop followers’ full potential (e.g., Bass, 1985; Johnson & Dipboye, 2008); therefore, followers may tend to feel that their organization is effective and that it can provide future opportunity and development. As such, it is expected that followers will be more likely to stay in the organization because they are satisfying their needs for self-categorization/self-identity, and they have a sense of being unique from other members in society. Organizational identification is therefore likely to be strengthened.

2) Kark and Shamir (2002) proposed that transformational leaders influence two distinct levels of their followers’ self-concept: the relational and the collective self. Followers come to identify with their particular leader through the relational aspects of the followers’ self-concept, while organizational or social identification is influenced by priming of their collective self.

3) Transformational leadership behaviors include inspirational motivation, idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Among three types of transactional leadership behaviors, passive management by exception (MBEP) is considered to be a passive transactional leadership behavior, while active management by exception (MBEA) and contingent reward leadership behaviors are considered ‘active’ transactional leadership, as demonstrated empirically in a number of studies (e.g., Avolio, Bass, Walumbwa; Zhu, 2004; Bycio, Hackett, & Allen, 1995; Zhu, Riggio, Avolio, Sosik, 2011).

4) Transformational leaders possess great referent and inspirational power (Bass, 1985) which enables them to gain the respect, admiration, and trust of their followers. They are also seen as role models who exert significant and positive influence on followers that creates a sense of meaningfulness (Bass, 1985). Employees who experience a greater sense of meaning from their work are likely to feel more empowered (Spreitzer, 1995) and proud of being a member of the organization, and thereby enhance their identification with the organization (Koberg et al., 1999).

5) Transformational leaders align followers’ self-identities with their organization’s values and mission (Shamir et al., 1993).

6) Transformational leaders’ enthusiasm and optimism can build team spirit and can also provide meaning and challenge to followers’ work or tasks, enhancing followers’ feelings of impact, competence, meaning, and autonomy associated with psychological empowerment. All these factors can contribute to organization members’ feeling pride from being a part of their organization, which consequently increases their identification with the organization (Ashford et al., 2008).

7) Transformational leaders also show individualized consideration, such as listening attentively and paying close attention to their followers’ needs for achievement and growth. Such behaviors encourage followers to take on increasingly more responsibilities in order to develop to their full potential (Bass, 1985), thereby increasing their perceived competence associated with psychological empowerment (Spreitzer, 1995); and

8) Furthermore, transformational leaders provide followers with greater opportunities for decision latitude, challenge, and responsibility, which will cause followers to feel more confident and meaningful, and therefore psychologically empowered. This helps to satisfy followers’ need for affiliation within the organization by improving their self-esteem, which eventually may enhance their identification with the organization (Ashford et al., 2008).
This list isn’t exhaustive, but gives a pretty good indication what you should ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ if you are really being led by a transformational leader – the sad part is, few will find that they are led in this way.
There is still so much scope for improving leadership performance around the globe. The ‘blue print’ for effective leadership is available from many sources for all to see – it just needs leaders to start applying it.
When you see the benefits to the employee and the organisation – you can’t help asking what the problem is and why ‘boards’ and other stakeholders aren’t encouraging this leadership style.
Zhu, W., Sosik, J.J., Riggio, R.E., and Yang, B. (2012). Relationships between Transformational and Active Transactional Leadership and Followers’ Organizational Identification: The Role of Psychological Empowerment. Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. p.186-212.

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