Transformational Leadership, Ethical Behaviour, and Leadership Effectiveness in Military Officer Candidates

Article excerpt

This study examined the association between peers' perceptions of transformational leadership and ethical behaviour, as well as leadership effectiveness. Seventy-five military officer candidates were rated by 168 peers on four transformational leadership factors and ethical behaviour. Military supervisors provided a leadership effectiveness grade at the end of the academic year. Results show that all four transformational factors correlated positively with ethical behaviour but only one factor, idealized influence, correlated with leadership effectiveness. Ethical behaviour also correlated with leadership effectiveness. Results of a stepwise regression revealed that peers' perception of intellectual stimulation was the most significant contributor to the variance in peer's perception of ethical behaviour. Results of a hierarchical regression combining peers' perceptions of transformational factors and ethical behaviour as predictors of leadership effectiveness showed that peers' perceptions of idealized influence contributed to the variability in leadership effectiveness and that suppression of peers' perceptions of individualized consideration increased the predictability of leadership effectiveness. Ethical behaviour did not account for any variability in leadership effectiveness beyond that explained by idealized influence and individualized consideration. These results may be best understood in light of the scale used to assess ethical behaviour and the military context of the participants. Suggestions for future research are discussed.

This study examined peers' perceptions of transformational behaviours and ethical behaviour as well as their relative contribution to leadership effectiveness in young military officer candidates. Such perceptions are important because they may impact on perceivers' behaviours (Morgan, 1993). Morgan found a small correlation (r = .15) between peers' perceptions of ethics and leadership, which suggests some independence between ethics and leadership. However, he did not specifically assess transformational leadership, which is a leadership style characterized by the immense impact it has on followers.

Bass (1985) described transformational leadership as a style of leadership that changes followers in a profound way. Transformational leaders raise their followers' consciousness about the importance of their work, get their followers to transcend their self-interests, and satisfy their followers' needs of self-esteem and self-realization (Bass, 1985). Such followers often surpass their expectations about what they can achieve. Bass (1998) defined transformational leadership as comprising four sets of behaviours: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Transformational leaders who engage in idealized influence are respected and trusted by their subordinates. Inspirational motivation implies the formulation of an inspiring vision and the setting of challenging goals. Leaders practising intellectual stimulation encourage their subordinates to think in novel ways. Last, individualized consideration describes leaders who provide individual attention and consideration to each subordinate.

Transformational leadership has been consistently associated with superior performance in various organizations, including the military (Lowe, Kroeck, & Sivasubramaniam, 1996). For instance, United States Navy officers who were perceived as more transformational were rated as more effective leaders and their peers reported putting forth higher levels of effort at work and greater satisfaction with their leader (Yammarino & Bass, 1990). More recently, Israeli infantry cadets trained in transformational leadership developed into more effective platoon leaders, as indicated by better subordinate development and soldier performance (Dvir, Eden, Avolio, & Shamir, 2002).

Ethics is concerned with the values and morals that are desirable or appropriate to an individual or a society. …