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The success of transformational leadership

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5/12/16 Management Reference this

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Drawing on a critical examination of both theory and empirical research, how can the role of leadership be best understood in organizational change?

Key to evolution of an Organization is how well it can adapt to changes be it structural or financial. A good leadership plays a pivotal role in such transitions and will often be the most influential aspect in such changes being implemented successfully.

Considering the fact that both Organizational Change and Leadership are very widely defined, for the purpose of the essay I would like to use the following definitions, Leader is a person with “vision, energy, authority, and strategic direction…” – ref: (Robert Coffee and Gareth Jones, 2000), Organizational Change is ‘the process of continually renewing an organization’s direction, structure, and capabilities to serve the ever-changing needs of external and internal customers’- ref: (Moran and Brightman, 2001).

Change is one of challenges an organization can face. It, being a continuous process, “dealing successful with it is critical to an organization’s success”- ref:

(Kudray and Kleiner, 1997), and certain management levers, such as, strategy, operations, should be constantly altered for the organization to be aligned with the market place. Having said that, it is also very important to critically identify the needed change within the organization. If a certain change is identified as a pivotal one for the growth of the organization, it is also important to consider how the change will be received by the people who will be a part of it.

Resistance in our context is opposing to the change. Resistance is very likely with-in the team when the importance of the change is not know. There are various known reasons for someone to resist the change. Some of which are job insecurity and the fear of losing the power. There are existing theories which say that resistance is good and it is related to the individual identity and organizational values. Despite of being a time consuming process, it is very important to overcome resistance to implement the change successfully.

Lewin’s 3 step model for change, Unfreeze, Change and Refreeze: ref ( Lewin, 1951) is considered to be there mother of all change models. The point here was to have organizations prepare initially to ease the process of the change in order to overcome resistance. It has been argued upon, that this theory might not be holding good for the current day situation, as organizations are constantly changing and they will never be having the opportunity to refreeze or attain the new state of equilibrium. Kotter’s 8 Step Model, ref: ( Kotter, J , 1995) also talks about implementing a change within the organization but considering the present day needs and situation. This model tries to address the developed resistance in the implementation on the change. An effective leadership will always try and overcome resistance and help successfully implement the change, which need not be a top down approach. For a change to be accepted, Nahvandi (2003), believes that you need to first motivate those in your guiding collation or transformational leadership team. This, per him, is the best achieved through inspiration of the team, which enables them to “enact change”. Transformational leadership includes inspiring them with a charm and charisma, challenging the team to solve the problems rather than we doing it ourselves and developing personal relationship with each one of them. A combination of these 3 attributes is the best known vehicle to overcome resistance. – ref( Nahvandi, 2003).

Transformational leadership is that which “… facilitates a redefinition of a people’s mission and vision, a renewal of their commitment and the restructuring of their systems for goal accomplishment. It is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents. Hence, transformational leadership must be grounded in moral foundations.” – ref(Leithwood, as cited in Cashin et al., 2000, p.1) . According to Bass (1990b, p. 21) transformational leadership “occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group.”

Success of transformational leadership has been demonstrated by studies in diverse settings such as schools, corporations etc. -ref(Bryant, 2003, p. 36).Also there are existing studies to prove the effectiveness of transformational leadership regardless of culture – ref:(Perttula & Xin,2005) . Per Carlson and Perrewe (1995, p. 834), as a result of transformational leadership, changes in the organizations mission, strategy, and subordinate commitment levels are very likely to emerge. Also, Odom and Green (2003) argue that principles of transformational leadership (i.e., intellectual stimulation, idealized influence) applied to ethical dilemmas faced by managers offers the prospect of less litigation and better ethical outcomes than the more common transactional approach to ethics.

Though Transformational Leadership is the latest “buzz word”, there have been many people in the past who have demonstrated the traits of this form of leadership. For instance, Genghis Khan was a transformational leader who, during the late 12th and early 13th centuries, united fiercely independent Mongol tribes to ultimately create one of the largest land empires ever seen – ref(Yates, 2002). Lee Iacocca is a transformational leader who is credited with saving the Chrysler Corporation. He took over Chrysler when it was on the brink of bankruptcy and set about transforming the ideals of his closest subordinates. In turn, that began to reshape the corporation’s culture. Because a transformational leader encourages others to becomes transformational leaders, soon the entire organization was filled with effective leaders (Kelly, 2003). Within military and government contexts, General Colin Powell overcame entrenched racism (particularly in the US military) and low institutional expectations of African Americans to become chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989. He went further, becoming in 1991 the first African American to become US Secretary of State, a position some said he filled with vision and the qualities of a transformational leader (Chekwa, 2001). Other transformational leaders include Christine Nixon, the current Police Chief Commissioner in the Australian state of Victoria, who is popularly understood to have transformed the culture of that police force for the good, and Sir Richard Branson, responsible for international Virgin enterprises (Lussier & Achua, 2004). These are positive examples of transformational leaders but as critics (e.g., Yukl, 1989) point out, transformational leadership is not without its dark side and other flaws.

