Transformational leadership is the “marked” change in the nature or function of organizational systems creating discontinuous, step function improvement in sought-after results areas. The centre of transformational leadership is the commitment of leaders to make changes or produce transformation in an organization or system. Roueche, Bakers and Rose (1989) defines transformational leadership to be the ability of leaders to influence attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviours of others by working with and through them in order to accomplish missions and goals. Effecting transformational leadership in any requires leaders to understand the process of changing people by influencing their beliefs and behaviours. Leaders should also understand that any change in the organisation could results to resistance; they should therefore let their followers to work through the psychological implications of the change process to be able to experience the personal impacts of change in their work environments.
Characteristics of Transformational Leadership
Transformational leadership enables people to raise each other to higher levels of motivation and morality. Morality comes in when the transformation is able to raise the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of leaders and the followers. As transformation effects are carried throughout the institution, leaders are able to seek opportunities for change in order to, innovate, improve the environment and provide growth in the organisation. As transformational leaders take charge in the change process, their responsibilities include instilling sense of adventure on their followers, find ways to change the status quo and study the environment for fresh and new ideas. Leaders’ major responsibility in transformational change is to search for opportunities and do what has never been done.
On looking at transformational leadership, this paper explores practical suggestions that will be effective in transforming leadership skills. The characteristics of leadership skills include;
- Creating shared visions and goals.
- Participation in decision making process.
- Offering intellectual stimulation.
- Building relationship with others including those of diverse and multicultural groups.
- Being leaders by demonstrating high performance expectations.
By incorporate all the mentioned characteristics in their leadership roles, leaders should also increase their job performance and create positive working environment that stimulates participation of followers and one that build strong relationship with others.
Creating shared vision and goals
Transformational leadership should have the ability to create visions and goals to lift the institution out of the old visions. Leaders are required to step up their roles by adequately communicating their visions to their followers. Followers must be able to see the vision created by leaders and commit themselves to the visions. Roueche, Bakers and Rose suggest transformational leaders should administer the following three stages in sharing their visions with their followers;
- Stage I; leaders should recognise the need for change and create new direction around the mission
- Stage II; Create new vision
- Stage III; Initiate institutional change to accomplish the mission
Based on the three transformational leadership stages, leaders sole responsibility is to create work environment based on shared visions which leads to successful implementation of transformational leadership since followers have a clear and brighter vision of the organisation’s mission and goals. In leadership challenge, leaders are required to show powerful communication style, language and non-verbal expressiveness into their vision. With this strategy, leaders will be able to share clear sense of destiny through communicating their purpose and build support for their direction. Leaders should understand that creating vision sharing will help followers understand the future of the organisation and give them reason to move towards the new horizon. Members should play their role by understanding, accepting and committing to the created visions. If leaders and followers participate in transformational leadership process, there’s a greater possibility for the organisation to experience change and reach its full potential (Pennings, 2002, p.3).
Participation in decision making process
Characteristic of fostering participation in decision making process requires leaders to involve others (followers) in all decision making processes. It requires leaders to empower and delegate responsibilities to others by sharing their decision making process. Member’s participatory process will enable them to arrive at consensus that would make both parties comfortable. Pennings (2002, p.3) argues that when leaders should involve members in decision making participation, conflicts within the organisation are less likely to emerge. Leaders should also support participation of followers by inviting them to take part in the strategic planning process. This will be achieved by encouraging members to buy into the vision and mission of the organisation. By doing this, members feel ownership for the objective and work together to provide desired results. This strategy is beneficial to the organisation since it promotes continuous quality improvement and fosters efficiency in work places. The synergist process is created when power and responsibility are extended to members of the organization. This strategy expend more energy in other areas thereby enhancing leaders territory by influencing and bringing additionally resources back to their units to be distributed once again among the group members. Leaders help establish climate of trust and self confidence by involving others in the decision making process.
Providing intellectual stimulation
Transformational leader must use his intellectual and emotional ability to influence people at work. In reality, when leaders inspire and empower others in an organisation set-up, work becomes more stimulating and less frustrating. It also fosters motivation and fascination. Intellectual stimulation impacted by leaders build on members’ strength and enhances their knowledge and skills. This leadership characteristic has a transformation effect upon members’ lives by helping them stay engaged and competent in their assigned roles. In essence, leaders act like coaches and educators by providing directions to help followers learn and develop their skills.
