Leadership as a process of accomplishing organizational objectives

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Leadership is the process of influencing other people to behave in preferred ways to accomplish organizational objectives (David H. Holt and Karren W. Wigginton). In the 1970s, leadership theories approaching effectiveness was dominant, for example, path-goal theory (House & Mitchell, 1974). Since the late 1980s, new style of leadership theory emerged, as ''charismatic'' leadership (Conger &Kanungo, 1998; Hunt, Boal, & Dodge, 1999), ''visionary'' leadership (Sashkin, 1988), and also ''transformational'' leadership (Avolio, Bass, & Jung, 1999). Much of the leadership research, however, has focused on characteristics and specific effects of charismatic and transformational leadership (Bass 1985; Kanungo1990; Sashkin 1988; Tichy and Devanna 1990).

Burns was the first person introducing the concept of ''transforming leadership'' in his book ''Leadership''. The version of transformational leadership theory was formulated later by Bass (Bass, 1985, 1996). He defined transformational leadership in terms of the leader''s effect on followers by analyzing the behavior used in the process. The employees can be motivated by taking difficult objectives, and achieve beyond initial expectation.

This paper will have a thorough analysis on the Transformational Leadership theory. The first part will conduct a general description of the theory and its development, followed by conceptual pitfalls over the theory in Part two. Part three provides empirical support for the theory and Part Four will be some recent research on this theory.

1. Transformational Leadership Theory and Development

Traditional leadership theories emphasized rational processes; rather, theories of transformational and charismatic leadership emphasize more on emotions and values. James MacGregor Burns (1978) was the first author to contrast ''''transforming'''' and ''transactional'' leadership. Transformational leadership emphasizes achievement of higher purpose, of common mission and vision. Transformational leadership includes individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, charisma, and inspirational motivation. Transactional leadership includes contingent reward behavior and management by exceptions. Burns defined the concept of ''transforming leadership'' as,

'''' a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents...occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality''''

He proposed that the transforming leaders motivate the followers to make them be able to achieve significant goals in the work, which finally lead to values promotion in both parties.

Under the theory of Burns, Bass developed more. He put Burns'' concept into one way process as ''transformational leadership where the leader transforms followers''. It is different from the theory of Burns which indicate a two-way process that leaders and followers perform beyond expectations. Bass add the transformational style of leadership that Burns did not pay attention to. The leadership style incorporate social changes in the process of leader''s performance which empirically more effective. According to Bass (Bass 1985, 1996; Avolio et al. 1995), transformational leaders motivate their subordinates by inspiring them and encouraging self-development. Studies reviewed by Bass support that transformational and transactional leadership can be very distinctive. There is also evidence that transformational leadership is positively in relation to satisfaction, motivation, and performance of subordinates (Lowe et al. 1996).

According to the research centre for leadership studies of University of Exeter (Bolden, R. et. al,2003), Bass ''transformational leaders'' may:

a) expand follower''s needs

b) transform follower''s self-interest

c) increase the confidence

d) elevate followers'' expectations

e) heighten the value of the leader''s intended outcomes for the follower

f) encourage behavioral change

g) motivate others to higher levels of personal achievement

Simply put forward, transformational leaders can: 1) Increase subordinates'' awareness of well-performance of their tasks, 2) Increase subordinates'' awareness of needs for personal development, and goal-fulfillment. 3) Increase subordinates'' awareness of working in the spirit of making good for organization rather than focus on personal benefit.

According to Bass (Bass 1985,1996; Avolio et al. 1995), transformational leaders motivate their followers by inspiring them, offering challenges, and encouraging individual development. Transformational leadership stresses achievement of higher collective purpose, of common mission and vision. Transactional leaders stress specific benefits that subordinates would receive by fulfilling tasks. Transformational leadership includes individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, charisma, and inspirational motivation. Transactional leadership includes contingent reward behavior and management by exception. Studies reviewed by Bass support that transformational and transactional leadership can be very distinctive.

On the contribution theory base of Burns and Bass, Tichy and Devanna (1986) built further on transformational leadership in organizational contexts. They described the nature of transformational as ''a behavioral process capable of being learned''. And the characteristics of transformational leaders are indentified as courageous, trustworthy, value-driven, visionary, continuous learning, and able to deal with complexity.

To make the theory more operational, Bass and Avolio (1994) proposed five dimensions of transformational leadership, idealized behaviors, idealized motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration and idealized attitude. The detailed behaviors of the five dimensions are showed in Table 1.

