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The Influence of the Transformational Leader

Bruce A. Tucker, Acworth, Georgia

Robert F. Russell, Emory & Henry College, Emory, VA

This articlefocuses on how transformational and forming a base of credibility. Conversely,

leaders influence organizations. transactional leadership is based on bureaucracy
Transformational leaders provide change and and organizational standards.
movement in their organizations. Such leaders The difference between transformational
seek to alter the existing structure and influence and transactional leadership styles can be
people to buy into a new vision and new defined by denoting the transformational style as
possibilities. Excellent transformational leaders a leader of innovation and the transactional style
use authority and power to inspire and motivate as a manager of planning and policy (King,
people to trust and follow their example. 1994). Another view is that the transformational
However, there are also potential dangers style creates new pathways in an organization,
resulting from the powerful influence of while the transactional style depends on existing
transformational leaders. Leaders and structures (Mink, 1992). Whereas the
organizations must maintain accountability to transactional style uses the power and authority
insure that leaders stay within certain that already exists in the organization, the
boundaries. Overall, transformational leaders transformational leader motivates people to
provide new direction, new inspiration, and new work for a new and greater good and to create
behaviors for their organizations. change (Davidhizer & Shearer, 1997). Schuster
(1994) stated that transactional leadership is at
Transformational Leadership is a popular best a networking of power; however,
theory in the leadership arena. Various transformational leadership appeals to higher
researchers and writers have established the motivation and adds to the quality of life in the
validity of the concept. It is an appealing theory people and the organization. Transformational
that yields insight into leadership differences leadership provides energy-producing
and provides a model for leadership characteristics that generate new changes for the
development. This article focuses on a single organization, which transactional management
dimension of transformational leadership theory: cannot produce.
how transformational leaders influence Ackoff (1999) provided a helpful summary
organizations. of the fmdings of three areas often associated
James MacGregor Bums’ seminal study with leaders. First, he defined administration as
(1978) provided initial definitions of directing others in carrying out the will of a third
transformational leadership by drawing a party using means selected by that party.
distinction between transformational and Second, he stipulated that management consists
transactional leadership styles. Other of directing others in the pursuit of an end by
researchers followed Bums’ lead and provided use of means selected by the manager himself.
more in-depth descriptions. According to And third, Ackoff specified that leadership
Tracey and Hinkin (1998), transformational consists of guiding, encouraging, and facilitating
leadership is a process that motivates people by others in the pursuit of an end by the use of
appealing to higher ideals and moral values, means that the followers have either selected or

defining and articulating a vision of the future, approved. Given these definitions, Ackoff then

defined a transformational leader as one who Characteristics of Transformational

formulates an inspiring vision, facilitates the Leaders
vision, encourages short-term sacrifices, and Leader descriptions often focus on
makes pursuing the vision a fulfilling venture. behaviors. As Finkelstein and Hambrick (1996)
Stephen Covey (1991) described stated: &dquo;It is appropriate that our conception of
transformational leadership as the ’parent’ of executive activity ... extends beyond ’strategic
transactional leadership. Transformational choice’ to include ’executive behaviors.’ Day in
leadership provides the frame of reference and day out, seemingly minute actions by
within which transactions of power within executives can have a major effect on
organizations take place. Bass and Avolio organizational functioning and performance&dquo; (p.
(1993) asserted that organizations should move 71). However, external behavior reflects
in the direction of more transformational internal influences as well as relationship goals.
qualities in their cultures while continuing These behaviors function within internal,
effective transactional qualities. Therefore, external, and relational contexts.
transactional managerial tasks must follow the The internal context of the individual’s
new directions and adjust to the changes. behavior is the foundation for transformational
leadership (Herrington, Bonem, & Furr, 2000).
Themes in Transformational Leadership Leaders must experience personal
Tracey and Hinkin (1998), who correlated transformation within themselves before they
their findings with the work of Bass and Avolio can truly help to transform other people.

