Advantages and disadvantages of transformational leadership
This article explores some of the advantages and disadvantages of transformational leadership style. Other issues it explores are definition, characteristics, and examples of transformational leadership.
Definition of transformational leadership
The idea of transformational leadership was developed by James MacGregor Burns. It first came up in his book ‘Leadership’ in 1978. He used the word ‘transforming’ rather than ‘transformational’. Both terms convey the same meaning.
Bernard Bass, the author of Leadership and Performance: Beyond Expectations, 1985, built on MacGregor Burns’ ideas. He used the term ‘transformational leadership’ instead of ‘transforming leadership’ and since then most authors have followed his lead (Scouller & Chapman, 2012).
According to Northouse (2001) transformational leadership is a process that changes and transforms people. Transformational leaders can motivate people to change to improve their circumstances.
Advantages of transformational leadership
Transformational leaders focus on the group performance. They encourage all involved to think about the group as a whole and not just themselves. They can transform the environment and the people in it.
Transformational leaders can articulate a unified vision that encourages the followers to exceed expectations. They recognise that perhaps the most motivated workers are the ones who have a robust sense of purpose. They remain optimistic about the future targets and can bring people together.
Transformational leaders motivate their followers by putting difficult goals in place that promote creativity and increase morale. They are also ready to take and share risks with followers.
One of the best advantages of transformational leadership is the followers’ feeling of comfort. Most people would like to work with a transformational leader as they know the leader is a source of motivation and can build their confidence.
As transformational leaders have a keen interest in followers and focus on their long-term development, the latter feel more engaged and included in the organisation. This reduces the level of staff turnover and saves money for the organisation by cutting down on the new recruitment and training costs.
Disadvantages of transformational leadership
While long-term approach is good, it has certain challenges as well. As transformational leaders want their followers to succeed in the long-term, some followers may consider this a constant push burning them out.
Transformational leaders may sometimes be accused of favouritism. They may focus on the development of some followers, leaving others ignored and frustrated (Indeed, 2021). This may eventually lead to internal conflict.
Transformational leaders are change agents. However, if changes happen too frequently, they could be disruptive. Similarly, organisations may face disasters if the leaders pursue disproportionate or needless risks.
Characteristics of transformational leaders
Transformational leaders see themselves as change agents. They are risk takers; however, not reckless. They establish core values to guide their actions and those of their followers. They are flexible and sensitive to the needs of people.
Transformational leaders have integrity and high emotional intelligence. They are open-minded and have commitment to continuous development and life-long learning. They are wonderful communicators as well.
Examples of transformational leadership
Some of the notable leaders in different fields whose style is considered transformational are Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Satya Nadella, Indra Nooyi, Malala Yousafzai, and Angela Merkel.
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Last update: 09 September 2021
Indeed (2021) Common weaknesses of transformational leadership and how to avoid them, available at: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/transformational-leadership-weaknesses (accessed 09 September 2021)
Northouse, P.G. 2001. Leadership Theory and Practice, second edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Scouller, J. & Chapman, A. (2012) Leadership theories, available from http://www.businessballs.com/leadership-theories.htm (Accessed 15 October 2013)
Author: Joe David
Joe David has years of teaching experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality, and tourism management. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management.