Table 1


Leadership Style

Leader Behaviors

2) Consider the moral consequences of decisions

3) risk-sharing

4) Trust subordinates

2) Enthusiastic about job

3) Confident that goals will be achieved

4) Take a stand on controversial issues

2) look at problems from different angles

3) Suggest new ways to complete assignments

4) Encourage innovative thinking

2) Consider individual''s different needs and abilities

3) Help to develop strengths

4) Promote self development

2) Act in ways that get respect from others

3) Display a sense of competence

4) Confident that obstacles will be overcome

2. Conceptual Pitfalls

The version of transformational leadership theory that has generated the most interest was contributed by Bass (Bass, 1985, 1996). Bass'' model of transformational leadership has been accepted by scholars and practitioners that organizations can encourage employees to perform beyond expectations. Despite a set of theory base in transformational leadership, concerns have been raised about the way in which the dimensions of the model have been defined (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002).

Yukl (1999) proposed that it was not clearly differentiated between transformational and charismatic leadership. The influence processes for transformational and transactional leadership are blurring, and have not been explored systematically. The identification of types of transformational leadership behaviors seems to be based mostly on a factor analysis; therefore the theoretical base for differentiating among the behaviors is not explained. While every type of transformational leadership behavior includes a lot of components, it makes the definition more ambiguous. Leadership is viewed as a key determinant of organizational effectiveness; however, the leader behaviors that ultimately influence organizational performance are seldom described in detail. The organizational processes have not received sufficient attention in mainstream theories of transformational leadership.

Moreover, stated by Yukl (1999), the theory provides ''insufficient identification of negative effects''. It does not clearly identify any situation where transformational leadership is ''detrimental''. However, some other researchers have noted that. For example, transformational leadership theory, putting more emphasis on the role of leadership to motivate employees, is biased at the expense of most of employees (Stephens et al., 1995). Porter and Bigley (1997) proposed that ''if members of an organization are influenced by different leaders with competing visions, the result will be increased role ambiguity and role conflict'' (Yukl, 1995). By establishing strong influence in the subunit, the leaders can achieve organizational goals more effectively, at the same time, arise competition among different subunits under different leaders. In that case, tasks that need cooperation among different unit will suffer. This is particularly harmful when inter-unit cooperation is necessary to achieve organizational objectives, and further result a decline in organizational effectiveness.

3. Empirical Evidence

The above issues concerning the weaknesses of Transformational leadership research meant that empirical research can provide evidence if necessary. Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) is the most used measure of transformational leadership research developed by Bass. By using MLQ, the data can provide mixed support for the differentiation of the components of the transformational model, which is the most controversy issue that has not achieved the general agreement.

From a wide range of settings, the positive effects of transformational leadership on several organizational outcomes have been proved (Dumdum, Lowe, & Avolio, 2002; Judge & Piccolo, 2004; Lowe, Kroeck, & Sivasubramaniam, 1996). Conflicting evidence has been reported on the factor structure of the model, and strong relationships have been reported among the leadership factors (Avolio et al., 1999). Interestingly, by using the MLQ-1, report found the five-factor model of transformational leadership (including charisma, intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, contingent reward, and management-by-exception) was fit properly to the data, however, a two-factor model(active and passive leadership factor) was also fit properly to the data (Bycio et al. 1995). Avolio (1999) proposed several alternate conceptual models of the factor structure underlying the MLQ-5X.

Carless (1998) examined the MLQ-5X, and found that a ''hierarchical model'' (charisma, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation) representing facets of a second-order construct which called transformational leadership was fit well according to the data. Carless suggested that the ''MLQ-5X does not assess separate transformational leadership behaviors, but measures a single, hierarchical construct of transformational leadership'' (Alannah E. 2004).

Researchers are using a number of tactics instead when examining transformational leadership. Some researchers used ''a reduced set of items'' to measure transformational leadership model (e.g., Tejeda et al., 2001). This strategy has been driven by empirical results but fail to be explained by strong theoretical rationale. Other authors have developed new measures of transformational and transactional leadership, such as Podsakoff, MacKenzie (1990). These approaches may all be useful in some researches. It is still important to adopt a theoretical approach when evaluating the dimensions of transformational leadership. Although Research has not provided convincing evidence in support of the transformational leadership model, Bass''s five dimensions of transformational leadership are still very important and need to be re-examined in empirical bass by developing more effective measures.

