Monday, 4 July 2022

Getting to transformation

At the close of WW1, we shifted from seductive “great man” leadership (Carlyle, 1840) to trait theory (Fleenor, 2006). Where once we were born "great" leaders, now if we have the characteristics of leadership - discoverable with tests - then we too can lead; if we do not, then we can pretend to have them, or strengthen those that we do have (Allport, 1927). We can run tests on our candidates, and select for leadership traits we seek (Gomes, 2013).

Ah: if only it were so simple! Many researchers found that there are not a single set of skills which mean we are 'leadership material', or 'follower material'. Both had similar traits. Further, the attributes identified as being key leadership traits were gendered, largely locking women out of leadership roles (Fleenor, 2006). We had another war, which was a doozy.

Post WW2, research shifted to focus on behaviour (1940s and 50s), then as we realised that behaviour still did not explain things, to contingencies (1950s and 60s), or what was the situation. We now have a more complex set of ideas: that leadership is about the characteristics of the people; their actions, and the situation they find themselves in (Gomes, 2013). 

We now arrive in the 1970s with James McGregor Burns idea of transformational leadership theory (Sosik, 2006). In addition to the previous elements, leadership needed to create change, and we are introduced to the four key elements of transformational leadership theory (Gomes, 2013; Sosik, 2006):

  1. Inspirational motivation: inspiring followers with a clearly articulated vision and plan
  2. Idealized influence: creating an environment of trust, respect, and confidence, leading by example, demonstrating integrity, and showing compassion
  3. Intellectual stimulation: moving and shaking the norms for continuous innovation, process improvement, testing, testing, testing: including sacred cows
  4. Individualised consideration: continuous follower development through mentoring, training and encouraging diversity and stretch goals.

If we deliver this, then we get the "cascade effect [where] leaders serve as role models, mentors, and coaches for followers, and this transformational influence cascades" through the organisation (Gomes, 2013, p. 82, citing Bass, 1985). However, when we are not inspired, influenced, stimulated and considered, we can fall into transactional leadership. We become disengaged, uninspired, uncritical, and less caring. Ouch.

Let's be transformational out there. 



Allport, G. W. (1927). Concepts of Trait and Personality. Psychological Bulletin, 24(5), 284-293.

Carlyle, T. (1840). On Heroes, Hero-worship and the Heroic in History. Chapman & Hall Ltd.

Fleenor, J. W. (2006). Trait Approach to Leadership. In S. G. Rogelberg (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Industrial & Organizational Psychology (Vol 1 & 2, pp. 830-832). SAGE Publications, Inc.

Gomes, A. R. (2013). Chapter 4: Transformational Leadership - Theory, research and application to sports. In C. Mohiyeddini (Ed.) Contemporary Topics and Trends in the Psychology of Sports (pp. 53-114). Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Sosik, J. W. (2006). Transformational and Transactional Leadership. In S. G. Rogelberg (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Industrial & Organizational Psychology (Vol 1 & 2, pp. 834-837). SAGE Publications, Inc.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thanks for your feedback. The elves will post it shortly.