(1990, 1994a), observed that characteristics of Personal renewal and reflection are important
transformational leadership follow clear themes. ways that leaders change their inner selves
The themes further illustrate the distinction from (Herrington, Bonem, & Furr). The leader’s own
transactional managers. The first characteristic development provides internal changes that
of transformational leaders is questioning produce an emotional link or bond between the
assumptions and promoting non-traditional leader and followers (Popper & Zakkai, 1994).
thinking. Tracey and Hinkin compared this Dixon (1998) discovered inner
theme to the intellectual stimulation focus of the characteristics of transformational leaders that
Bass and Avolio research. The areas of problem produce effective behaviors. He indicated that
solving and decision-making take on a different self-confidence (’I can make a difference’),
perspective in transformational leadership than inner integrity, honesty, and personal values
in managerial tasks. influence the leader’s behavior. A key
The second theme that Tracey and Hinkin ingredient in effective performance is for the
(1998) correlated with the work of Bass and leader to connect his or her life experiences with
Avolio (1990, 1994a) is a focus on follower transformational behaviors (Avolio, 1994). This
development. This theme blends the needs of inner connection and resulting behavior lead to
the individual and the importance of providing a external behaviors that transform the
role model for followers. The leader emphasizes organization. For example, a sense of personal
self-development and offers positive feedback to involvement produces a vision for the group
improve a worker’s performance. The (Schuster, 1994). Vision begins when a leader
transformational leader wants followers to wants his or her own life to make a difference.
become leaders themselves. Bass and Avolio The leader’s external and visible behavior
(1997) stated, &dquo;a transformational leader differs has an impact on the organization (Avolio, 1994;
from a transactional one by not merely Finkelstein & Hambrick, 1996). There is a
recognizing associates’ needs, but by attempting ’cascading effect’ from higher-level leaders to
to develop those needs from lower to higher lower-level leaders due to modeling effective
levels of maturity. Transformational leaders behaviors, hiring others with similar behaviors,
engage the full person so that associates are and behaviors being reinforced by the
developed into leaders&dquo; (p. 17). organization (Bass, Waldman, Avolio, & Bebb,
1987). The leader’s behavior motivates and
creates an impression that the leader has the

competence and vision to achieve success the future. A strong sense of purpose guides
(Keller, 1992). Changes in behavior are their vision. Transforming organizations led by
necessary to change culture (Trahant, Burke, & transforming leaders appeal to human
Koonce, 1997). Therefore, leader’s relational
a characteristics that lift their sights above the
behavior affects the organization. routine, everyday elements of a mechanistic.
The relational context introduces two power-oriented system. Transformational
primary areas of the transformational leader’s leaders manifest passionate inspiration (Hersey
influence. According to Schuster (1994), they & Blanchard, 1996) and visibly model
are: 1) deep thinking (the head) and 2) empathy appropriate behaviors (Kouzes & Posner. 1987).
(the heart). The transformational leader affects The goal is change that raises the organizations
the followers’ thinking by appealing to their to new and exciting possibilities. To reach the
hearts. He or she creates a relational context goal, organizations must receive new energy and
that motivates the followers to act on their own vision from their leaders. The process of
behalf and for the needs of others. The leader transformational leadership grows out of this
relates to their developmental needs (Popper & sense of vision and energy.

Zakkai, 1994), their deeply held values (Mink,

1992), and their needs for respect and caring The Process of Change
(Dixon, 1998). Transformational leaders focus on change,
The transformational leader’s internal, progress, and development. Therefore,
external, and relational context of behavior transformational leaders desire to influence the
connects with the followers’ own sense of way people think and introduce new processes
internal motivation. The leader’s behaviors into the organization. They may do so by
provide a model for internally motivated people. addressing perceptions of reality, influencing
Such individuals sense the leader’s psychological understanding of the existing
encouragement as he or she listens to them, structures, and facilitating comprehension of the
respects them, assists in their development, and need for growth. These methods reach into the
shares power with them (Davidhizer & Shearer, areas about which humans truly care. Thereby,