4. Recent Findings

J. Lee Whittingtona,, Vicki L. Goodwin, Brian Murray(2004), conduct a field study of ''209 leader'Cfollower dyads from 12 different organizations to test the moderating effects of job enrichment and goal difficulty on the relationship between transformational leadership and three follower outcomes: performance, affective organizational commitment, and organizational citizenship behavior(OCB)''. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the ''situational nature of transformational leadership''. Bass (1985) suggested that ''characteristics of the external environment, the organizational environment, and the leader may moderate the relationship between transformational leadership and follower performance''. They find no interactive effect for transformational leadership with enriched jobs on performance; rather, suggest the need for both a transformational leader and an enriched job to encourage in-role and extra-role behaviors. It is in contrast to the findings by Podsakoff et al. (1996). Moreover, another findings in their research is that Goal difficulty enhanced the relationship between transformational leader behavior and both affective commitment and performance. The motivation from transformational leaders, benefit from the direction or focus provided by challenging goals to the followers. The goals may put forward a clarification for the illustration and longer-term perspective. It is associated with transformational behavior and linked to performance. The challenging goals evoke high confidence in follower''s potential, which increases the follower''s self-promotion and, ultimately, increase the overall performance. Feeling positively and optimistic toward the leader, the employee, in turn, holds high spirit in working in the organization.

Louise A. Nemanich, Robert T. Keller (2007) conduct a field study of employees involved in a major acquisition integration, testing that weather the change of leadership and environment have any relationships with subordinate acquisition acceptance, performance, and job satisfaction. Many case studies have provided the challenges associated with the human resources when an acquisition involved, But few has put transformational leadership theory tested in this environment. Findings from this research showed that transformational leaders can be of great use in integration forms that the leaders can enable subordinates to be informed of the benefits, and encourage new ideas and new ways to perform in new structure. The results for job satisfaction suggest that transformational leadership has relationships with job satisfaction both indirectly and directly. The results shows that in the uncertain and changing environment of an integration in the form of acquiring, subordinate job satisfaction is influenced by the satisfaction of transformational leaders in the factors of inspiration and motivation. The leaders who have clearly set term goals and encouraged innovative thinking have high acceptance to the subordinates.

With increasing issues over international leadership, many researchers put their effort on inter-cultural approach to find more on the Transformational leadership theory. A very recent research by Dongil Jung, Francis J. Yammarino , Jin K. Lee(2009) test whether transformational leadership had a positive effect on leadership effectiveness across two different countries, whether attitudes followers held toward their leaders(e.g. trust, loyalty, and value congruence) had consistently moderating on leadership effectiveness across cultures, and also whether the effect of transformational leadership would be promoted if followers have collectivistic values. Their research was done on the large sample base in the United Stats and Korea. The results of both samples showed that transformational leadership had a positive effect on leader effectiveness. The regression coefficient was stronger in the Korean sample than in the U.S. sample means that collectivistic culture would have positive effect on transformational leadership. For the U.S. sample, transformational leadership, more than the subordinate attitudes, had a positive effect on effectiveness. However, transformational leadership and all subordinate attitudes had a positive effect on leader effectiveness directly as showed in the Korean sample. In addition, trust interacted with transformational leadership and had a significant moderating effect on leader effectiveness, whereas value consistency only had a marginally moderating effect.

5. Further Research and Summary

The essay focuses on the transformational leadership theory to explore its definition and development by history. As Bass put forward, transformational leadership is a process in which the leaders ''take actions to try to increase their associates' awareness of what is right and important, to raise their associates' motivational maturity and to move their associates to go beyond the associates' own self-interests for the good of the group, the organization, or society''. Bass identified a number of dimensions of transformational leadership including idealized behavior, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration and idealized attitude. The five dimensions indicate different attributes for the transformational leadership.

The second part are listing several pitfalls identified in the theory, which including that the difference between transformational and charismatic leadership are not clearly defined, the identification of types of transformational leadership behaviors are not systematically analyzed, the leadership linking in the organizational performance are not sufficient, and also insufficient identification of negative effects.

The third part provides the empirical support for the transformational leadership model by using the measure of Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ), which is the most used measure of transformational leadership research developed by Bass. By using MLQ, the data can provide mixed support for the differentiation of the components of the transformational model, which is the most controversy issue that has not achieved the general agreement. The positive effects of transformational leadership have been proved on several organizational outcomes in a wide range of applied settings. But MLQ still provides contradict results in different models, therefore, new way to research on this matter need to be developed in the future.

This essay also provides some recent finding of the transformational leadership theory, in a perspective of followers, or in a cross-culture context, or under acquisition integrations.

From what I have proposed above, a clear picture of the Transformational leadership theory has been drawn. As we are sharing more on international culture, structure, and environment, to examine how these affect different leadership styles and outcomes at different levels will be of great value.

As consider the most important pitfall of Transformational Leadership theory, future research should try to define and clarify differences between transformational and charismatic leadership and also the relationship between the leadership behavior models. It is worth to put forward the research on the leadership with personality in different situations. Empirical further studies can extend onto other cultures, countries, and organizational contexts such as nonprofit or research. More research on the subordinate performance, commitment, and attitudes under transformational leaders. Moreover, the relationship between transformational and charismatic leadership styles can be pay attention to.