Does Transformational Leadership Make a Difference?

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Sections of this topic

    How is it Transformational?

    The name “transformational leadership” is sometimes meant to denote the transformation of team members from a focus on individual goals to a commitment to the goals of the organization. Another way of looking at it is the transformation that takes place in an organization as its members become more committed, motivated, and aligned with the vision and values of the organization. If one were to try and provide a bottom line objective of transformational leadership, it might be referred to as a leader’s efforts to align his or her goals, and the goals of team members, with the strategic goals of the organization. This description comes after distilling the theory of transformational leadership, into an approach to leadership (replete with specific leader behaviors), and demonstrating the connection with these behaviors and business outcomes. It has taken about 35 years to arrive at this place.

    Where Does Transformational Leadership Make a Difference?

    The following are some of the outcomes that have been reasonably well correlated with transformational leadership.

    Innovation

    There is evidence that transformational leadership behaviors (especially intellectual stimulation) can increase the overall innovative capacity of team members and, subsequently, organizations as a whole. In order for this to happen it is important that, in addition to intellectual stimulation, that leaders are go out of their way to empower team members to think creatively. It is also very helpful if team members view the organization as one that rewards innovation and initiative and that is committed to excellence.

    Motivation and Perseverance

    There appears to be a clear link between transformational behaviors and the level of motivation and perseverance toward goals demonstrated by team members. The best part of this connection is the corresponding link if motivation and perseverance with overall organizational performance. It is important to note that motivation can move rather quickly in the opposite direction if transformational behaviors are used with team members that are feeling overworked.

    Commitment

    There seems to be a firm connection between the commitment that team members have to a particular leader, group, or organization, and the demonstration of transformational behavior by organizational leaders. It is evident that one of the key variables is trust. That is, when team members trust organizational leaders, their commitment level rises accordingly.

    Organizational Change

    It is interesting how long it has taken for anything more than anecdotal evidence of a link between transformational behaviors and successful navigation and execution of organizational change initiatives. In the past couple of years this connection has become more firmly established. It is not surprising that the connection was hard to establish, as there are a multitude of factors – some totally unrelated to leadership — that contribute to the viability of change initiatives.

    How does Transformational Leadership Make a Difference?

    The next question has to deal with the relative influence of specific transformational behaviors on the above mentioned outcomes. My next entry is intended to provide some insight into these behaviors. In the mean time, feel free to share your reactions to the outcome data.