During the last three decades, researches on organizationalleadership brought a lot of notions but also some challenges to the field.
Leadership literature reveals that theories have been refined and evolvedover the years and none of the theory is completely irrelevant. Indeed, beforethe 1970s, there were only three main approaches to leadership: the” traitapproach”, the “behavior approach” and “contingency approach”. In the 1970s and1980s, new theories about leadership were introduced; these new theories ofwhich “Leader-Member Exchange” (LMX) and “transformational-transactional”leadership are the two most dominant were related to power or influence. The aimof this paper is to review and synthesize the contributions from previousstudies on transformational leadership literature, to present the developmentof the concept and its weaknesses. What is transformational leadership? How has the concept evolved over the years? And what are its weaknesses?This literature review has got three distinctsections. It starts with a definition and the background of Transformational Leadership.
The second part describes the evolution of the concept over the years.Finally, the last section emphasizes on the weaknessesand limitation of transformational leadership.Background and Definitionof Transformational Leadership The concept of “transformingleadership”, which becomes later “transformational leadership”, was first originatedby James Macgregor Burns in 1978. He defined “transformational leadership” as aconcept where “leaders and their followers raise one another to higherlevels of morality and motivation” (Burns, 1978, p.
164). In his research,Burns dissociated the notion of “management” from “leadership” and claimed thatthe differences between these two concepts lie in traits and behaviors. He foundedtwo concepts: “Transforming Leadership” and “TransactionalLeadership”. According to him, the “transforming approach” generatesimportant transformations not only inthe lives of people but also within organizations by redefining insights and principles??and changing the way people within an organization are expecting thing and standardsto which they aspire. This type of leadership relies more on thepersonality of the leader, on his characters and his aptitude to make thingsdifferent by having and sharing a motivating vision and setting ambitious objectives,at the opposite of the second concept ” TransactionalLeadership” that implies relations between the leader and his collaboratorsin the sense that they receive their wages or a certain level of prestige forhaving complied with the wishes of the leader “requires a shrewd eye for opportunity, a good hand at bargaining,persuading, reciprocating” (Burns, 1978, p.
169). According to the”transactional leadership” model, relationships between leaders and their teammembers are thus conceived of as a form of exchange of “contributions” / “rewards”or “sanctions” / “rewards” rather than a true form of evolution involving aform of submission to the leader’s desires. On the contrary,” transformationalleadership” increases the level of motivation of employees through theattention of their leader (Northouse, 2004).Few years afterwards, the concept of transformationalleadership was extended and refined by Bernard M. Bass. “Bass added to theinitial concepts of Burns (1978) to help explain how transformationalleadership could be measured, as well as how it impacts follower motivation andperformance” (Leadership Qualities for Effective Leaders, page 44).
He changed theterm “transforming” that has historically been used to “transformational”and developed further the work done previously by Burns by clarifying the processthat support the two concepts of leadership established by his predecessor; “transforming”and “transactional”.In 1985, Bass nonetheless identified a major problemin Burns’ work, which viewed “transactional” and “transformational” leadershipas the end point of a “continuum”. He finds that there are really twoindependent dimensions and that one person can use one of them, the other one,the two of them or none of them: “transactional leadership and transformationalleadership are two distinct dimensions rather than opposite ends of one continuum”. The author has presented a formalmodel of “transactional” and “transformational” leadership. The “transformationalleadership” model was based on four factors :”idealized influence,inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration” (Bass & Riggio page 82). The “transactional”model was based on “contingent rewards” and “exception management” thatconverged toward higher performance expectations (Northouse, 2004).
The following sectionpresents the development of the concept of Transformational Leadership. Development of the Concept of TransformationalLeadership Currently,” transformationalleadership” is considered to be one of the most important models of leadership.It has been the subject of several studies and academic research.Humphreys andEinstein (2003) mentioned that between 1990 and 1995, more than 100 theses anddissertations on the concept of transformational leadership were written. Loweand Gardner stated in an article in 2001 that a third of the research done todate is about “transformational leadership”. Research on “transformationalleadership” (Bass et al., 1999, Tichy, 2002) helped to shift the focus ofresearch toward the staff of the firm (Gond and Mignonac, 2002). Theyhighlighted the fact that the leader is nothing without his collaboratorsbecause it is his ability to influence and generate among them the will tofollow him and to excel for the good of their organization, which makespossible better performances (Argyris, 2000).