Professional development provided by leaders is a form of investment that has vast benefits in the long run. Effective implementation of this characteristic requires leaders to investigate ways to provide support for ongoing activities, experiential learning and maturation for their followers. Leaders should also create learning environment to enable members feel safe to enable them learn, initiate change and develop their skills. Research conducted by Kouzes and Posner (2002, p.309-320) stipulates that a learning climate should be characterised by trust and openness as this attributes stimulates successful organisation. He continues that when people are listened to, more information becomes available and they experience greater common ground and gives them reasons to engage in cooperative behaviour. Conclusively, providing intellectual stimulation enriches the work environment for employees.
Building relationship with others including those of diverse and multicultural groups
Effective transformational leadership requires community building. Leaders are required to work towards an environment of community building as opposed to that of competitive culture. Through community building model leaders are required to forge strong relationships that include all followers of diverse and multicultural groups. They should listen to everyone and create an atmosphere of empowerment in their organisation. Community building model makes other people feel strong. Kouzes and Posner (2002) suggest that community model supported by leaders “enable others to take responsibility and ownership for their group’s success by enhancing their competence and their confidence in their abilities, by listening to their ideas and acting upon them, by involving them in important decisions, and by acknowledging and giving them credit for their contributions” (p.281).
Transformational leadership ability to build relationships with others and foster community building helps members/employees develop their skills and improve their productivity within the organisation. This fosters the power of followers in believing that they have the ability to make a difference and by leadership support in the organisation enhances their morale (Pennings, 2002, p.4).
Demonstrating high performance expectations
Transformational leaders expect the best out of their employees and from themselves. This can be successful if leaders treat members in a positive way as this boost their self confidence and heightens their ability to achieve more in the work place than what they had earlier anticipated. In order for the achievement to be effective, leaders are required to draw clear standards for employees in order for them to achieve high performance levels. In their clear standards outlines, leaders must provide clear directions, feedback and encouragement throughout the management process. It can be difficult at times for leaders to establish clear defined expectations but they can manage through by having a comprehensive understanding of employee standards and their needs. This strategy will enable leaders understand employees needs in order to motivate them to perform their roles effectively. Leaders must incorporate responsibility of each employee for the shared vision as it relates to their duties and expectations. By leaders drawing high expectations of their members, they provoke increased chances of commitment, sacrifice, performance and motivation and subsequently stimulate high sense of job satisfaction. Through this strategy, employees become more effective and produce better quality results and high performances in the work places (Pennings, 2002, p.5).
Practical suggestions to enhance transformational leadership skills
Transformational leadership can change the working environment by understanding the challenges faced by members and confronting transformational leaders to foster better leadership skills. A leader should incorporate the following practical considerations in transforming their leadership skills;
- Create a vision for the future
- A leader should know themselves
- Understand the characteristics of the transformational leaders
- Clear communication
- Fostering trust and integrity
- Realises intention of the through actions
- Expects the best out of his employees
- Inspire and encourage employees
- Strengthen employees
- Recognise and reward employees contributions (Pennings, 2002, p.5).
Transformational leadership is being applied all over the world across cultural discrepancies to increase company competitiveness and its global business environment. Transformational leadership in the work forces is becoming more culturally diverse with mergers, acquisitions, and buyers-sellers relationships. Increased globalisation in today’s economy has increased the need for transformational leaders to better understanding how the effectiveness of different styles of leadership varies among individual cultural orientations are important. We will examine how two world renowned business leaders, Richard Branson and Donald Trump show their energy, generate ideas, respond to others and take command of situations in which coordination is critical. Donald Trump for instance emphasises his followers to generate ideas and fosters the thinking culture within the organisation which is very essential element in successful style. In his Apprentice show, Trump demonstrates his leadership style by empowering his workers (the contestants) to achieve an articulated vision of any given organisation they are assigned to. Contestants assigned to different organisation are asked to articulate the vision of that particular organisation that would lead to increased productivity, employee morale and job satisfaction. By doing this contestants are able to achieve personal and professional growth (Harell, 2003, p.47).
Richard Branson known for his entrepreneurship skills, his commonly known to be established, fast moving, opportunist, adventurer, risk taker, competitive, tough negotiator and a workaholic. His skills has enabled him create between 150-200 companies, employing 8,000 people in 26 countries. He has been able to maintain his leadership skills through developing excellent management principles inspired by transformational leadership. His leadership styles involve his ability to influence his followers, impact the changes in the organisation by reflecting his purposes shared by leaders and followers.
