Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

The Influence of the Transformational Leader

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

The Influence of the Transformational Leader

Article excerpt

This article focuses on how transformational leaders influence organizations. Transformational leaders provide change and movement in their organizations. Such leaders seek to alter the existing structure and influence people to buy into a new vision and new possibilities. Excellent transformational leaders use authority and power to inspire and motivate people to trust and follow their example. However, there are also potential dangers resulting from the powerful influence of transformational leaders. Leaders and organizations must maintain accountability to insure that leaders stay within certain boundaries. Overall, transformational leaders provide new direction, new inspiration, and new behaviors for their organizations.


Transformational Leadership is a popular theory in the leadership arena. Various researchers and writers have established the validity of the concept. It is an appealing theory that yields insight into leadership differences and provides a model for leadership development. This article focuses on a single dimension of transformational leadership theory: how transformational leaders influence organizations.

James MacGregor Burns' seminal study (1978) provided initial definitions of transformational leadership by drawing a distinction between transformational and transactional leadership styles. Other researchers followed Burns' lead and provided more in-depth descriptions. According to Tracey and Hinkin (1998), transformational leadership is a process that motivates people by appealing to higher ideals and moral values, defining and articulating a vision of the future, and forming a base of credibility. Conversely, transactional leadership is based on bureaucracy and organizational standards.

The difference between transformational and transactional leadership styles can be defined by denoting the transformational style as a leader of innovation and the transactional style as a manager of planning and policy (King, 1994). Another view is that the transformational style creates new pathways in an organization, while the transactional style depends on existing structures (Mink, 1992). Whereas the transactional style uses the power and authority that already exists in the organization, the transformational leader motivates people to work for a new and greater good and to create change (Davidhizer & Shearer, 1997). Schuster (1994) stated that transactional leadership is at best a networking of power; however, transformational leadership appeals to higher motivation and adds to the quality of life in the people and the organization. Transformational leadership provides energy-producing characteristics that generate new changes for the organization, which transactional management cannot produce.

Ackoff (1999) provided a helpful summary of the findings of three areas often associated with leaders. First, he defined administration as directing others in carrying out the will of a third party using means selected by that party. Second, he stipulated that management consists of directing others in the pursuit of an end by use of means selected by the manager himself. And third, Ackoff specified that leadership consists of guiding, encouraging, and facilitating others in the pursuit of an end by the use of means that the followers have either selected or approved. Given these definitions, Ackoff then defined a transformational leader as one who formulates an inspiring vision, facilitates the vision, encourages short-term sacrifices, and makes pursuing the vision a fulfilling venture.

Stephen Covey (1991) described transformational leadership as the 'parent' of transactional leadership. Transformational leadership provides the frame of reference within which transactions of power within organizations take place. Bass and Avolio (1993) asserted that organizations should move in the direction of more transformational qualities in their cultures while continuing effective transactional qualities. …

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