What Is The Meaning Of Transformational Leadership?

Modern western theories of leadership have traversed a pathway from the Greeks & Romans, through the industrial and digital revolutions and several other pitstops, to arrive in today's global COVID pandemic, evolving humanity's collective unconscious definition of ‘leadership’ with each step. Coaching continues to develop a credible base of evidence as a leadership development intervention through ongoing academic research, making it a complementary component of leadership programmes (Hernez-Broome & Hernez-Broome, 2011). As the utilization of coaching increases in organisations, so too does the requirement for evidence-based frameworks to underpin individual engagements, connecting one-to-one coaching relationships to broader leadership team and organisational development initiatives.

What Are The 4 Sub-Components of Transformational Leadership?

Transformational Leadership was coined by Burns in 1978 to describe political leaders who inspired their followers to achieve a common goal or vision transcending their self-interests (Alrowwad, Abualoush, & Masa'deh, 2020; Jensen, Potocnik, & Chaudhry, 2020). The term and concept was further enhanced by Bass in 1985 (Bass, 1999; Kasimoglu, 2020) and in the years since, the concept of Transformational Leadership has been well researched and defined in academic literature, and is now described according to four sub-dimensions: 

  1. idealized influence or II (i.e., role modelling for followers), 
  2. inspirational motivation or IM (i.e., communication of a compelling vision to imbue meaning in work, and arouse team spirit), 
  3. intellectual stimulation or IS (i.e., fostering innovative and creativity), and 
  4. individualized consideration or IC (i.e., recognition of individual followers’ needs) (Jensen et al., 2020).

Transformational Leadership is often positioned in contrast to Transactional leadership. Where the leader with a transformational style inspires, challenges, and engages with individuals to get results through their self-motivation, the transactional leader utilizes structures, policy, rules and regulation to lead with a ‘command and control’ approach (Bass, 1999). An assumption of Transformational Leadership is that executives role model it’s sub-structures for leaders at lower management levels, enabling a trickle-down effect of Transformational Leadership throughout the organization to impact business performance through empowerment, whereas transactional leaders use rewards and penalties through a system of formal positional authority to directly control performance (Bass, 1999). It’s helpful to understand Transformational Leadership by comparison to the transactional leadership approach.

What Does The Research Say About Transformational Leadership?

Transformational Leadership has a strong evidence base in credible academic journals, where it has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on innovation and intellectual capital (Alrowwad et al., 2020), job satisfaction, organisational commitment, creativity and innovation, and employee well-being, subordinate perceptions of leader effectiveness, leader job performance, follower core self-evaluation and positive well-being, employee creativity, task performance, and organisational commitment among other subjective performance measures (Ding, Yu, & Li, 2020; Jensen et al., 2020; Manas-Rodriguez, Diaz-Funez, Llopis-Marin, Nieto-Escamez, & Salvador-Ferrer, 2020). This list of research-backed effects of Transformational Leadership could be extended further, demonstrating the extensive evidence supporting the theory. While there is positive evidence from meta-analysis of Transformational Leadership impacting sales performance and firm profit, the relationship between these financial metrics is smaller than those of the aforementioned subjective measures (Jensen et al., 2020).

Transformational Leadership theory has predominantly been developed in western, mature markets, however research in non-western settings has demonstrated the applicability of the theory across cultures. This research demonstrates nuanced differences at the sub-structure level of Transformational Leadership, however. For example, Kasımoglu & Ammari (2020) conducted research into the impact of the four sub-components of Transformational Leadership on employee workplace creativity in Turkey and Algeria. The authors note that Transformational Leadership has a history of research and operationalization in Turkey, while it is a newly introduced concept in Algeria (Kasimoglu, 2020) and therefore this research provides a good comparison of the cultural relevance of the Transformational Leadership theory. Participants included 356 Turkish managers (63.8% female and 36.2% male) and 332 Algerian managers (49.7% male and 50.3% female) who completed a self-reported questionnaire. The research found several differences between managers' perceptions of the links between Transformational Leadership and creativity, including a positive link between individualized consideration (IC) and employee creativity in Turkey, and a negative link between the same constructs in Algeria. Results were not analysed by gender differences; however this simple research example highlights the importance of investigating the underlying cultural and organizational constructs impacting the relevance of Transformational Leadership across cultures.

Does Transformational Leadership Get Developed Through Executive Coaching?

Yes. Because Transformational Leadership is a well researched, evidence based leadership theory, credible coaches and organisations often operationalise it into leadership programmes and coaching. There are assessments specifically aimed at measuring Transformational Leadership, such as the MLQ, however most 360 assessment reports will give insights into the four sub-components of Transformational Leadership to ensure the leader has a clear basis of feedback before working on strengths and development areas aligned to the theory. As coaching is a hyper-personalised development approach, it is uniquely positioned to enable the leaders journey towards developing their own unique leadership approach.

Reference List


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