Branson uses his entrepreneur skills as an influencer and has the ability to create a common purpose among his followers. Branson’s core values and beliefs includes helping people achieve things they didn’t even know they could as well as being a catalysts for the success of others, and he constantly learns from the environment and his followers as he goes along. His leadership style as demonstrated in the growth of the Virgin empire included a). his charismatic ability to survive in diversity cultures and set backs b). self belief and determination c). Recognition of his strength and those of others by building team work around him all the time and uses their company to point out his weak areas d). His loyalty and interpersonal skills and tough negotiation skills secured him his success. Tough negotiation skills required him to set high standards of his followers that enabled success of his company (Mayer, 2004, p.7).
Branson also changed his leadership style and approach at different occasions when running his business. For example, he uses his diplomatic skills as an approach to reach his goal. He used government to make sure that price war did not put Virgin out of business. Branson also becomes who he needs to be depending on the situation at hand. When he is in the public, he appears relaxed than when running his businesses. He uses his personality and traits to drive his behaviour in his leadership style. Another key to his success is his ability to select top management team effective enough to impact changes in the business. The benefit of having management team as realised by Branson is that they impact on the strategic direction and performance of the organisation. The teams are able to provide incentives and process in the organisation.
Branson therefore gives incentives to his senior staff members by offering them autonomy and trust soon the business was established. This was done by giving them shareholding in the success of the new venture. By team members engaging in decision making, Branson’s group dynamics has been able to carefully weigh risks and establish a prepared contingency plan in case things go out of plan which has greatly impacted on his organisation performance. Clearly Branson idea of involving his followers (team members) in decision making has had greater impacts on the dynamics of his team. For example, he followed his members’ advice when he chose the path of attracting unknown artist to the Virgin label (Mayer, 2004, p.9).
Transformational leadership is associated with people who can adopt quickly to change. Branson showed his flexibility in adapting to changing organisational culture by buying new businesses, moving to new sectors and bringing his people with him. Transformational leadership reflects on social values and emerges on times of distress and change. Virgin is a business that is centred on continual growth and change thereby making the transformational leadership style suitable. Branson demonstrated his leadership skills when he gave his employees in Virgin Atlantic airline his personal cell phone number and encouraged them to give him ideas and suggestions whenever need arose that will be needed for improvement. Another aspect of transformational leadership demonstrates that leaders should show growth and empowerment among their followers. This strategy motivates, fosters self esteem and causes dependency among followers on the leader. Branson charismatic approach enables his followers to easily identify with him and emulate his style of running business while his away. This modelling role is a major way Branson influences his followers (Mayer, 2004, p.11).
Another role of transformational leadership is the ability of a leader to building relationship with others including those of diverse and multicultural groups. Virgin is associated with social identification. He enables his employees to identify with groups creating a sense of belonging. He influences his followers to identify with group goals and values creating their self concept and self esteem. By members connecting with each other through groups, they uniformly drive their strength to organisational mission and goals (Mayer, 2004, p.11).
The characteristics of transformational leadership are very essential for effective running of any organisation. The central part of transformational leadership is centred along self leadership, the relationships (members) and the organisation. By leaders stimulating higher levels of consciousness within an individual and that of the group members, leaders are able to stimulate positive transformation within the organisation. Transformational leaders are like change agents, we rely on them to exhibit characteristics that reflect visions and goals for the future, they are required to demonstrate the ability to influence others by inspiring and encouraging employees to demonstrate high performance expectations. The end results of effective transformational leadership are achieved through motivating employees to succeed and in the long run, the organisation is strengthened and transformed.
Transformational leadership can be seen as the process by which leaders bring forth the best of themselves and employees.
Branson and Trump charismatic style of leadership entirely originated from transformational approach to how they influence people in their organisation. Branson shows clear skills in his ability to adopt different leadership styles in different environments to suit cultures of different societies. The success of virgin stems from his willingness and ability to empower people within the organisation. Branson has shown concern and sensitivity to the needs of others such as recognition, growth and achievement. Branson transformational leadership style has enabled the success of Virgin Empire. According to the transformational leadership style we have looked at in this essay, leaders of the future need to adopt their leadership skills to the situation at hand and context and by ensuring the organisation’s missions and goals are achieved. They should incorporate Branson leadership style of trust, drive and emotional intelligence.
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