1997). Transformational leaders elevate the transformational leaders can define the meaning
interests of people (Bass, 1990) and serve as the that motivates actions.
missing ingredient in moving toward more Transformational leaders emphasize the
participative systems (Collins, Ross, & Ross, need for understanding change as a process. A
1989). Such leaders attract internally motivated process mindset is the basis for effective
people, inspire them with a mission, and initiate transformation (Heckscher, Eisenstat, & Rice,
new ways of thinking (Keller, 1995). The result 1994). The process mentality involves defining
is new influence on the culture of the clear concepts (Keller, 1995). It also requires a
organization. future orientation toward problem solving
(Smith, 1990). One of the key factors in the
An Emphasis upon Organizational change process is for each person to become and
Change remain a continual learner (Mink, 1992).
According to Bums (1978), Two events can become catalysts for
transformational leaders provide change and change: 1) a fresh look at trends and 2)
movement in an organization. They do so by feedback from front-line people ( Herrington,
providing a vision for change (Bennis & Nanus, Bonem, & Furr, 2000). A constant flow of
1997). In order to be effective, transformational information and continuous interaction with
leaders must have a clear sense of goals in order people ignite the need for changes. Leaders
to guide their institutions in new directions must not only question the status quo of their
(Bums). They need the capacity to stand back organizations, but they must also engage in a
from everyday activities and see the processes of process that yields transformational change
change over the long term. (Dess, Picken, & Lyon, 1998). The purpose is
Transformational leaders emphasize new to define human meaning and the process
possibilities and promote a compelling vision of involves influencing human thinking.

Transformational leaders intend to out the inner fears of followers. In so doing, the
influence unique human qualities. Covey (1991) people come to know and trust who they are and
noted that transformational leaders are where they can go.
preoccupied with purposes, values, morals, and Transformational leaders strongly engage
ethics. They align internal structures to followers’ self-concepts (Shamir, House, &
reinforce values and goals. They seek to release Arthur, 1993; Bass & Avolio, 1997).
human potential and lead into new directions. Consequently, people come to know who they
Transformational leaders have an impact on the are and how they connect to the mission of the

psychology and behavior of followers in order to organization. Through this process,

shape their values (Brown, 1994). transformational leaders enable followers to
develop themselves and come to know what they
The Influence of Transformational can do within the entity. This in turn promotes
Leaders on the Organization’s Culture an enhanced commitment to their jobs, their
Leaders must recognize the importance of coworkers, and the whole organization (Avolio,
considering and influencing the culture in their Waldman, & Yammarino, 1991). The leaders
organizations (Bass & Avolio, 1993, 1994b; touch the internal mindset of the people and
Inkson & Moss, 1993). Culture can limit a enable them to make new steps in their
leader so renewal efforts that actually change the commitment levels and their behavior within the
culture are constantly needed. In fact, one organization.
primary factor that distinguishes The transformational paradigm optimizes
transformational leaders is that they work to an energy exchange between the leaders and

change the organization, whereas transactional followers for the benefit of the followers and the
managers work within the existing structure mission of the organization (Mink, 1992). The
(Bass & Avolio, 1997). Consequently, cultural energy from within the individual follower
change is an important part of the meets the energy from other followers to
transformational leadership process. If the produce change at a higher level (Bass &
culture itself becomes transformational, then it Avolio, 1997). The followers respond and new
will produce an environment for more effective behaviors develop (Seltzer & Bass, 1990). As a
individual growth and organizational result, the culture among the followers takes on
performance (Bass & Avolio, 1993). a new dynamic.
The culture in transformational
organizations inculcates a sense of purpose, Influencing the Culture among the
long-term commitments, and mutual interests. People in the Organization
Such cultures are based on shared Transformational leaders affect the culture
interdependence, as well as leaders and among the people through teams, innovation,
followers who can transcend their self- interests and productivity. Many years ago, Bass (1985)
for the good of the team and the organization. observed a correlation between transformational
Transformational leaders influence three areas of leaders and team effectiveness. The leaders
the organizational culture: 1) the internal served as a role model for the team members and
mindset of the people in the organization, 2) the increased cooperation among the members.
culture among the people of the organization, Therefore, organizations benefit from having
and 3) the culture beyond the people of the transformational leaders at all functional levels
organization. (King, 1994; Waldman, 1987). However, the
spread of transformational elements to all levels
influencing the Internal Mindset of the of an organization can lead to conflicts with the
People in the Organization transactional bureaucracy (Bass & Avolio,
Transformational organizations operate 1993). Nevertheless, transformational energy
from the inside out. Mink (1992) admonished leads people to greater effectiveness as they
leaders to ’get inside’ the people they are trying reach common goals for the organization and for
to help and develop. Transformational energy themselves.
flows as leaders emphasize free will and drive