Research has also exposed the link between performanceand the” transformational leadership” model: “transformational and transactional leadership positively predicts awide variety of performance outcomes including individual, group andorganizational level variables” (Bass & Bass 2008, page 44).Researchers in the field like Den Hartog and Belschakargue that “transformational leaders” are expecting a lot in terms ofcontribution, performance and involvement of their employees through thecreation and sharing a vision for a better future and intellectual stimulationand encouragement for creativity.The notion of “team” that occupies an important placein modern organizations is nearly aligned with that style of leadership. Reich advocatesfocusing more on teamwork than on leaders seeking their own interests. In 2004,KK and Kumar defined the contemporary organizational structure as being focusedmore on group of people collaborating together as a team rather than beingcentered on the leader.
According to them, societies with “transformationalleaders” give a lot of consideration to people and pay more attention to interactionsbetween individuals, as they are the heart of organizations. This type of leadershipis dedicated to offering employees everything they need to enable them not onlyto excel in their work but also to thrive at the professional level. In 2009, Hackmann and Johnson considered”transformational leaders” to be totally different from other leaders becauseof their qualities, their talent and their skills to create and implement a “vision”and stimulate “followers” to work together to achieve that “vision”. Thesetypes of leaders are also “master communicators able to articulate anddefine ideas and concepts that are escaped from others” (Hackman & Johnson,2009, p. 111).
This last sectionpresents some weaknesses regarding the Transformational Leadership identifiedin the literature.Weaknesses of theconcept of Transformational Leadership The theory of “transformational leadership” is one of the most popular and widely used and studied theories. Many authors have identified the strengths and benefits of “transformational leadership” theory, but few have studied the weaknesses of the concept. Northouse has criticized the clarity of the concept. He mentioned that “it is difficult to define exactly the parameters of transformational leadership” (Northouse, 2010 page 188).
Tracey and Hinkin’s (1998) research uncovers an “overlap between the four components of transformational leadership”: “idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration”, demonstrating the lack of definition of dimensions: “The results from the item-level confirmatory factor correlation analyzes did not support the Four’ Is notion (Tracey and Hinkin, 1998). In addition, the four components are generally highly “correlated” and it is very difficult to identify individually the impacts of each of them. The studies conducted to date have failed to study individually the impact of each component, which has led researchers to use a “composite score”. “The component behaviors for transformational leadership are so highly intercorrelated that most studies use only a composite score for transformational leadership” (Yukl, 2010 page 324). Furthermore, the theory offers little management given the situational context. Lowy and Hood (2004) argue that leadership is determined by “circumstances” and not by “personal preferences”. According to the authors, a context and a specific situation define the leaders and not their personality traits.
Leaders must manage the context in which they evolve and be able to adopt different behaviors. According to the authors: “These are the given, the context that must be managed. Leadership consists of facing these in the most constructive, creative and courageous ways, shaping and exploiting at the same time” (Lowy and Hood, 2004).Besides, there is still ambiguity concerning the “influenceprocesses” for “transformational leadership”. “The underlying influence processes for transactional andtransformational leadership are not clearly explained, but they can be inferredfrom the description of the behaviors and effects on follower motivation” (Yukl,2010 page 323).
Moreover, some researchers have expressed worries about the possible “dark side” of that type of leaders, particularly regarding the possibility of misleading or manipulating followers as a means to their own interests (Price, 2003). Studies conducted by Maner & Mead (2009) revealed in many trials that influential leaders with control over others very often extracted sensitive data and sensitive restricted information or even confidential from their collaborators and did not hesitate to reject key members of the team when their positions were at stake.These studies have demonstrated motivations of leaders to misuse their power and seek to achieve their own interests even if these experiments did not directly address the theory of “transformational leadership”. ConclusionThe concept of “transformational leadership” asintroduced by Burns in the early 1980s and developed by Bass a few years lateris still an interesting alternative to traditional leadership. The four factors that characterize it have a direct impact on performance allowing even the “transformational leader” to exceed the levels initially defined and at the same time make radical transformations at the level of employees and companies.This model is recognized and practiced by the leadersof the modern organization, however, there are still some risks associated withthis form of leadership, particularly with respect to the influence and thepossible “dark side” of “transformational leaders”.