The morality of transformational leadership has been questioned, especially by libertarians and organizational development consultants (Griffin, 2003). A key criticism is that within it transformational leadership has potential for the abuse of power (Hall, Johnson, Wysocki & Kepner, 2002). Leaders here, motivate followers by engaging them to strong beliefs, irrespective of the effects on them .Transformational leaders can exert a very powerful influence over followers, who offer them trust and respect. Some leaders may have narcissistic tendencies, thriving on power and manipulation. Moreover, some followers may have dependent characters and form strong and unfortunate bonds with their leaders: ref- (Stone, Russell and Patterson, 2003, p. 4). Yukl describes this as the “dark side of charisma” and goes on to note that for every example of a positive transformational leader demonstrating charismatic qualities (e.g., Mohandas [Mahatma] Gandhi), there is an equally negative example (e.g., Charles Manson).-ref: (Yukl, 1989)

There is an argument that transformational leadership is facilitative of change because it contributes to organizational improvement, effectiveness and institutional culture (Barnett, McCormick & Conners, 2001). An interesting study by Barnett, McCormick and Conners (2001), shows that teachers may in fact be distracted from concentrating on learning-and-teaching by, for example, taking time away from students to be involved in the corporate school initiatives an inspirational, transformational principal expects of them. Ref: (Barnett, McCormick and Conners (2001), a study conducted on 12 schools in New South Wales and Australia)

Related Bibliography

Robert Coffee and Gareth Jones, HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, September-October 2000

Moran, J. W. and Brightman, B. K. (2001) ‘Leading organizational change’, Career Development International, 6(2), pp. 111-118.

Gary Yukl Journal of Management 1989. Vol. 15, No. 2, 251-289

Bennis, W, (1994), On Becoming a Leader. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, ISBN:0-201-40929-1.

Lucey, J.J, Why is the failure rate for organization change so high?, Management Services Winter 2008

Evans, M.G. (1970). The effects of supervisory behavior on the path-goal relationship. Organizational, Behavior and Human Performance. 5, 277-298

House, R.J. (1971). A path-goal theory of leader effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16, 321-339.

House, R.J., & Mitchell, T.R. (1974). Path-goal theory of leadership. Contemporary Business, 3, 81-98.

Dansereau, E, Jr., Graen, G., & Haga, W.J. (1975). A vertical dyad linkage approach to leadership within formal organizations: A longitudinal investigation of the role making process. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance. 13. 46-78.

Kudray, L and Kleiner, B, Global trends in managing change, Industrial Management; May/Jun 1997; 39, 3; ABI/INFORM Global pg. 18

Lewin, K, Field Theory in Social Science, Harper and Row, 1951.

Nahavandi, A. (2006). The art and science of leadership. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Hay, Iain, Transformational Leadership: Characteristics and Criticisms#

Leithwood, K. & Jantzi, D. (2000). The effects of transformational leadership on organizational conditions and student engagement with school. Journal of Educational Administration, 38(2), p. 112.

Bass, B.M. (1990b). From transactional to transformational leadership: learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, 13, pp. 26-40.

Bryant, S.E. (2003). The role of transformational and transactional leadership in creating, sharing and exploiting organizational knowledge. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 9(4), pp. 32-44.

Spreitzer, G.M., Perttula, K.H. & Xin, K. (2005). Traditionality matters: an examination of the effectiveness of transformational leadership in the United States and Taiwan. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 205-227.

Carlson, D.S. & Perrewe, P.L. (1995). Institutionalization of organizational ethics through transformational leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 14(10), pp. 829-839.

Odom, L. & Green, M.T. (2003). Law and the ethics of transformational leadership. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 24(1/2), pp. 62-69.

Yates, M. (2002) Genghis Khan. LeaderValues. Retrieved August 3, 2006 from

Kelly, M.L. (2003, January 1). Academic advisers as transformational leaders. The Mentor. Retrieved August 3, 2006,

Chekwa, E. (2001, July 12-14). Searching for African American transformational leaders. Academy of Business and Administrative Sciences 4th International Conference, Quebec City, Canada. Manuscript available from the author.

Lussier, R.N. & Achua, C.F. (2004). Leadership: theory, application, skill development (2nd ed.). Eagan, MN: Thomson-West.

Yukl, G.A. (1989). Leadership in Organizations (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Stone, A.G., Russell, R.F., & Patterson, K. (2003). Transformational versus servant leadership – a difference in leader focus. Servant Leadership Roundtable – October 2003. Retrieved August 3, 2006

Hall, J., Johnson, S., Wysocki, A. & Kepner, K. (2002). Transformational leadership: the transformation of managers and associates. Retrieved August 3, 2006

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