Transformational innovation brings higher do not, the leaders will tend to respond to the
productivity (Bass & Avolio, 1997). social and political agendas around them rather
Transformational leaders influence the culture than influencing those agendas for the benefit of
among people and can take teams to higher the people and the organization.
levels of performance (Keller, 1995).
Transformational leaders can even take highly The Potential Dangers and Abuses of
technological systems to greater levels of change Transformational Leadership
(Brown, 1994).
Productivity and innovation improve when Transformational leadership carries the
transformational leaders emphasize culture and potential for abuse (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999;
values in an organization (Niehoff, Enz, & Conger & Kanungo, 1998). The potential
Grover, 1990). For example, valuing, listening dangers lie within the leader-follower
to, and serving people affects growth and interactions that arise from social power
outcomes (Trahant, Burke, & Koonce, 1997). In
responses (Clements & Washbush, 1999).
such settings, the people of the organization Followers develop perceptions of
have a central focus in its culture. This is why transformational leaders and their uses of power
Keller (1995) asserted that leaders must be within organizations (Atwater & Wright, 1996).
chosen with leader skills and not just technical Problems can arise when leaders attempt to
skills. In addition to being technically
practice transformational leadership without
competent, the leaders must have people skills relying upon a strong ethical and moral
that affect the organizational culture. foundation. Bass and Steidlmeier defined such
behavior as &dquo;pseudo-transformational
Influencing the Culture of the People leadership&dquo; (p. 184).
beyond the Organization McIntosh and Rima (1997) defined the
Transformational leaders not only influence &dquo;dark side&dquo; of leadership as &dquo;inner urges,
the culture among their followers, but their compulsions, motivations and dysfunctions that
influence also extends beyond the organization drive us toward success or undermine our
to the outside culture. Transformational leaders
accomplishments&dquo; (p. 29). These dark places
see beyond their organizations. Flanagan and hover around our personalities &dquo;until we
Thompson (1993) suggested that experience an emotional explosion or some
transformational leaders must develop other significant problem that causes us to
situational sensitivity by which they understand search for a reason why&dquo; (p. 22). Leaders and
situations in terms of organizations and people. organizations must know how to recognize the
This sensitivity progresses from the inner self, hiding places of the dark forces that undermine
through the organization, and then to the them. They must know how to implement
external environment. Consequently, leaders safeguards that deal with the personal and
help organizations to establish flexible and new organizational factors in these dangers.
ways of seeing the world (Mink, 1992). Keeley (1995) went so far as to question
As the world beyond the organization the validity of transformational leadership in
changes, transformational leaders help the leading organizations because of its potential for
existing organization adapt to the developing abuse. However, Bass and Steidlmeier (1999)
environment (Smith, 1990). Perhaps too much answered this kind of charge by grounding the
attention is given to the role of the leader inside effectiveness of genuine transformational
the organization. There is a clear need for leadership in three essential pillars: 1) moral
genuine leaders to have an effect beyond the character, 2) ethical values, and 3) the morality
confmes of their organizations. of the processes of ethical choices. These
Transformational leaders have the potential to pillars primarily affect the treatment of
influence the world in both positive and negative followers. &dquo;Followers should not be mere
ways (Morgan, 1997). That makes it crucial for means to self-satisfying ends for the leader but
them to have a clear picture of what should be seen as ends in themselves. We label
transformation is needed (Covey, 1991). If they as inauthentic or ’pseudo’ that kind of

