- Learn about the difference between transformational and transactional leaders.
- Find out about the relationship between charismatic leadership and how it relates to leader performance.
- Learn how to be charismatic.
- Describe how high-quality leader-subordinate relationships develop.
- Define servant leadership and evaluate its potential for leadership effectiveness.
- Define authentic leadership and evaluate its potential for leadership effectiveness.
What are the leadership theories that have the greatest contributions to offer to today’s business environment? In this section, we will review the most recent developments in the field of leadership.
Transformational leadership theory is a recent addition to the literature, but more research has been conducted on this theory than all the contingency theories combined. The theory distinguishes transformational and transactional leaders. Transformational leaders lead employees by aligning employee goals with the leader’s goals. Thus, employees working for transformational leaders start focusing on the company’s well-being rather than on what is best for them as individual employees. On the other hand, transactional leaders ensure that employees demonstrate the right behaviors and provide resources in exchange (Bass, 1985; Burns, 1978).
Transformational leaders have four tools in their possession, which they use to influence employees and create commitment to the company goals (Bass, 1985; Burns, 1978; Bycio, Hackett, & Allen, 1995; Judge & Piccolo, 2004). First, transformational leaders are charismatic. Charisma refers to behaviors leaders demonstrate that create confidence in, commitment to, and admiration for the leader (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). Charismatic individuals have a “magnetic” personality that is appealing to followers. Second, transformational leaders use inspirational motivation, or come up with a vision that is inspiring to others. Third is the use of intellectual stimulation, which means that they challenge organizational norms and status quo, and they encourage employees to think creatively and work harder. Finally, they use individualized consideration, which means that they show personal care and concern for the well-being of their followers. Examples of transformational leaders include Steve Jobs of Apple Inc.; Lee Iaccoca, who transformed Chrysler Motors LLC in the 1980s; and Jack Welch, who was the CEO of General Electric Company for 20 years. Each of these leaders is charismatic and is held responsible for the turnarounds of their companies.
While transformational leaders rely on their charisma, persuasiveness, and personal appeal to change and inspire their companies, transactional leaders use three different methods. Contingent rewards mean rewarding employees for their accomplishments. Active management by exception involves leaving employees to do their jobs without interference, but at the same time proactively predicting potential problems and preventing them from occurring. Passive management by exception is similar in that it involves leaving employees alone, but in this method the manager waits until something goes wrong before coming to the rescue.
Which leadership style do you think is more effective, transformational or transactional? Research shows that transformational leadership is a very powerful influence over leader effectiveness as well as employee satisfaction (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). In fact, transformational leaders increase the intrinsic motivation of their followers, build more effective relationships with employees, increase performance and creativity of their followers, increase team performance, and create higher levels of commitment to organizational change efforts (Herold et al., 2008; Piccolo & Colquitt, 2006; Schaubroeck, Lam, & Cha, 2007; Shin & Zhou, 2003; Wang et al., 2005). However, except for passive management by exception, the transactional leadership styles are also effective, and they also have positive influences over leader performance as well as employee attitudes (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). To maximize their effectiveness, leaders are encouraged to demonstrate both transformational and transactional styles. They should also monitor themselves to avoid demonstrating passive management by exception, or leaving employees to their own devices until problems arise.
Why is transformational leadership effective? The key factor may be trust. Trust is the belief that the leader will show integrity, fairness, and predictability in his or her dealings with others. Research shows that when leaders demonstrate transformational leadership behaviors, followers are more likely to trust the leader. The tendency to trust in transactional leaders is substantially lower. Because transformational leaders express greater levels of concern for people’s well-being and appeal to people’s values, followers are more likely to believe that the leader has a trustworthy character (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002).
Is transformational leadership genetic? Some people assume that charisma is something people are born with. You either have charisma, or you don’t. However, research does not support this idea. We must acknowledge that there is a connection between some personality traits and charisma. Specifically, people who have a neurotic personality tend to demonstrate lower levels of charisma, and people who are extraverted tend to have higher levels of charisma. However, personality explains only around 10% of the variance in charisma (Bono & Judge, 2004). A large body of research has shown that it is possible to train people to increase their charisma and increase their transformational leadership (Barling, Weber, & Kelloway, 1996; Dvir et al., 2002; Frese, Beimel, & Schoenborg, 2003).
Even if charisma can be learned, a more fundamental question remains: Is it really needed? Charisma is only one element of transformational leadership, and leaders can be effective without charisma. In fact, charisma has a dark side. For every charismatic hero such as Lee Iaccoca, Steve Jobs, and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.’s Sir Richard Branson, there are charismatic personalities who harmed their organizations or nations, such as Adoph Hitler of Germany and Jeff Skilling of Enron Corporation. Leadership experts warn that when organizations are in a crisis, a board of directors or hiring manager may turn to heroes who they hope will save the organization, and sometimes hire people who have no particular qualifications other than being perceived as charismatic (Khurana, 2002).
An interesting study shows that when companies have performed well, their CEOs are perceived as charismatic, but CEO charisma has no relation to the future performance of a company (Agle et al., 2006). So, what we view as someone’s charisma may be largely because of their association with a successful company, and the success of a company depends on a large set of factors, including industry effects and historical performance. While it is true that charismatic leaders may sometimes achieve great results, the search for charismatic leaders under all circumstances may be irrational.
OB Toolbox: Be Charismatic!
- Have a vision around which people can gather. When framing requests or addressing others, instead of emphasizing short-term goals, stress the importance of the long-term vision. When giving a message, think about the overarching purpose. What is the ultimate goal? Why should people care? What are you trying to achieve?
- Tie the vision to history. In addition to stressing the ideal future, charismatic leaders also bring up the history and how the shared history ties to the future.
- Watch your body language. Charismatic leaders are energetic and passionate about their ideas. This involves truly believing in your own ideas. When talking to others, be confident, look them in the eye, and express your belief in your ideas.
- Make sure that employees have confidence in themselves. You can achieve this by showing that you believe in them and trust in their abilities. If they have real reason to doubt their abilities, make sure that you address the underlying issue, such as training and mentoring.
- Challenge the status quo. Charismatic leaders solve current problems by radically rethinking the way things are done and suggesting alternatives that are risky, novel, and unconventional.
Sources: Adapted from ideas in Frese, M., Beimel, S., & Schoenborg, S. (2003). Action training for charismatic leadership: Two evaluations of studies of a commercial training module on inspirational communication of a vision. Personnel Psychology, 56, 671–697; Shamir, B., House, R. J., & Arthur, M. B. (1993). The motivational effects of charismatic leadership: A self-concept based theory. Organization Science, 4, 577–594.