transformational leadership that tramples upon who is stubborn, complaining, angry, sad, and
those concerns&dquo; (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. manipulative.
186). Bass and Steidlmeier (1999) pointed out
that all leaders have some integration of positive
Personal Factors in the Dangers and and negative factors. The transformational
Abuses leader must learn to progress in personal growth
A leader’s use of power reflects integrity. in order to effectively recognize and manage the
A leader with a high level of integrity has an potential danger of negative characteristics.
understanding of what it means to give fair Progress takes place through accountability to
treatment to all people (Arterburn, 1996). others and working to develop positive
However, leaders who lack integrity can rely attributes. Maintaining accountability keeps
upon deceitful and manipulative methods to get leaders from isolation and nurturing their ’dark
people to follow their agendas for the leader’s side.’ It also helps keep leaders’ focus off
benefit alone. Covey (1991) categorized three themselves and on the people who follow them.
types of leadership power that influence people: Good transformational leaders sacrifice pride,
1) coercive (people follow out of fear), 2) utility share their power, and develop humility.
(people follow out of an exchange of goods), Humility is a primary characteristic of great
and 3) principle-centered (people follow based leaders who make positive contributions to
on trust, respect, and honor). Principle-centered humankind (Covey, 1991).
leaders distribute power to other people. In so
doing, they engage people in a positive power Organizational Factors in the Dangers
exchange rather than allowing the leader to and Abuses
become a &dquo;black hole&dquo; of power. In addition to personal factors, there can be
Power becomes a potential danger if leaders organizational factors that lead to dangers in
have their focus on themselves or on building transformational leadership. Leaders must
resources alone rather than on building their become aware of the organizational factors that
followers (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999). The perpetuate negative forces among the people and
leader’s peril is to allow his or her ’dark side’ to take steps to eliminate such problems. For
become completely self-absorbed with the example, the flow of power in an organization
resources the people can provide rather than affects how people relate to one another (Folger,
serving the people. McIntosh and Rima (1997) Poole, & Stutman, 1997). Leaders in abusive
observed that the ’dark side’ is present in all of systems misuse power for their own benefit.
us. Those who ignore it face major problems in Morgan (1997) believes that managers can
their leadership responsibilities. Nevertheless, easily turn power into a political tool to control
leaders who face their dark potential can redeem others. Transformational leaders must not allow
and use it in positive ways. organizational bureaucracy to manipulate the
Two of the most obvious perils in people for the sake of its own power. Ford
leadership are pride and egotism (Sanders, ( 1991 ) asserted that power is not value neutral; it
1994). These areas can press leaders into more is value driven. Therefore, transformational
pronounced problems. To illustrate, McIntosh leaders insure that their organizations value
and Rima (1997) identified five types of people and use power for the benefit of the
darkened leaders: 1) the compulsive leader who people.
is status conscious and tries to perfect Leaders and organizations can recognize
everything in order to gain approval, 2) the the hiding places of the dark forces that
narcissistic leader who tries to succeed in order undermine genuine transformational leadership.
to gain the admiration of others, 3) the paranoid They can institute safeguards that benefit and
leader who is suspicious, hostile, and insecure, protect everyone. Accountability throughout the
4) the codependent leader who takes on more organization is one clear factor that safeguards
than is necessary and represses emotions and people. In addition, the distribution of power
problems, and 5) the passive-aggressive leader prevents leaders from abusing their positions or

taking advantage of their followers (Hackman effective transactional managers who initiate and
& Johnson, 1996). develop policy and procedures provide an
The personal and organizational factors in important rhythm in organizations. Leaders who
these dangers will never be totally eliminated, want to grow can guard against abuses and learn
but they can be managed for positive growth. to increase their overall effectiveness through
As a result, healthy transformational leaders can developing procedural stability in the
benefit organizations. Bass & Steidlmeier organization.
(1999, p. 190) stated: &dquo;If transformational Bernard Bass (1990) concluded that
leadership is authentic and true to self and &dquo;transformational leadership can be learned, and
others, it is characterized by high moral and it can--and should--be the subject of
ethical standards .... At the same time it aims management training and development&dquo; (p. 27).
to develop the leader as a moral person and Herrington, Bonem, and Furr (2000) concurred
creates a moral environment for the with Bass; they said, &dquo;One prevalent image is
organization.&dquo; Bennis and Nanus (1997) gave a that leadership is a natural ability and that
powerful description of what this type of leader anyone who is not a ’bom leader’ will never
will do: &dquo;lead by pulling rather than by pushing; amount to anything as a leader .... Our
by inspiring rather than by ordering; by creating experience diverges from the conventional
achievable, though challenging expectations and wisdom, however, in the implications for those
rewarding progress toward them rather than by who have to work at leadership. With time and
manipulating; by enabling people to use their dedicated effort, leadership skills can be
own initiative and experiences rather than by learned&dquo; (p. 99).
denying or constraining their experiences and Aspiring individuals should seek to learn
actions&dquo; (p. 209). the skills necessary to become transformational
leaders. Organizations throughout the world
Conclusion need transformational leaders who possess a
high degree of integrity and are motivated to
Organizations need transformational lead people to higher levels of performance.
leaders. Such leaders focus upon organizational Transformational leaders provide new direction,
new inspiration, and new behaviors for their
change, which is imperative in an ever-changing
world. Transformational leaders seek to alter organizations. Therefore, they are essential
the existing structure and influence people to ingredients in organizational development and
buy into a new vision and new possibilities. societal progress.
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